The Tribune - Spectrum

, August 4, 2002

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Myth or geological reality?
Randeep Wadehra

Saraswati: The River that Disappeared
by KS Valdiya Universities Press, Hyderabad. Pages: xii + 116. Price: Rs. 175.

Saraswati: The River that DisappearedTHE Saraswati River, said to have disappeared 2,000 years ago, continues to fascinate geologists, historians and mythologists alike. Sceptics consider it a figment of imagination. Valdiya belongs to the school of thought that says that the river actually existed in the tract comprising parts of Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. He bases his arguments on the long validated thesis that human settlements were invariably established on riverbanks in the ancient times. He points out that the riverless land between the Aravalli Range and the Sindhu (Indus) river, at present extremely deficient in rainfall, was densely dotted with the settlements of the Stone Age and the Harappan civilisations.

Even today, the density of human population in the Thar Desert is the highest among all the arid lands of the world. He avers that the desolate areas of Haryana-Rajasthan are characterised by a multiplicity of channels in which only flood waters flow for extremely limited durations. In this region of saline lakes and intense barrenness, there occur subterranean flows of fresh water in abundance. This network of underground channels is obviously a part of the now vanished river.

Valdiya quotes from the Rigveda, provides satellite photographs and related data to buttress his arguments. How and why did the river disappear? The answer is provided in chapter 5, "Disappearance of the Saraswati, Submergence of Dwarka". Lucidly written, this book is worth a read.



Globalisation, Federalism and Decentralisation Implications for India
by Guljit K. Arora Bookwell, N. Delhi. Pages: xv + 248. Price: Rs. 525.

Globalisation, Federalism and Decentralisation Implications for IndiaGlobalisation has wrought certain seemingly irreversible changes in the lifestyle and mindset of some sections of the society. Captive markets are giving way to intensely competitive ones. Product quality and price must be worked out to woo consumers.

Apart from economic implications, globalisation has politico-administrative connotations too. Therefore, the author has linked the process of globalisation with federalism and decentralisation in the Indian context. He feels that the entire gamut of Centre-State equations needs to be studied in order to evolve a comprehensive national response to the challenges and opportunities thrown up by globalisation. The author attempts to explain and simplify the complex issues relating to globalisation, decentralisation and federalism, and brings out their economic and federal ramifications for the developing countries like India. However, the question that needs to be repeatedly asked is whether our politico-bureaucratic combine has the necessary will and wherewithal to meet the threats posed and avail of the scope offered by globalisation. Useful for students of political economy.


Environmental Biotechnology
by Geetha Bali, Ramamurthi Rallapalli, SB Sullia, Aziz Shiralipour & Satish Kastury.
APH, N. Delhi. Pages: xviii + 386. Price: Rs. 895.

Environmental BiotechnologyIn order to save our environment from further degradation it is imperative that "clean" technologies are used. This may help resolve the development / pollution dilemma. Pesticides, plastics, dyes, petroleum and other toxins have played havoc with air, water and earth. Yet these have been essential concomitants to industrial and agricultural progress. However, now an urgent need is being felt for non-polluting alternative models of development. This is where biotechnology comes in.

Biotechnology is a multi-disciplinary concept that comprises microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, chemistry, immunology, environmental science etc. The authors point out that it involves essentially the use of microbes, animal and plant cells or enzymes to synthesise, break down or transform materials. It is different from the "traditional" biotechnology which involves conventional techniques that are being used since centuries to produce beer, wine etc. Modern biotechnology relies on DNA and cell fusion technologies, in addition to the traditional biotechnological concepts and techniques. Its applications are wide ranging, from waste-treatment to pest control. A good buy for the environmentally conscious.


Behind Psychology: Searching for the Roots
by V.K. Singhal Manas Publications, N. Delhi. Pages: 133. Price: Rs. 295.

Behind Psychology: Searching for the RootsMan never tires of asking the oft-repeated question, "what is life?" The answers range from the matter-of-fact biological to the weighty philosophical; from the tediously commonplace to the zany nonconformist. Some see life as a straight smooth linear progression, while others look upon it as a web of karmic circles, and still others dub it an illusion. You'll come across people who take life so seriously that they forget to live, while others live it up sans apprehension.

The agitated ones prefer to battle against what they perceive as life's injustices, while the tranquil ones accept destiny's fruitsóbe they sweet or sour. One may be full of regrets over misdeeds performed or opportunities lost, always fearful of the divine wrath, while the other has no such qualms and thumbs his nose at the wrathful Almighty.