Sunday, September 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Can we destroy the web of corruption in our polity?
Cynical misuse of public office for private gains must end
V.K. Kapoor
Parliament House C
orrupt attitude at high altitude has become the bane of Indian polity. Money has become the first and last reality. 

Parliament House: The citadel of the world’s largest democracy. 
— Tribune photo Mukesh Aggarwal

Making public service commissions free from corruption
J.S. Raju
he visual shots of piles of callously but neatly stacked Rs 500 currency notes in bank lockers gave an impression of a bank being shown in a Bollywood film. 




Desperate strike
September 21, 2002
India’s FDI problem
September 20, 2002
Ayodhya case is over?
September 19, 2002
Kashmir poll pointers
September 18, 2002
Exporting basmati
September 17, 2002
Vajpayee does the nation proud
September 16, 2002
J&K elections: disturbing questions & implications
September 15, 2002
Musharraf’s diatribe
September 14, 2002
The world after 9/11
September 13, 2002
Sept 11: the economic fallout
September 12, 2002


Harihar Swarup
Pande: a tough bureaucrat
he Union Cabinet Secretary is the keystone of bureaucratic arch and known as the number one bureaucrat of the country. The post carries enormous clout in both higher and lower echelons of services. Senior IAS officers are almost at his beck and call and look to him for transfer and posting of their choice. 


Pervez’s lies embarrass Pakistan
akistan, it seems, does not let even half a chance go by when it comes to criticising India. At the recently-concluded United Nations General Assembly session in New York, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee countered each and every salvo fired by Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf. 

  • Sonia scores

  • Two Breakfasts

  • Supporting Enemy

  • What’s In a Surname?

  • Jaitley's land


Humra Quraishi
Why aren’t our leaders visiting Valley?
he query doings the rounds here is that why aren't the so-called national leaders venture on a trip to the Valley to campaign in the Assembly elections? Why do they limit themselves to segment 'J' of the State and not move towards the ‘K’ segment?...Yes, Sonia Gandhi did make an attempt, but what about the rest — from V.P.Singh to the Samajwadi duo Amar and Mulayam Singh to the who's who in the Parivar set-up?. 

  • Annan's call

  • Alzeimer's day


USA doesn’t learn from history
George Bush, Saddam Hussein and Tony BlairAbu Abraham
he greatest terror today comes from the USA and its stooge power, Great Britain. Amidst universal condemnation of the US policy towards Iraq and Saddam Hussein, the two leaders undoubtedly need reassurance. Yet they hope to bring the world round to their point of view — and if they can’t, to go it alone. After all there are famous precedents, like when Winston Churchill went it alone against Hitler.


Can we destroy the web of corruption in our polity?
Cynical misuse of public office for private gains must end
V.K. Kapoor

Where do we stand?

*  In its latest survey on corruption in 102 countries, Transparency International, a Berlin-based NGO which is recognised globally, India is the 71st most corrupt nation.

*  The other most corrupt countries in the 71 Rank Club are: Honduras, Russia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. All of them, including India, have a Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of 2.7.

*  Far cleaner than India are Malaysia and Columbia. Among India’s neighbours, Sri Lanka has a CPI of 3.7, China (3.5), Pakistan (2.5) and Bangladesh (1.2), which is the most corrupt nation in the world.

*  Finland, being No.1, is the least corrupt. With a CPI of 9.7, it is the cleanest place on the planet.

*  Next to Finland, the other four corruption-free countries are Denmark (with a CPI of 9.5), New Zealand (9.5), Iceland (9.4), Singapore (9.3) and Sweden (9.3).

Corrupt attitude at high altitude has become the bane of Indian polity. Money has become the first and last reality. Fraud was never so tempting or remorseless thanks to the proliferation of electronic money and fast faceless transactions. People use possessions to define their place in society. In our society the criterion tends to be what you own. Self in a market-based society is treated as a commodity whose value is determined externally. Social certification is important.

Corruption has become a connective tissue for various deals and relationships. People like Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu bait the hook to suit the fish. Ravi Sidhu has effectively demonstrated that corruption acquires its own momentum. Ravi Sidhu could open a direct pipeline to all sections of high society including the august and holy precincts of superior judiciary. He has shown that the commandments of good conduct, good behaviour and morality get muted when self-interest is at stake.

