Sunday, August 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Dealing with allegations against judges
Benefits of an in-house remedial procedure
S.S. Sodhi
erhaps the most unfortunate fallout of the Punjab Public Service Commission recruitment scam has been upon the High Court of Punjab and Haryana with the alleged involvement in it of three of its Judges. Not surprisingly, the media lapped it up. 

The growing Monroe legend & the real woman
V. Gangadhar
n the fast-changing world of new journalism, we should adapt ourselves to accept that the ‘serious’ edit and op-ed pages should be monopolised only by dull politicians, ambitious world leaders and unworthy dictators.

Moongphali-wala Baba’s munificence
Bhai Mahavir
are for some moongphalies?” he asked, after digging into his jhola and pulling out a handful, “will you have it?” and extended a fistful of groundnuts to the three of us one after the other, while we —struggling to overcome our surprise — declined politely. 

Of English, Hindi & Urdu
Rakshat Puri
n at least one area the Indian leadership and the Musharraf regime in Pakistan do seem to agree. They seem to admit that English is a foreign tongue and does not serve the two countries well in their political relationship and some other aspects.


The question of autonomy for Jammu & Kashmir is once again in focus. The issue is old. Some players in the thick of political exercise are new. In which direction we go from here? Hasn’t J&K had enough of autonomy to serve people better than what has been the case so far? Also, where do we go from here? Will autonomy ensure peace and development to the troubled state? We invite our readers to send us their comments, briefly in 150 words. 





Harihar Swarup
He gave up a lucrative career to help children
ypes of Sandeep Pandey, winner of the prestigious Magsaysay award, are rare in India and, for that matter, in the world. Rare is the breed that gives up a lucrative career, wealth and comfort for a noble cause. Barely 35, Pandey belongs to this category as he vowed to devote the rest of his life to alleviating the lives of underprivileged children mainly through education.


Advani’s hardline approach comes to fore
he moderates have fallen silent in the Bharatiya Janata Party and it is Deputy Prime Minister L.K.Advani’s aggressive style of functioning which comes to the fore in the party. 

  • Quitting tobacco

  • BJP, Cong in a fix

  • Media-shy Lyngdoh

  • Pawar's power

  • PM’s image


Humra Quraishi
Khushwant will turn 88, but he hasn’t changed
n August 15, Khushwant Singh turns 88 years, born in the ‘bhadon’ (monsoon) of 1915 in the undivided Punjab. I am not sure whether I should prefix old or young to the 88 years, for the man hasn’t changed. 

  • Cartoonists galore



Dealing with allegations against judges
Benefits of an in-house remedial procedure
S.S. Sodhi

Perhaps the most unfortunate fallout of the Punjab Public Service Commission recruitment scam has been upon the High Court of Punjab and Haryana with the alleged involvement in it of three of its Judges. Not surprisingly, the media lapped it up. Hardly a day passes without something or the other, in this connection, regarding judges or the High Court appearing in the Press. No wonder, the image and reputation of the High Court is at an all-time low.

To make matters worse, the manner of the handling of this issue by the powers that be at the High Court has further eroded the credibility of the institution. It is now over five weeks ago that work was withdrawn from three judges of the High Court whose names happened to figure in this recruitment scam — with a very visible role in the investigation against them having been assigned to the police — almost as if it were an investigation against common criminals. Since then all that has been happening is much loose talk against many other judges too, so much so that some days ago, around midnight, some Press correspondents actually went to the house of Mr Justice R.L. Anand to “cover” what was said to be a raid by the Central Bureau of Investigation. At about the same time a call was received at the house of Mr Justice V.K. Bali to enquire if a raid was on at his house too. There was, of course, no such raid on the house of any judge. This is what led to notice for contempt of court being issued, in this behalf, to a Press correspondent of The Hindustan Times.

This situation brings to the fore the important issue of how allegations of wrong-doing against serving judges of the High Court should be dealt with. No judge can or should be immune from accountability but it is equally essential to ensure that the allegations against judges are not dealt with in a manner that the credibility and independence of the High Court is undermined . The Supreme Court took cognisance of this matter and constituted a committee of three judges of the apex court and two Chief Justices of the High Court “to devise an in-house procedure for taking suitable remedial action against judges who, by their acts of omission or commission, do not follow universally accepted values of judicial life, including those included in the Restatement of Values of Judicial life.”

