Wednesday, October 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Disinvestment a dire need to fight poverty

THE department store and the canteen in a prestigious Bangalore club were losing money each year and members were paying for these losses, like the taxpayer has been routinely forced to swallow the losses of our government-owned units. Within a year after the club management disinvested and contracted out these services, both began generating surpluses! That is the simple logic of disinvestment!

Long before the talk on disinvestment began, a beautiful cartoon showed that head of a govt-owned but closed factory, impressing a visiting minister by saying: “We substantially reduced our losses, after stopping production completely!”

Thanks to Mr Arun Shourie, India’s most successful Minister for Disinvestment yet, BALCO in Chattisgarh was disinvested, in spite of the Chief Minister’s irresponsible and comic attempts to sabotage the same. BALCO is now touted as the showpiece of Chattisgarh’s economy! About Rs 6,000 crore additional investment is planned in it!

Yet Mr Arun Shourie must be a bitter man today. The song and dance against disinvestment in NALCO by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Uma Devi, Mr Pramod Mahajan’s instigating BSNL and MTNL to resort to any kind of competition against privatised VSNL, Mr Ram Naik raising the bogey of “strategic interests” to sabotage the disinvestment in BPCL and HPCL and such like war cries against disinvestment have made India’s economic reforms an international laughing stock.


The late Mr K.D. Malviya, Union minister for about four decades ago, considered the dominant role of private oil companies a security threat to our strategic interests and nationalised them. Then, India was meeting half its crude oil requirement from its own domestic sources. This has now collapsed to a mere 15 per cent. I dare say that the nationalisation of the oil sector was India’s serious strategic mistake!

Mr Arun Shourie points out logically the government of the day can commandeer any facility, including privatised oil companies, if it felt any emergency need to do so. But “leaders” with myopic vision and fossilised thinking abound, regardless of which party they belong to.

Pushing out Coca Cola in 1977, touted as a major achievement of George Fernandes did not protect our strategic interests. He and his ilk should realise that India’s strategic interests are best served when deaths due to starvation cease to occur. Funds for direly needed activities can come only if the Rs 350,000 crore locked up in the public sector is converted into investments that can, at 20 per cent rate of return, fetch Rs 30,000 crore a year, rather keep demanding more as now!

N. NARASIMHAN, Bangalore

J&K: a neat operation

THIS is with reference to the “J&K — a neat operation” by Hari Jaisingh (Sept 25). True, the second phase of polling in Jammu and Kashmir has been quite peaceful. There is overwhelming evidence to show that the elections have been free and fair. Contrary to the common perception, an incredible number of voters exercised their franchise. According to some accounts, the overall polling is 42 per cent or thereabout, which has given the polls the legitimacy. The threats of the gun-totting militants to boycott the polls, yielded lukewarm response.

Now word has gone round that the people of this state want peace. This must have given sleepless nights to our neighbour. The security forces are entitled to a round of applause for their impressive performance.

There are increasing indications that ground situation has changed. The shift in the mood of the people is well pronounced. After the poll process is over and the new government is in place, the overriding priority should be to spur economic development. As of now, the economy of the state is in a shambles. The government should come out with a concrete and comprehensive action plan to salvage the debilitating financial position. It needs more than cosmetic efforts. The militancy has done incalculable damage for the last one decade and balm needs to be applied to the heart-breaking and spirit-crushing suffering of the people. The Government of India should also assist the state government that is voted to power, regardless of political affiliations.




Military hospitals

Ex-servicemen and their dependents are entitled to treatment in military hospitals. However, as per a Ministry of Defence notification (letter No 1 (1)/98/D-Pension/SERS dated 15 June ‘98) the ex-servicemen who have availed one-time option of medical allowance of Rs 100 pm cannot make use of the outdoor medical facility generally available at Medical Inspection Room (MI Room) of the military hospitals, though the receipt of such allowance does not ban them from getting indoor medical treatment, which requires admission in the hospital.

But to the dismay of many ex-servicemen the MI Room staff on seeing “Opted for medical allowance” stamp, refuse them even reference to the doctor on duty. In the process, they lose their right to indoor medical facility.

I suggest no ex-serviceman should be denied consultation with the doctor on duty and medicines may not be given to those opting for medical allowance.

Col KULDIP SINGH GREWAL (retd), Patiala

Bathinda ignored

In your Bathinda edition there is hardly one or two news items about this backward city. The roads here are bad. There is no garden, no proper power supply in spite of a thermal plant. Water supply is inadequate. The sewerage does not work. The condition of the fort is going from bad to worse.

Mere incident reporting is not important. You are requested to highlight problems faced by the citizens of Bathinda city.


PSEB charges

If you save electricity by reducing consumption, you still have to pay the same charges as you are charged on the minimum load basis. Why penalise a citizen who is cooperative? Why discourage such saving?


Salman Khan & bail

This refers to the news item “Salman gets bail in hit-and-run case.” It hurts to think of the man who died under the wheels of the car and the man responsible for his death gets a bail for such a small amount. The dreams with which he had come to Mumbai died with him.

Lt Col MOHIM K. SHARMA (retd), Chandigarh

Public health

A large number of people suffer from diarrhoea because of the negligence of the public health departments in Punjab and Haryana. Water being supplied is substandard and it always fails tests. Officials deny the allegations and run away from their responsibility. Why doesn’t the government machinery take preventive steps prior to the outbreak of an epidemic?


Illegal colonies

Developing illegal colonies within municipal limits is making the rich colonisers richer. Municipal councillors and officials deliberately allow the violation of the law. No street can be laid within the municipal limits without the sanction of the municipality as provided in Section 170-A of the Punjab Municipal Act.


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