A man is known not only by the company he keeps but also the company he avoids. The think-tanks have become septic tanks. In the prevailing corrupt ambience, law and personal interest meet in mutual embarrassment. The biggest casualty is trust. Trust is the emotional bank account between two people. It is the emotional bank account between the leaders and society. Trust determines the quality of relationships between people and the guardians of law. If you are fundamentally duplicitous you can't solve the low trust problem. You can't talk yourself out of a problem you behave yourself into. Low trust leads to a depleted emotional bank account. Low trust results in closed communication and cynicism. Discontent has become the medium of age and anxiety has become the murmur of the times. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

Corruption has become both the armour and the weapon. The art of fixing has evolved into a science of building, nurturing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships. The three principles on which society rests are religion, power and pleasure. The fixers excite the greed and lust of people in power and subvert their morals and scruples. Corruption has become a compelling mixture of commerce and creativity, sun and sand, babes and beds. It is a potent and chic combination of money, influence and access. The commercial energy of greed and the primal power of sex are casting a lengthening shadow over the polity.

Opportunity and temptation go along with the territory. Being on the inside brings not only opportunity but also temptation. The fixers successfully manage the behaviour of people in power. This may be achieved by public opinion, Campaign in the media, persistent lobbying or straight financial contribution. In corruption one size fits all. Overcentralisation of discretionary powers and its near complete refusal to allow credible regulatory authorities to function effectively increases the feeling that crony capitalism is the order of the day.

Everybody wants power. The chair of authority is like a philosopher's stone. It changes base lead into pure gold and transforms plasticine into steel. In the prevailing contaminated climate, the top consists of yes men, silent consenters and passive dissenters. This culture has spawned three types of civil servants and police officers — the Marginalised and the Criminalised. It is the third category which plays the central court. They understand that love is really about liboido, power is really about class, judgment is really about politics, necessity is really about chance. People in power love the sound of cooing of sycophants. Some not only coo but also slurp.

Cynical use of public office is being made for private gains. Never have so many taken so much and so blatantly. Corruption is the greatest solvent of public institutions; poverty poses a far smaller threat. Knowing the Law Minister is more useful than knowing the Law. Anarchasis, an ancient philisopher said, “Laws are like cobwebs, strong enough to detain the weak and too weak to hold the strong”. Most countries have gone down because of internal corruption than because of external aggression.

We live in a complex configuration of illusion and reality. Indian politics has a kaleidoscopic quality. Religious schisms, regional power centres, caste rivalries, conflict between rich and the power, tightly woven strands of modern and deeply traditional. A stagnant culture poisoned with fatalism, grinding misery, lethargy and barbaric caste system have long since warped distinction between what is real and what is not. We have too much government and too little governance, too many public servants and too little public service, too many laws and too little justice, too many controls and too little justice. Too much talk and too little action.

Corruption has affected and contaminated all our institutions. When a republic comes to birth, it's the leaders who provide institutions. Later it is the institutions that produce the leaders. The question where are the leaders of tomorrow can only be answered by the other question where are the nation building institutions which can provide leaders of tomorrow. We don’t have educational institutions that aim at generating excellence and which are equipped to produce “movers of people and mobilisers of opinion” where minds, hearts and characters are developed in the noble tradition of our priceless heritage. At best our present-day universities are academic cafeterias offering junk food for the mind. At their worst they are the breeding grounds of corruption, indiscipline, dishonesty and irresponsibility. W.B.Yeats in 'Second coming' has remarked:

The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of assionate intensity”.

H.G Wells wisely observed that human history is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe. Revolutions where are you have them, you will see selfish leadership, dishonest administration, economic distress and a lack of national purpose. India is a land too large for concentrated indignation. A land of persistent and silent toil, where poverty and superstition cling closer than a blanket. A land of old villages and towns, a little like each other as one woman is like the next. Horse and bicycle still drag at a lingering life. A docile public laps rhetoric for sustenance. Indian ethos promotes denial, passivity and living defensively. Centuries of slavery have gone into the marrow of their bones. They can't rise up. Most of the problem is psychological, that nothing can be done. India is fast becoming a malfunctioning machine for which there are no spare parts.

We have a large manpower without will power and short of effective skill power. Our people inherently dislike work. The national actual working average can be liberally reckoned as three hours a day. The scale on which corruption damages the work ethos of the country is evidenced by poor productivity and growth rate.

People avoid responsibility. Why should anybody take responsibility if the pay is guaranteed for presence and promotion is secured by seniority and reservation? Indians prefer to be directed and coerced into making the effort. We have to accept that fear and insecurity have a tonic role to play in creating a healthy motivational climate.