This committee approached the task assigned to it with the perspective that “A complaint casting reflection on the independence and integrity of a judge is bound to have a prejudicial effect on the image of the higher judiciary of which the judge is an honoured member. The adoption of the in-house procedure would enable a complaint against a judge being dealt with at the appropriate level within the institution. Such a procedure would serve a dual purpose. In the first place, the allegations against a judge would be examined by his peers and not an outside agency and thereby the independence of the judiciary would be maintained. Secondly, the awareness that there exits a machinery for the examination of complaints against a judge would preserve the faith of the people in the independence and impartiality of the judicial process.”

In sofar as it is relevant here, the procedure suggested by this committee provided inter alia that if the complaint against a judge of the High Court is found to be frivolous or directly related to the merits of a substantive decision in a judicial matter or does not involve any serious complaint of misconduct or impropriety it shall be filed by the Chief Justice. If, however, it is found that the complaint is of “a serious nature involving misconduct or impropriety he (the Chief Justice) shall ask for the response thereto of the judge concerned”. If after considering the allegations and the response of the judge the Chief Justice is satisfied that no further action is necessary the complaint shall be filed. If, on the other hand, the Chief Justice is of the opinion that the allegations in the complaint need deeper probe he shall forward the complaint and the response of the judge concerned along with his comments to the Chief Justice of India.

On considering the material sent to him if the Chief Justice of India feels that a deeper probe is indeed required he shall constitute a three-member committee comprising two Chief Justices and a judge of a High Court (other than the one to which the judge concerned belongs) to hold an inquiry. This inquiry shall be in the nature of a fact-finding inquiry, consistent with the principles of natural justice, wherein the judge complained against shall also be entitled to appear and have his say.

Where the committee finds that there is no substance in the allegations contained in the complaint, the Chief Justice of India shall file the complaint.

If the committee finds that there is substance in the allegations but the misconduct disclosed is not so serious as to call for the initiation of proceedings for removal of the judge, the Chief Justice of India shall call the judge concerned and advise him accordingly and may also direct that the report of the committee be placed on record.

In the event of the committee finding substance in the allegations contained in the complaint and the misconduct disclosed in the allegations being such that it calls for the initiation of proceedings for the judge’s removal, the Chief Justice of India shall advise the judge to resign his office or seek voluntary retirement. In case the judge expresses his unwillingness to accept this advice the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court should be advised by the Chief Justice of India not to allocate any judicial work to the judge concerned and the President of India and the Prime Minister shall be intimated that this has been done as also the reason for it.

The report of this committee has since been adopted by the Supreme Court and also by the High Courts. This implies that the procedure prescribed therein is what has to be followed in dealing with allegations against judges of the High Courts and also the Supreme Court.

With this in-house procedure being in place, the police clearly had no role to play in any inquiry into the allegations against the three judges concerned. There was also nothing discreet about it too considering the manner in which the police have gone about making its inquiries, not to mention the involvement of the police figuring on the front pages of the newspapers.

Independence of the judiciary is its most important attribute, which it so zealously seeks to safeguard. It would be pertinent to recall here that years ago when the High Court asked the government to have allegations against a subordinate judicial officer investigated through the Director of Vigilance, the Supreme Court held the request to be “an act of self-abnegation” and further observed “The members of the subordinate judiciary look up to the High Court not only for discipline but also for dignity. The High Court acted in total disregard of Article 235 by asking the government to enquire through the Director of Vigilance.” This was in 1974 in Shamsher Singh versus the State of Punjab (AIR 1974 SC 2192).

What the Supreme Court with regard to subordinate judges frowned upon applies with even greater force where judges of the High Court are concerned. Not only do they stand on a much higher pedestal but, what is more, to ensure their independence the framers of the Constitution did not confer administrative or disciplinary control over them to the Chief Justice or even to the Supreme Court.

Turning to the withdrawal of judicial work from judges, it deserves note that if work is to be withdrawn from a subordinate judicial officer it requires the decision of the High Court and the High Court means the Chief Justice and all the judges. This is because “control” over the subordinate judiciary vests under Article 235 in the High Court and not in the Chief Justice alone.