Politicians take a mono-focal view of the world. Politics is all about fluid dynamism where power shifts with personalities and personal alliances. Slogans are more for resonance than relevance. Calculation is more important than conscience. Protests get muted for profits. Truth is economised. Cult of success has replaced belief in principles. Like Turkish cigarettes all politicians are the same under their skin. They have a stork exchange consciousness. Handcuffed to good life, there is always a demand for immediate pleasure, comfort and excitement. They are careless of their duties and assertive of their rights. The result: rural alienation, urban apathy, small town anger, social decay, disillusionment and cynicism.

Politics is all about personal advancement. It involves taking the road of golden opportunity. To get ahead of your fellowmen, to manoeuvre yourself into a commanding position so that your equals and even your betters should recognise you as their leader, if not out of free will then out of fear. To make your virtues known and to conceal your vices, so that you are acclaimed as good just and strong. To watch your enemies so that they never prosper and keep an eye on your friends so that their loyalties don't waver. To know the weakness, strengths and even the inner most secrets of those who work for or against you. To keep your opponents divided and your adherents even more so. To create conditions of drought in times of plenty and manipulate bankruptcy and economic ruin when the treasury is bursting with hoarded wealth.

Hindsight satisfaction with success is no protection against extinction in future. The world is inevitably going to become more complex, as we are able to do more, need more and want more. There are changes in power, speed and magnitude. We have to cope more quickly than ever and with problems that are much bigger and with an order of complexity much greater than before.

More changes will take place in the next few years than have taken place in the past few decades. People and products that are not in touch with the changes fast become obsolete. What is really changing society is the radical acceleration of the change itself. The desktop generation is yielding to networked interactive generation. Globalisation emphasises quality. The key to quality products and services is a quality person. And the key to personal quality is character and competence. The quality and standard of human resource defines a country’s cutting edge. Quality is never an accident. It is the result of planning, sustained and systematic hardworking ethos. Quality should be a defining national focus. A changing world demands redefinition of the old concepts. We all have a need to reinvent what we are up to. We have to unfreeze our thinking. The future will require a wide and more inclusive line. It is no longer possible to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. A world upended needs leaders redefined. Certain values are perfectly adequate in a stable world where future is the same as past, but totally adequate in a changing world.

The exposure of corruption mirrors the trend is society and is being powered by the strongest forces. The white virus of purity is highly toxic to the entrenched governments. Corruption scandals have uprooted some of the world’s most deeply entrenched political powers. The pandemic idea and awareness of purity is even infecting some countries that long seemed immune. Rebellion against corruption is hemisphere-wise. Investigative journalism is doing an excellent job in exposing corruption. When Lech Walesa was asked as to what brought the phenomenal collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe he pointed to a black and white TV and said, “It all came from there”.

We talk of freedom. Freedom is a much-maligned concept. Those who don’t have it nurture revolutions to get it. Those who have it abuse it. Freedom means in essence the opportunity to choose. The greater the number of choices, the greater the difficulty of recognising the best choice and greater the responsibility of making it. Freedom is like alcohol; it should be taken in moderation.

There is a sense of gears being shifted. Society is showing signs of stress against overbearing corruption. Many a time, out of chaos comes light. Sometimes statesmen stumble blindly over epochal crossroads that they don’t know are there, others are given the chance to see the fork in the road ahead and decide deliberately which way to go. “Folly”, writes historian Barbara Tuchman, “is when leaders knowingly choose the wrong path”.

In the past 30 years or so, about 40 countries have gone democratic. That is a major factor in the global revelation of scandals. Greater openness leads to greater revelation of scandals. Of great importance is the rise of the educated middle class, less willing to defer without question to authority than peasant societies. An inquisitive Press and clean judiciary can be especially powerful in keeping in country on an even keel.

Crackdown on corruption is a badge of modernity, a sign that society is advancing towards joining the developed world. The more unjust a situation, the greater the anger. The greater the anger, the greater the passion. The greater the passion, the greater the determination. It is an irony of fate that injustice often incites the greatest human creativity and brings about radical changes in society.

Nani Palkhivala, jurist and constitutional expert, has observed, “our legal system has made life too easy for the criminals and too difficult for the law-abiding citizens. A touch here and a push there and India may become ungovernable under the present constitutional set-up”. The time for change has come.

Shairo, Danishvaro,

Kalam Karo

Kalam Uthao, Ke

Waqt-I-Aazmaish Hai.

The writer, a former Additional Director-General of Police, Haryana, is Director, Institute of Anxiety and Stress Management, Panchkula.



Making public service commissions free from corruption
J.S. Raju

The visual shots of piles of callously but neatly stacked Rs 500 currency notes in bank lockers gave an impression of a bank being shown in a Bollywood film. Momentarily the brain refused to believe the broadcast the ears had heard and the news line the eyes had ready — money being shown was allegedly ill-gotten money of the former Chairman of Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC), Ravi Sidhu.

The revelation stunned and shocked the country. Allegations of rampant corruption in the country have become a common refrain since long and wealth amassed by public servants through dubious means a popular topic of lunch room talk. But at best they remained gossip and often dismissed by the bureaucratic fraternity as speculative menial talk. Many a time true too. But seeing is believing.

What one saw on the TV could not be belied. Never before, except in the undercover operation of Tehelka, one had got to see hard cash received in kickbacks live on TV. The Punjab Chief Minister took credit for busting the mother of all corruption scandals. His claim was not entirely misplaced despite some quarters assigning political motives to it. The PPSC scam brought the (mal)functioning of the commissions under public eye and debate as more such scandals in the public service commissions in other states also came to the surface.

Not all of us have an appreciation of the magnitude of the adverse effect of corruption in the PPSCs has on public life and the society at large. I recall when as a young boy I managed the family agricultural farm, how extra vigilant we were in choosing the seed for wheat and rice crops. Not only us, but also the entire farming community applied similar due diligence when it came to selection of the seeds because of the consciousness that if the seed was impure or of bad quality, the crop could never ever be good. We therefore looked for certified seeds. The Punjab Agriculture University, the Punjab State Seeds Corporation and the National Seeds Corporation were the three prime seed certification agencies. Imagine if a seed certification agency, owing to corruption, wrongly certifies a batch of seed as the foundation seed, what havoc it could play. The entire cropwould be devastated and no pre- or post-harvest measures could prevent the loss.

The catastrophe caused by the corruption in PSCs is of similar magnitude. The commissions in most countries recruit officers for all major services in the country including civil, police, judicial and subordinate services as well as technical services like engineers, doctors and others. When the selectors have doubtful credentials and ulterior motives, the selection cannot be bonafide. Such malafide recruitment has three serious adverse consequences. First, the meritorious but not well endowed candidates shy away from the public services, as they are convinced that chances of their selection are remote as they lack resources to gratify the extraneous demands of the selectors. This leaves the field open to mediocre misfit candidates and their selection sets in mediocrity in the public services.

Secondly, commissions became institutions of conversion — converting non-corrupt to corrupt. All those who have indulged in corrupt practices to get themselves selected accord legitimacy to

corruption. If at the recruitment level itself they were made to pay hefty bribes they consider it legitimate to pursue similar unscrupulous path for their further progression too. Lastly, since the offices occupied by the PSCs occupy the higher echelons of bureaucracy, they are the role models for the lower bureaucracy. If the idols are corrupt, the followers have no motivation to remain above board. Thus, the entire system is perverted. And if the development of the state and prosperity and welfare of the people is assigned to such a set up — God save the state and the people.

It is therefore necessary that corruption in recruitment agencies is dealt with an iron fist. Framers of our constitution were conscious of keeping the commissions beyond political manipulation. They therefore granted constitutional protection to the PSC members lest political bosses pressurised them into any wrong doing. But some PSC authorities seem to have misused this immunity to their advantage. Aware that they could not be removed from their positions without a tedious procedure entailing constitutional formalities including a reference to the President of India, some of them became law unto themselves and converted PSCs into a money-making industry.

To check corruption, it shall help if complete transparency in the selection system is introduced and internal systems strengthened. In 1990, in the fifth year of my service, I was posted as Controller of Examinations in the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC), Chennai. The then Chairman of the Commission, Mr Lakshminarayan, was known for his integrity and honesty. Before his joining, the reputation of TNPSC had suffered a severe setback due to leakage of question papers. Mr Lakshminarayan had initiated criminal investigation into the leakage. When I joined the Commission, the Chairman wanted the examination system to be made temper proof. He gave me complete authority and independence to carry out the task.

Question papers to be used in an examination were known to the Chairman and the Controller of the Examinations. The Chairman was of the view that if two people knew a thing its secrecy could

never be guarded. Also responsibility could never be fixed, as both shall blame each other, should something go wrong. He therefore assigned complete responsibility of ensuring the integrity of examinations solely to the Controller of Examinations.