As regards the judges of the High Court, it remains at best a moot point whether the authority of the Chief Justice to allocate judicial work to judges can also be exercised by him to deny judicial work to a judge pending inquiry into allegations against him.

The significant aspect of denial of judicial work to a judge pending inquiry into allegations against him is its inevitable consequence — damage to his reputation, with such denial of work becoming a matter of public knowledge. What if the allegations against such a judge are eventually found to be frivolous or without basis? The damage to his reputation would be irreparable. This is, of course, not to say that judges who fall from standard should be spared.

Be that as it may, as pointed out earlier, according to the in-house procedure, it is for the Chief Justice of India to advise the Chief Justice not to allocate judicial work to a judge and that too only when three-judge committee finds allegations against the judge to be substantiated and serious enough to warrant his removal from office.

In the inquiry against the three judges here, it is understood that no such advise has been given by the Chief Justice of India nor indeed has such a stage been reached in the sense that it is doubtful if even the report or comment of the Chief Justice have so far been sent to the Chief Justice of India.

With such being the situation, no wonder rumour-mongers are having a field day, rendering the judiciary anything but an institution to be respected or feared.

The writer is a former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court and ex-Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.


The growing Monroe legend & the real woman
V. Gangadhar

In the fast-changing world of new journalism, we should adapt ourselves to accept that the ‘serious’ edit and op-ed pages should be monopolised only by dull politicians, ambitious world leaders and unworthy dictators. There should be a place for others who had delighted, enchanted millions of people the world over with their particular brand of talent and appeal and whose memories still lingered long.

Famous Hollywood star, Marilyn Monroe died 40 years back. The simple and sexy Marilyn would have been surprised to know she had become a cult figure the world over. Last Monday, hundreds of her devotees from the USA and Europe turned up at the Chapel at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park to listen to the two-hour long service conducted by 17 presidents of the Marilyn Monroe fan clubs. It was the largest congregation ever and members shared memories of their favourite screen love goddess.

The Hollywood movie industry regularly churned out stunning, busty, sexy blondes, with or without histrionic skills who came to the Dream City to land roles in films. Enough had been written about their hopes, and ambitions many of which remained unfulfilled. Hundreds of girls were lured by the Hollywood glamour and while a few made it to the top the others fell victims to the wiles of the cunning and dirty men who were ready to prey on their beauty and gullibility.

To begin with, Monroe was one such young starlet. So what made her different? Young Norma Jeanne Baker was a stunning blonde beauty who married a policeman when she was only 17. Then the system discovered her. Renamed Marilyn Monroe, she conquered Hollywood, first married baseball star, Joe Di Maggio and then, most unexpectedly, playwright Arthur Miller. Meanwhile, gossip writers linked her with every single producer, director and co-star and the gutter press labelled her a nymphomaniac. Despite such an image as Marilyn settled down in Hollywood, she co-starred in better and better films and excelled as a comedienne.

There had been no unusual aspects in the star’s life. In the early days, she was always portrayed as a sex symbol and did not seem to mind the label. The flair for comedy and wisecracks was discovered early and when someone asked if she had anything on while posing for a calendar, Marilyn innocently replied, “Why, the Radio was on!”. Such repartees delighted the Hollywood media.

Yet, Marilyn was unique. Rival blonde bombshells like Mamie Van Doren and Jayne Mansfield were endowed with bigger bustlines and larger cleavages but fell on the way. Marilyn had something more to offer to the viewers than sex. Discerning movie critics noted a spark which lay smouldering underneath all that hoopla over her sex appeal. In those days when studio bosses controlled stars who were under contract to them, there were not many chances for the stars to go in for roles of their choices. Marilyn did predictable roles in comedies like ‘Gentleman Prefer Blondes’ and ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’. The sultry sex appeal was clearly evident in ‘Niagara’.

The actress in Monroe could never be subdued. Thus she roughed it out with the tough guy Robert Mitchum in ‘The River of No Return’. It was then Hollywood discovered the comic streak in her. Famed director Billy Wilder was bowled over by her performance in ‘Some Like it Hot’ where she played the dumb blonde to perfection. ‘Bus Stop’ and ‘The Seven-Year Itch’ further confirmed her potential.