Many path-breaking innovations were made to strengthen the examination system. Since the inception of the TNPSC, question papers had been printed at government press. I contacted the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and informally gathered information of their examination practices. After consulting other agencies a new system was evolved. I short-listed three security printers in three different comers of the country. Their existence and identity remained known only to me. For the same examination three sets of question paper were printed. Delivery and billing system were so devised that no one could ever know who the printer was. The printer was also unaware of which examination he printed the question papers as this information was not revealed to them. The three sets thus printed were placed before the full commission duly wrapped and sealed. The set selected by the Commission was circulated to the examination centres. No one, neither the Controllers, nor the Commission members nor the printer knew, which one of the three question papers had gone to the examination centres till they were opened a few minutes before the commencement of the examination.

After the examination was over, the remaining two sets were destroyed and fresh sets printed for the next examination. Leakages of question papers were effectively checked. On the contrary I was appalled to read in the newspapers that brokers had free access to question papers in the Punjab Public Service Commission and that they could even carry them to their favoured candidates. Strict controls were also brought in the evaluation procedures. As more and more automation was introduced the scope for human mischief receded.

Viva or interview was another area effectively tackled. There were allegations of favouritism during the interviews. Candidates could approach the members or some times members approached the candidates. As in the case of written examinations we made personality tests also foolproof. In the new system we devised there was no scope for the candidate to know in advance the identity of the member before whom he or she had to appear. Boards were constituted half an hour before the commencement of the interviews through a lot system. The members would assemble in the Chairman’s room and pick up a chit at random from a box. The chit bore the number of the board the member was expected to head or join as a member. The computer would also at random form groupings of the candidates for each board and it was placed on the notice board a few minutes before the interview. In the afternoon if there was a second session a similar exercise was repeated. It was also made mandatory for the Board members to record their assessments on a record sheet. It was an effort to make the system as robust as possible. But it cannot be a one-time effort as systems need continuous improvement.

If public confidence has to be restored in the Commission, much more needs to be done than merely booking a case of corruption against one Chairman. Institutional and systemic rather than individual changes shall have to be made. The appointment of PSC members as a political dispensation shall have to stop. A committee headed by a High Court Chief Justice (as he is normally not from the same state), a UPSC member and Chief Secretary should select a panel of two eminent persons for the office of Chairman. The Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister and the Governor should then approve the selection of the panel. Internal functioning procedures of the PSC should be under constant security. The UPSC is an ideal benchmark. Till such long-term measures are taken, sporadic arrest of a Chairman or an official would remain a scratch on the epidermis, that too superficial, though the malice is skin-deep.

The author is an IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu Government.


Pande: a tough bureaucrat
Harihar Swarup

The Union Cabinet Secretary is the keystone of bureaucratic arch and known as the number one bureaucrat of the country. The post carries enormous clout in both higher and lower echelons of services. Senior IAS officers are almost at his beck and call and look to him for transfer and posting of their choice. Chiefs of top intelligence agencies — RAW and IB — report to him. He knows Cabinet secrets, sometimes not known to even ministers, and all important files are routed through him. Time was when he was the eyes and ears of the Prime Minister till the post of the Principal Secretary to the PM was created. Almost a parallel centre of power was created when Indira Gandhi appointed Mr P.C.Alexander as her Principal Secretary and Mr P.V.Narasimha Rao chose Mr A.N.Verma. Mr Brajesh Mishra, perhaps, enjoys more clout than any of his predecessor as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee. yet the position of the Cabinet Secretary remains invincible.

The new Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Kamal Pande, who was the Home Secretary for three years, will occupy the lofty seat held by illustrious predecessors like Mr B.D.Pandey, Mr Viswanathan and Dr Dharma Vira. The three powerful Cabinet Secretaries later become governors and made a mark in the gubernatorial office. Who knows Mr Kamal Pandey may follow their footsteps though he is absolutely a non-political person. There were Cabinet Secretaries like Mr Prabhat Kumar, who too became Governor but ran into controversy and had to quit in ignominy. Judging by his track record and assessment of his colleagues, Mr Kamal Pande has all the potential of becoming an excellent Cabinet Secretary.

A 1965 batch IAS officer, Mr Kamal Pande has the reputation of being a “tough, no non-sense bureaucrat” and no amount of political pressure can make him pliable. Those who had worked with him say “Pande cannot be anybody’s man”. A stickler for the rule book, he has guts to refuse outright irregular orders howsoever high might be the issuing political authority and also tell his subordinates to ignore them. It is believed in bureaucratic circles that “whenever Pande makes an issue, it is presumed, he is right”.