Despite complaints of late coming and occasional indifference to shooting details, she figured in movies like ‘The Misfits’, written by her husband. It was a tough role and gave Marilyn to match her wits with stars like Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift. Director John Huston was mightily pleased.

It was a movie career which was varied, full of ups and downs. The first intention of any producer was to cast Marilyn in a sexy role, show a lot of cleavage and assume a sultry pout. This made male viewers salivate and the film makers were happy. As Marilyn continued in this vein for sometime, she developed a healthy contempt for the males of the species who panted, lusted after her. And that included almost the whole of Hollywood. It was reported she was faithful to Arthur Miller.

The various books and magazine articles on Marilyn led to a different understanding of her personality. Of course, she was a sex goddess. But she was not born as one. It was the media and the glamorous Hollywood environment which made her into one. As more details of her poverty-ridden and exploitative childhood came out, it slowly dawned upon the Americans that Marilyn was something more than a sex symbol.

As a young woman she had to fight a society which was bent upon stripping her. The industry wanted to typecast her in the same kind of roles and often she fought a losing battle. Thanks to Miller, Marilyn took to serious reading but such attempts only invited further ridicule from the media. It was as though Marilyn could read and appreciate only the ‘Kamasutra’. For years, for millions of people the world over, Marilyn existed only because of her luscious physical assets. The real woman was totally ignored.

Her untimely death at the age 36 helped to dispel some of these notions. She was separated from Miller, allegedly took drugs and was deep into frustration.

Perhaps, it was at this time that she became involved with President John F Kennedy and his brother, Robert, who was the Attorney-General. The FBI which was then headed by the notorious Edgar Hoover was aware of these goings-on and kept a dossier on the star. It was clear she could not speak out on these new developments on which she had very little control.

Even her death due to an overdose of drugs had several unexplained factors. More and more writers believed that Marilyn who was least inclined to end her life, had committed suicide. Perhaps her liaisons had led her to situations which she did not know how to cope with and had to pay with her life. An affair with the President or his brother was not a Hollywood fling which one could talk about and even laugh at.

The obits and the continuing interest in Marilyn focussed more on her problems as a woman who desperately wanted to be normal but could not. She was part of a system which extracted its pound of flesh in return for glamour, money and fame. The star longed for a loving, understanding husband, family life and children. She could not have any of these. If she talked about these aspirations, the media laughed at her. How can the Sex Goddess even think of marriage and children?

The surge of sympathy for Marilyn was based on two factors. One was the undoubted quality of her acting skills which she developed overcoming her image and the rigid system. More important, people began to realise that despite all her beauty, fame and wealth, Marilyn remained a small town girl who was pichforked into a world and a profession which took a heavy toll of her. Hollywood never allowed her to grow mentally. By the time, she was ready for it, it was too late.

If indeed Marilyn was murdered, the guilt should lie with the faceless members of a society which believed in exploitation and cover ups. Marilyn Monroe certainly deserved better than that.


Moongphali-wala Baba’s munificence
Bhai Mahavir

“Care for some moongphalies?” he asked, after digging into his jhola and pulling out a handful, “will you have it?” and extended a fistful of groundnuts to the three of us one after the other, while we —struggling to overcome our surprise — declined politely. But we soon learnt that he was not the type to be put off easily; he persisted with his handfuls till it became discourteous for us to refuse. By then he had regained normalcy and we, reassured, had stopped urging him to take rest. “I have toffees also,” he said producing lollypops this time, “take these”. The geographical area of his winning attention also was expanding; people moving towards or from the wash basin/bathroom attracted his attention till the majority of the fellow passengers was covered.

The occasion was the start of our return journey from Bombay Central after the session. There was some confusion about the special coach meant for us so that we found some other passengers also looking for their seats in it while some of us had their names shown elsewhere. It was as an offshoot of this disorder that he was escorted in by the coolie carrying his tin-suitcase and handbag. An elderly, short, gray, rather overweight man showing signs of exhaustion, slumped into the window seat facing us, after the coolie had pushed his luggage under it. Before one of our group could point out that it was a V.I.P. bogey and fully reserved, he mumbled something about having had to spend Rs 1,400 due to a day’s illness. It turned out that he too had come to the same session as a delegate from Ludhiana in a special train but could not avail himself of it for returning because of pain in the chest, arms and “all over”!

As his groundnut-gifting went on merrily, I started wondering how much stock he was carrying. But soon enough we discovered that there was much more in him to gasp at. Ram Sahai Aggarwal has been distributing groundnuts, lollypops and kulchas to all and sundry right since 1942. There is a cyclerickshaw at his door at 6 am and he moves out on a five or six mile round of several temples and other public places with 4-5 kg of monkey-nuts, 8-9 dozens of kulchas, kachauries and bajra (millet) for birds — distributing the stuff among groups or singles of children or grown-ups — whoever is willing to oblige a kindly old man by accepting. This has been his daily munificence costing Rs 300 — come hell or high water, whether ill or well — all these years. So much so that the Moongphali-wala Baba is awaited all along his route and people are said to set their watches by his arrival and destitutes look upon him as God’s messenger! As for himself he leads a relatively simple life having a profound weakness only for cold-drinks (and lassi of course having once spent even Rs 50 to reach for a glass) and sweets like rasgullas. All efforts on the part of two of our seat fellows — a lady former M.P. of Assam and a senior Hindi journalist, failed to extort from him an assurance, even a hollow one, to give up cold drinks.

And why expect it from him? He does have a right to such innocent pleasures when he has stripped himself of much man is slave of - power, luxuries and love of riches. He withdrew from business 15 years back, leaving it all to his sons. They have separate kothis, hosieries and factories but he has detached himself so completely that he does not now know even their names.

We had become rather interested in this colourful fellow-traveller and tried to probe his philosophy of life. Noticing this he pulled out a large golden greeting-card full of good thoughts, printed by him in Hindi and English. Among ‘keys to success’ I read:

“Be too broad-minded to worry,

too noble for anger, too strong for fear

and too happy to permit the

presence of troubles.

The future you are not sure of

The given moment is now

Do not delay in the path of right action

Love of country is above all!”

Some of the “useful hints” in Hindi are even more pithy:

“It is easy to cause rivers of blood but difficult to dry one tear.

None except God helps anyone in this world without self interest.

With desire gone, worry is at an end and mind is relieved, he who wants nothing is an emperor!

Spectators on the shore are sorry for the drowning man but do nothing to help him!”

Our friend’s collection of gems of wisdom does not end there. He welcomes more from others and promises to broadcast them widely. In keeping with the name of the mohalla (Bagh Khazanchian) where he lives, his mode of life has the hue of an honest trustee — holding without attachment and returning without demur.

The train reached New Delhi. He had to continue the journey but had to shift to another compartment. He was looking after himself — without expecting anything in return for what he had given us : so much warmth! It is more than a decade-and-half-old encounter. I am not sure if he is still around but, his memory still lives!

The writer is the Governor of Madhya Pradesh.


Of English, Hindi & Urdu
Rakshat Puri

Gen. Musharraf
Gen. Musharraf

Murli Manohar Joshi
Murli Manohar Joshi

In at least one area the Indian leadership and the Musharraf regime in Pakistan do seem to agree. They seem to admit that English is a foreign tongue and does not serve the two countries well in their political relationship and some other aspects.

During a recent visit to Sri Lanka, General Musharraf said he thought there was “hypocrisy in their (Indian leaders') attitude (on Kashmir). They juggle with words. They do not want anyone to mediate, but they may be wanting interlocutors or facilitators. I think we are involved in this English language, which is not out mother tongue in any case. The reality on the ground is, they are talking.... Whether you call it mediating or interlocuting or facilitating or whatever, the Indian leaders talk to them on this issue”. Musharraf's impatience with English — in which he has been calling insistently for a “meaningful dialogue” between Islamabad and Delhi without having so far revealed what he thinks would make it “meaningful” — is paralleled by the Indian leadership's approach.

A few days ago, Union Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, speaking at Munshi Premchand's 122nd birth anniversary celebrations said better interaction was needed among Indian languages “to consolidate Indian culture so that it could withstand the onslaught of the 'Westerly winds' that globalisation brings". For this, Joshi's prescription was “writing Urdu in the Devnagri script”. He praised Premchand's work as “a composite literary genre”, and said he wrote in both “languages”.