Pande’s encounters with such powerful Chief Ministers of UP as N.D. Tiwari and Vir Bahadur Singh have become proverbial in UP secretariat; they are cited as examples of uprightness in official circles. Pande’s colleagues often recall his clash with Shiv Nath Kushwaha, Minister for Non-conventional Energy in the Tiwari ministry in 984. Kushwaha had the habit of bullying officers and deliberately creating the impression that they did not listen to the Minister.

Pande was Secretary in the Department of Non-conventional Energy. Kushwaha, as per his style of functioning, used to call junior officers and issue them orders directly, many of them were irregular and favoured somebody. Pande made an issue of the Minister’s hamhanded style and issued strict instructions to officers not to obey any irregular order. Clash between the Minister and the Secretary went on for sometime and ultimately Pande’s stand was vindicated.

In the present bureaucratic hierarchy Pande is, perhaps, academically and administratively most brilliant. A product of Allahabad University, he topped in the IAS examination. He became an IPS officer at the young age of 20 in 1964 because the age for taking the IAS examination was 21. He waited for a year and as soon he attained the age, he took the first opportunity and appeared in the IAS, setting a record. An M.Sc in Physics, he had also a stint at the Harvard University having obtained the Master’s degree in Public Administration.

Pande, 58, has been in Delhi since 1989. His assignments include a stint with the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser in the Ministry of Food and Chairman of the National Pharmaceuticals and Pricing Authority in the Department of Chemicals and Petro-chemicals. He held the post of Agriculture Secretary for 19 months before he was shifted to the Home Ministry.

Those who worked with Pande say, he believes in the delegation of authority, assigning specific duties to his subordinates and setting a timeframe for any work to be done. While he will stand by his officers, he cannot stand shirkers, lousy and inefficient subordinates. As Home Secretary, he streamlined the functioning of the police and paramilitary forces besides handling other sensitive matters that included developments in Kashmir from time to time. By all reckoning, he will be tougher than many of his predecessors in the Cabinet Secretariat but his quality of impartiality may help the larger cause.


Pervez’s lies embarrass Pakistan

Pakistan, it seems, does not let even half a chance go by when it comes to criticising India. At the recently-concluded United Nations General Assembly session in New York, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee countered each and every salvo fired by Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf. Vajpayee clearly left the delegation from across the border short of words. The Pakistanis were in for a shock when the usually soft-spoken Vajpayee blew Musharraf’s bag of anti-India allegations into smithreens when he accused the General of lying.

Vajpayee’s strong words that Pakistan had crossed all limits of lying were hailed by everyone in India. After a long time Indians felt proud that the country’s leaders had taken a firm stand against Pakistan. This naturally did not go down well with the Pakistani media. News items in the Pakistani newspapers were a clear evidence of this. Not only an issue was made by the Pakistani media for not being allowed into Prime Minister Vajpayee’s press conference at the UN, but the Pakistani correspondents went ahead to describe him as the “ailing Prime Minister”.

When the Pakistani President should have been described as “confused” by its media, it went ahead to take a cue from the Time Magazine to call the Indian Prime Minister as ailing. Does it remind you of a saying in Hindi: “Khisiyani billi khamba noche” (an embarrassed cat scratches a pillar)?

Sonia scores

The election rally by Sonia Gandhi in Srinagar came as a surprise to many as it was the first by a Congress president since militancy erupted in the Valley. There was another first. It was also the first election meeting in Kashmir by a national leader in the current assembly elections. Sonia Gandhi had earlier cancelled for security reasons her Rajouri and Poonch tour where she was to address rallies in the first phase of elections. The cancellation had evoked criticism as critics felt that it sent wrong signals to the party workers and people in the militancy-hit state. Sonia’s spirited address at the rally was an attempt at making up for the cancelled trip.

Touching an emotional chord, she told the rallyists how her family’s relations with Kashmir were very deep. “Our ancestors have gone from here”, the rallyists were told. Sonia also told them that her family observed Kashmiri traditions and celebrated the festivals. Sonia’s presence obviously electrified the party workers. By reaching Kashmir earlier than any senior BJP leader, Sonia Gandhi seems to have scored a point. The grapevine also says that Sonia pre-empted the BJP as the saffron party’s top gun, L.K. Advani, may also embark on a brief election visit to J&K.

Two breakfasts

Why Vijay Goel is the Prime Minister’s Man Friday? This may be a ticklish question to answer. But the fact that Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office is indeed close to Atal Behari Vajpayee is exemplied by the fact that Goel has two breakfasts everyday. Foxed? 

The first breakfast Goel has at his residence. The second one he has at 7 Race Course Road because Goel briefs Vajpayee about the day’s engagements at the breakfast table. 