Joshi's suggestion is welcome provided it is worked both ways — writing Urdu in Devnagari and writing Hindi in the Urdu alphabet. Hindi has been very successfully written in the Perso-Arabic script of the Urdu alphabet. An example that comes immediately to mind is that of the late BBC broadcaster, Al-e-Hassan, who was something of a legend in BBC circles during his time there. He could neither read nor write Devnagari. But, writing his Hindi text in the Urdu alphabet, he presented shudh Hindi in his broadcasts. Possibly, he was able to do this in part because Hindi and Urdu are not really different languages. They are varying refinements of a single language.

There is no need for Article 351. It is enough for the Constitution to stipulate that the official language of the Union shall be Hindi.

In Islamabad, Musharraf is impatient with English which, he emphasises, “is not our mother-tongue”. And in Delhi, Joshi wants India to have linguo-cultural strength to “withstand the ‘Westerly winds’ that globalisation brings”.

So, what are the leaders, and their colleagues and peers, waiting for? 
— Asia Features


He gave up a lucrative career to help children
Harihar Swarup

Types of Sandeep Pandey, winner of the prestigious Magsaysay award, are rare in India and, for that matter, in the world. Rare is the breed that gives up a lucrative career, wealth and comfort for a noble cause. Barely 35, Pandey belongs to this category as he vowed to devote the rest of his life to alleviating the lives of underprivileged children mainly through education. There are millions of children in India who do not have access to basic education, while the modern and costly education ushers in more employment. The Institution — “Asha” (hope), a non-profitable organisation-set up by him defines basic education as the key to self- reliance. Over 50 per cent of the time at the educational centres, supported by “Asha”, is devoted to teaching simple arts and crafts. As Pandey and his associates were developing an alternative educational carriculum and text books for schools starting from kindergarten, they came to the notice of Ramon Magsaysay award committee and Pandey, along with five from the Asian region, hit the world headlines. Among them are a nun from Pakistan and a journalist from Nepal.

A brilliant student of the Berkeley University in the USA, Pandey took to research in the prestigious institute and obtained his Doctorate. Though he made a mark in the USA and could have taken a high-profile job there, he was all the time thinking about his country and was ill-at-ease in America. He returned to India in 1992 and took up a teaching job at IIT, Kanpur, but his heart was somewhere else. His tenure at IIT was short as he quit after three semesters and involved himself full time in social service. When someone asked him if leaving behind a lucrative career will not worry him, his reply was: “There are people who need to work mainly to sustain themselves. I am happy to do the work that gives me maximum satisfaction. I believe in Gandhian thinking that once the path is chalked out the means will follow”.

Indeed, the basic outlook of “Asha” is based on the Gandhian philosophy. The plight of downtrodden, particularly children, had always disturbed Pandey but he says, Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography — “My Experiment with Truth”— changed the course of his life. He quit a rewarding career, discarded western cloth and donned simple “kurta” and loose “pyajma” as he plunged headlong on his mission of social transformation. “Suffering of poor always hurts me”, he says. Quite early in life, as a student of the Banaras Hindu University, Pandey tried his luck in politics, got elected as BHU student union’s leader but got thoroughly disillusioned. He later told his friends: “After reading Gandhi, I felt I will not be able to serve the poor through mainstream politics and decided to choose social service”.

A devout follower of Gandhiji’s philosophy, Pandey was enraged when India carried out its second nuclear explosion and led a group of like minded persons who marched in protest from Pokhran to Sarnath to highlight the threat emanating from nuclear weapons. Also he undertook a 500-km march — from Chitrakoot to Ayodhya — in the aftermath the Godhra carnage and communal riots.

He proposes to donate a part of his Magsaysay cash award for the rehabilitation of Gujarat victims. The common man, he says, cuts across barrier of religion; he is religious but not communal. Pandey is also an advocate of Indo-Pak amity and proposes to visit Pakistan in his bid to defuse tension between the two countries. The citation he received from the President of Ramon Magsaysay Foundation, apart from lauding his social activities, acknowledges his efforts to defuse the Indo-Pak tension and his proposed visit to Islamabad to help solve the dispute.

As far back as 1993, Pandey was attracted by Medha Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan and jailed for joining her in a Satyagraha. But his association with Patkar proved to be another milestone in his life. He met there another activist, Arundhati Dharu, fell in love with her and married her. The couple have now two children, aged six and two. Arundhati now actively participates in her husband’s social reforms programmes and is an important functionary of schools being set up under the auspices of “Asha” with the objective of energising socio-economic change in the country through education.

The concept of “Asha” was conceived when Pandey was at Berkley in California. He and two like-minded Indian students, who shared this vision, teamed up with about 30 students. They decided to raise donation for the project and in the first year itself were able to collect $10,000, mostly from students. Encouraged by the response, they organised a cultural programme called “Images of India” which enabled them to raise another $2,500 and thus a beginning was made.

Years later, the organisation proliferated in India and now runs schools for the children of Dalits and tribals from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. “Asha” run centres covering backward districts of Ballia, Varanasi, Kanpur and Hardoi. With ambitious plans of expansion, these schools are not tradition ones but impart vocational education in village and cottage industries and they include, stitching, greeting cards making, recycling of waste paper and poly bags and bee keeping.


Advani’s hardline approach comes to fore

The moderates have fallen silent in the Bharatiya Janata Party and it is Deputy Prime Minister L.K.Advani’s aggressive style of functioning which comes to the fore in the party. While Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee almost sounded apologetic for the petrol station controversy, the stand taken by the Government after ordering the cancellation of the allotments has been aggressive. It is learnt that Advani has asked the BJP members to go on the counter-offensive with the Opposition. The detailed list of the Opposition functionaries, who have got petrol agencies, emanating from the Petroleum Ministry is supposed to be at Mr Advani’s behest.

Yet another instance of the increasing clout of Mr Advani in government affairs is the constitution of a task force on drought headed by him.

Normally such drought committees are headed by officials of the Agriculture Ministry and the committees decide on allocation of funds in consultation with the Planning Commission and the Finance Ministry. It is for the first time that the Home Minister would decide on funds allocation for states suffering from drought. At a time when the BJP is preparing for assembly elections this might just help the party.

Quitting tobacco

At a time when the anti-tobacco lobby is getting stronger by the day in the country, they might just have another champion of the cause in the next Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekawat. He has vowed that he would give up chewing tobacco by the time he is sworn in.

Mr Shekhawat took this vow when a prominent Opposition leader, who is a former chief minister and who has already pledged his party’s support to the Congress nominee, Sushil Kumar Shinde, rang up Shekhawat a couple of days back and told him that he would vote for him if he were to give up tobacco completely.

Sources said such a vow was no less than a “Bhishma Pratigya” for somebody like Shekhawat who has been chewing tobacco for more than five decades without a single day’s interruption except for those days when he was in hospital. Shekhawat has undergone open heart surgery thrice.

BJP, Cong in a fix

The Prime Minister’s directive on the cancellation of petrol pumps and gas agencies from January 2000 has put both the BJP and the Congress in a piquant situation. The issue, with its political, legal and administrative ramifications could well open a Pandora’s box where it will be difficult to distinguish one political party from the other.

The BJP MPs, some of whom regard Mr Vajpayee’s step as hasty, now want the government to tell people how the Dealership Selection Boards (DSBs) functioned from 1983 when the concept was first introduced. They feel that Congress, which now describes the BJP as “Bhartiya Janata Petrol Pump Party” would have much to answer as petrol pumps and gas agencies are never known to have been given without political patronage. The BJP is now trying to blunt the Opposition attack by releasing the names of Congress leaders, whose relatives got dealerships.

However, the Congress knows that it will not be easy for the government to order a roll-back as far as 1983. The period covers tenures of eight Prime Ministers, only three of whom are from the Congress. Also, any order on cancellation of petrol, gas and kerosene agencies from 1983 would create a crisis which could well affect the supply and distribution of the `liquid gold’ in the country. The Congress is insisting on an inquiry by a sitting Supreme Court judge. The inquiry, the party says, can go as far back as the government wants and it has even offered not to question the terms of reference of such an inquiry. The ball is back in Vajpayee government’s court.

Media-shy Lyngdoh

When J M Lyngdoh, a man of few words, took over as the Chief Election Commissioner there was apprehension among the journalists over the flow of information from the Nirvachan Sadan. While his predecessor M S Gill interacted with the press frequently, Lyngdoh was media-shy.