For those who do not know, let it be known that apart from his two ministerial portfolios, Goel is also looking after the following works: coordination with NDA, monitoring PM’s constituency Lucknow and the Grievance Cell in PMO.

Supporting enemy

Very recently, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh got into a tricky situation and got support from unexpected quarters. Vijay Goel was in Mumbai last week to review the working of public sector projects in the state in his capacity of Union Minister of State of Statistics and Programme Implementation and discuss the Member of Parliament’s Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS). A large number of MPs and bureaucrats, apart from the Chief Minister and Goel himself, were present when the tough-talking Republican Party of India MP Ramdas Athawale said the political condition of Deshmukh was not alright.

Obviously, Athawale was referring to the cleft-stick situation Deshmukh had just managed to come out from when Congress President Sonia Gandhi had given him a new lease of life. Goel surprised everybody when he came to Deshmukh’s support when he said the Chief Minister’s political condition was allright, though the same could not be said about his (state’s) financial condition.

What’s in a surname?

Shakespeare once said “What’s there in a name?” But in today’s context, a name may or may not be important but the surname definitely is. Not too long ago, Sahib Singh Verma had developed an allergy to his surname. In the late seventies, Verma, who was then an assistant librarian at a Delhi College, had taken a strong exception to a colleague who had introduced him as Chaudhary Sahib Singh at a public rally, predominantly of jats, in outer Delhi. Then, they say, Sahib Singh was very keen to prove his credentials as a broad-minded person who is above the narrow considerations of caste and creed. But much water has flown down the Yamuna since then and the country’s polity has been Kamandalised and Mandalised. Now the Labour Minister is no longer averse to his surname as he has already emerged a powerful “Jat leader” not only Delhi but in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Jaitley's land

One of the high profile General Secretaries of the BJP, Arun Jaitley, has been allotted a piece of land measuring 300 sq metres in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar as part of the allotment of land being made by the State Government to all Members of Parliament hailing from the State. Although Jaitley will be in possession of the land on paper, the land will be used by the BJP’s Gujarat Unit for building a party office.

Sources say, Jaitley was initially reluctant for that kind of an arrangement as it would spark off another controversy especially after the petrol pump scam. Subsequently, hewilted under pressure from the Gujarat unit, which did not have any spacious premises for itself in Gandhinagar.

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



Why aren’t our leaders visiting Valley?
Humra Quraishi

The query doings the rounds here is that why aren't the so-called national leaders venture on a trip to the Valley to campaign in the Assembly elections? Why do they limit themselves to segment 'J' of the State and not move towards the ‘K’ segment?...Yes, Sonia Gandhi did make an attempt, but what about the rest — from V.P.Singh to the Samajwadi duo Amar and Mulayam Singh to the who's who in the Parivar set-up?. It’s almost pathetic to hear voices chant that political bigwigs are coming up with slogans from a safe distance and even the likes of Mamata Banerjee, Uma Bharti, Murli Manohar Joshi are playing safe.

One respects lesser known politicians like Romesh Khajuria of the Panther's Party who till last week wasn't provided security (he showed me the copy of the letter dated September 7 that he had despatched to the Chief Election Commissioner with a plea for security) for this Jammu-based man, fielded from Srinagar's downtown Eidgah constituency.

Another aspect that's been missing is the Bollywood contingent that's usually carted for electioneering, to add that distracting frill. Before somebody corrects me, yes, Sunil Dutt was in the Valley. But on a different agenda altogether. On one of those peace walks or talks mission. This brings me to write that the International Day of Peace (September 21) has just passed by. And there you are absolutely correct that here in the capital city the day was marked by a seminar in the airconditioned environs of the India International Centre's auditorium with the likes of I.K.Gujral and Karan Singh on the speakers' dais...

I am not being sarcastic when I write that they'd have to hold another seminar to find out whether peace can be achieved by plain seminaring. These seminar-spearheading men should actually walk on those streets of the troubled areas of Jammu and Kashmir or for that matter across the North Eastern States and interact with the man out there.

In keeping with seminar formats of New Delhi, even this one had dancer-bureaucrat Shovana Narayan dance on the theme of peace! The connection between the two seems far flung, yet those formats have to be maintained.

Annan's call

It’s a bitter truth that the UN has proved itself most ineffective in trying to control the USA's combative posture vis-a -vis war cries yet there goes Secretary General Kofi Annan's International Day of Peace speech — “The peace bell at UN headquarters, cast from

coins donated by children from all continents is a symbol of global security...this year marks the beginning of a new peace-day tradition. The General Assembly has decided that from now on, the International day of Peace will be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence. Therefore I call on all nations and all people to cease all hostilities for all of tomorrow...” What about the day after? The USA might query before launching an attack on Iraq.