Under these circumstances, the appointment of A N Jha as spokesperson by Lyngdoh brought cheer to the scribes. Their joy was shortlived as the spokesman too prefers to keep quite. When the whole country was looking at the Commission to know about what recommendations have been made by the nine-member delegation led by Jha, who is the Deputy Election Commissioner, to Gujarat there was no official reaction on the issue.

Despite repeated queries by scribes belonging to almost all the major dailies, there was no official, including the spokesman, willing to even confirm whether the report on Gujarat has been formally handed over to the three-member Election Commission panel or not.

Pawar's power

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar prefers to call himself the chairman and managing director of his party. The reason: he believes in tapping the right opportunities, business and political.

Pawar is presently fishing in Gujarat where his party could offer tickets to all the ignored MLAs from various parties. Grapevine has it that the BJP would be financing the dissidents, most of whom are likely to be from the Congress party.

PM’s image

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s health image nearly got the stick the other day when he unknowingly carried a walking stick in full media glare at the Parliament House. It was only when an aide pointed out to the Prime Minister that the media was watching that Vajpayee promptly passed on his stick to an accompanying commando and walked without any help. The SPG cop was seen hiding the walking stick behind his back as he walked by the side of the Prime Minister.

Contributed by T.V.Lakshminarayan, Prashant Sood, Rajeev Sharma, S.Satyanarayanan, Satish Misra, and Girja Shankar Kaura.


Khushwant will turn 88, but he hasn’t changed
Humra Quraishi

On August 15, Khushwant Singh turns 88 years, born in the ‘bhadon’ (monsoon) of 1915 in the undivided Punjab. I am not sure whether I should prefix old or young to the 88 years, for the man hasn’t changed. The same ability to work for hours at a stretch, the unchanged schedule, rising much before dawn and writing till afternoon, then going for a swim or for a long walk and reading till the clock strikes 7 pm — time for whisky and conversation till about 8 pm when its “bums up” time for the guests and he getting back to another session of reading and writing.

These are the qualities in the man which set him apart. Every minute of the day is accounted for, every word that he speaks is from his heart. There are no conflicts and contradictions in what he says and what he means and he is so ruthlessly honest that he can blast off the who’s who of the political system, he helps out friends in those subtle ways and I can never really forget several writers (including Balwant Gargi) recounting the way Khushwant had helped them out when they were passing through severe crisis...

Happy birthday to our Grand Man of Literature who has more than 90 books to his credit, plus the two weekly columns published in the newspapers here and abroad and, of course, the novel which he is currently writing.

Cartoonists galore

No, it isn’t surprising that we haven’t many cartoonists in our midst. I can’t think of any other names save for Laxman, Sudhir Tailang, Abu Abraham, Sudhir Dar (one doesn’t get to see his cartoons any longer...where is he?). Of course, two of the well-known cartoonists have passed away — Ranga who died about a fortnight back and the legendary Shankar Pillai who expired more than a decade back but recently there was spotlight on him as his family took pains to hold a special exhibition on him and his cartoons on July 31 — the day on which he would have turned hundred years had he been alive.

Going beyond the exhibition, Sudhir Tailang screened a film which he has made on Shankar. I think the film was made last year, but Tailang had a special screening arranged this week. What was interesting were the questions put to him by those in the audience — whether political leaders he lampoons hit back, the inspirations, the deadlines, the ingredients which are a must for any cartoonist. Tailang, in his usual blatant manner, said “Anybody who is mad can become a cartoonist, you have got to be born mad or you have to become mad to become a cartoonist...though the deadline for me is 7 pm, invariably no cartooning idea comes till 4 pm and its then that the tension begins to build and wreck and I go completely times the inspiration doesn’t come for hours and I have to take a round of Connaught Place for that idea to emerge...various politicians have reacted differently to my cartoons. When I flew down to Patna to capture Laloo and spouse, I made Laloo’s cartoon, but he insisted that I should draw Rabri Devi’s too. I did but after scrutinising it for a couple of minutes he commented that I hadn’t drawn her lips properly”.

I retorted, “I don’t know much about her lips…You should know her lips better!”

“Laloo took this comment rather seriously and began by redoing/reshaping her lips and spoiling the entire cartoon!”

Before going ahead I must add that in these times of great unease, what with the top brass not sparing the media, hopefully cartoonists aren’t lampooned by those in power.

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