Alzeimer's day

Another very significant 'day ' falls on September 21 and it’s a day to focus on the growing numbers getting afflicted with the memory loss ailment — Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, the focusing speeches etc were again held in the airconditioned environs of the IIC.

Why don't experts spread awareness on the first signs of Alzheimer's and how to look after those stricken by it. I still recall Alzheimer's specialist Dr Vijay Chandra tell me that in villages and small towns most mistake this degenerative disease to be connected with some sort of madness and they beat the patients to death or keep them tied and locked up. Why can't specialists go out and talk about Alzheimer'?


USA doesn’t learn from history
Abu Abraham

The greatest terror today comes from the USA and its stooge power, Great Britain. Amidst universal condemnation of the US policy towards Iraq and Saddam Hussein, the two leaders undoubtedly need reassurance. Yet they hope to bring the world round to their point of view — and if they can’t, to go it alone. After all there are famous precedents, like when Winston Churchill went it alone against Hitler.

The Bush-Blair propaganda would have us believe that Saddam Hussein is putting together weapons of mass destruction — or if he isn’t actually doing it, he is intending to do so. So a pre-emptive strike against Iraq is called for, never mind the consequences. Greatness has its obligations. It is hard to believe that grown-up men, leaders of civilised nations, can take war so lightly.

Americans seem to be incapable of learning lessons from history. Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs (Cuba) are still recent memories. For almost 20 years, the USA pounded a small peasant nation with bombs and napalm promising to take it back to the Stone Age. Yet a people, intensely nationalistic and proud stood against the might of the world’s most powerful nation, bent on extending its evil empire to the remotest parts of the earth. Cuba, equally proud and independent of spirit had an easier time repelling an invasion by a bunch of thugs from Miami.

America was and is always ready at the drop of a hat to intervene anywhere and everywhere where it perceives its ‘vital interests’ are threatened. Chile, under Allende, in 1973, was a good example of how when a country with an abundance of valuable natural resources coveted by America, threatens to break away from its clutches, has to be stopped. According to Henry Kissinger, Chile was a ‘virus’ that would infect the whole region and beyond with its effect.

In an essay titled, ‘Our good neighbour policy’, Noam Chomsky writes thus about American policy towards its ‘neighbours’: “The use of terror is deeply ingrained in our character. Back in 1818, John Quincy Adams hailed the ‘salutary efficacy’ of terror in dealing with mingled hordes of lawless Indians and Negroes”. He wrote this to justify Andrew Jackson’s rampages in Florida which virtually annihilated the native population and left the Spanish province under US control...The Kennedy Administration prepared the way for the 1964 military coup in Brazil, helping to destroy Brazilian democracy, which was becoming too independent. The USA gave enthusiastic support to the coup, while its military leaders instituted a neo-Nazi style national security state with torture, repression, that inspired a rash of similar developments in Argentina, Chile and all over the hemisphere, from the mid-sixties to the eighties — “an extremely bloody period”.

Chomsky adds: “I think, legally speaking, there’s a very solid case for impeaching every American president since the Second World War. They’ve all been either outright war criminals or involved in serious war crimes”.

It is evident to all but Bush and Blair, that the real reason for their declared resolve to attack Iraq is not that Saddam Hussein poses a threat to the USA or Britain or its neighbours, but its oil reserves. And countries like Iraq that stand up to America are not setting a good example for other developing nations as well as countries in the region.

Scott Ritter, an American who worked for some years in Iraq as Chief Weapons Inspector, has said categorically that there is not a shred of evidence that Iraq was equipped with weapons of mass destruction nor was it likely to be able to manufacture nuclear weapons by the year 2005 as claimed by US officials, or in six months if they can lay their hands on enriched uranium.

Oil is the key factor. The USA wants to keep its hands on this lever of power so as to ensure that the profits flow primarily to the USA and Britain. The USA has set up a global intervention system around the Middle East to see that indigenous forces there don’t succumb to ‘ultra-nationalism’.

Bush and Blair are ready to hijack the United Nations in their criminal project to destroy Iraq and with it Saddam Hussein — ‘regime change’ as they like to call it.

All British governments since World War II have given support to America, but Blair’s servility surpasses them all. He has even started to dress like Bush — open necked shirt and jacket — and strut like him, cowboy style with thumbs tucked into his trouser waistband!


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