Sunday, December 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Punjab Development Report: challenges & opportunities
A new beginning to rediscover, reinvent and rebuild the state
P.P.S. Gill
he Punjab Development Report, 2002, and the Punjab Human Development Report, 2001, have a common umbilical cord with New Delhi’s Planning Commission. 

What has gone wrong in Punjab and what needs to be done
Nirmal Sandhu
he Congress government has not yet addressed itself to the development issue. It is terribly slow on reforms. Having done its homework on the economic front — since it had issued a charge sheet against the Badal government on the eve of the February elections this year — the Congress is quite clear on what is wrong with the state’s finances, but is dithering on remedial measures.



Freezing MSP for wheat
December 14, 2002
Death of a titan
December 13, 2002
D-day in Gujarat
December 12, 2002
Trivialising SAARC
December 11, 2002
Meeting the Veerappan threat
December 10, 2002
USA, India & terrorism
December 9, 2002
The momentous battle of ballot in Gujarat
December 8, 2002
Disinvestment back on track
December 7, 2002
Some plain speaking by Russia
December 6, 2002
A tough economic agenda
December 5, 2002
The ghost of Bofors
December 4, 2002
Beyond Agro-Tech
December 3, 2002


Owing to certain limitations, the Profile column has been held over.

Judging the Judges
S.S. Sodhi
t long last the heat and dust raised by the insinuations in the media and by the rabble rousing elements in the High Court Bar Association regarding the alleged involvement of some Judges of the High Court in the Punjab Public Service Commission scam stands settled.


Mufti’s remedy for J&K economy
t was all there: glittering atmospherics; floral adulation; grandiloquent eulogy. All this and many more ostensibly to discuss ways and means to pitchfork the badly bruised Kashmir economy on a high-growth trajectory. 

  • Gujarat & AICC

  • Kanshi missing

  • Simian spirits

  • MPs’ demands


Humra Quraishi
Time to bridge the social divide
ast weekend the Art Of Living guru Ravi Shankar had invited a group of Muslims to hear their viewpoint, to try and ease the social divide because of the communal factors unleashed on society.

  • Busy month

  • Alien land?



Punjab Development Report: challenges & opportunities
A new beginning to rediscover, reinvent and rebuild the state
P.P.S. Gill

The Punjab Development Report, 2002, and the Punjab Human Development Report, 2001, have a common umbilical cord with New Delhi’s Planning Commission. The Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) is credited with the first, and the State Planning department with the second, prepared by Sanket, an NGO. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman K.C.Pant is instrumental in initiating the mid-term reviews of state plans and in the preparation of such development reports.

The two reports effectively mirror Punjab. They have much in common in terms of what ails the state and share even the diagnosis and prescription. They show similarities and commonalities, as also a streak of concern over how Punjab is passing through a costly and painful transitory phase in the changing world order. Together they weave a mosaic that distinctly brings out the patterns of weaknesses and strengths of a state and its people, known for their spirit of enterprise and resilience.

Multiple crises: However, the reports do not offer cut and paste solutions to reduce Punjab's vulnerability to multiple crises — economic, social, financial and political. But these do throw up challenges and opportunities to change the course of Punjab's destiny. The Punjab Development Report, 2002, not only provides strong scaffoldings to the architects to put in place the faultlines in Punjab polity and spruce its facade but also serves as knowledge-quotient that will help clear clouds of ignorance through better understanding of the existing paradoxes of prosperity.

The interdisciplinary app-roach that the report suggests, taking into account Punjab’s dismal fiscal and financial situation, is anchored as much in agriculture that acts as rudder for its economy as on the postulates that there has to be people's involvement at the grassroots (panchayati raj institutions) and decentralisation of powers, as per the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments. It also advocates integration of agriculture and rural development to improve quality of life, create job opportunities in villages and make education more meaningful at all levels.

Many have asked The Tribune one crucial question: how about resources to implement the report, as the government is as good as financially broke? We owe it to the readers to answer this question, as we were the first to give vignettes of the executive summary of the report on December 3 and 4.

Enabling tool: The answer is simple and not so simple. The report, basically, is an enabling tool for the convenience and benefit of the state's administrative departments concerned. It is also a ready-reference for the financial institutions that lend money to fuel the engine of growth and economic development, encompassing social sector by providing social-security safety-net in the interest of the people, primarily have-nots and also to alleviate poverty. It gives the administrative departments the critical analysis of what is lacking where and why and how to go about to set the house in order.

The answer to resource-funding of such policy planning documents is also contained in what Professor D R Gadgil had once said, “Planning is necessary when there is shortage of resources and most necessary when there is very great paucity of resources”. Punjab of today, perhaps, eminently qualifies this quote. Thus, the planning processes, indices and pointers that the report provides are all aimed at carving a Punjab of tomorrow. As a bench-mark, based on the suggested recommendations, each government department is now expected to frame cogent and incisive project profiles to seek funding from financial institutions for infrastructure development.

The report chronicles and show-cases all the minuses and pluses as much as it creates an awareness on where Punjab is headed. It is not an end but a beginning to rediscover, reinvent and rebuild Punjab for posterity in tune with the changing world order. For this, the initiative has to come from every Punjabi with an indiginous model, as they have not yet realised their own potential, despite their spirit of resilience and recreation. The bottom-line of the report must be understood in its proper contextual form and not as a background material. It is a “referral point”, the starting point for a new Punjab. Therefore, the common thread that weaves all its 17 chapters, stitches a futuristic pattern of fiscal management, rural development, education or youth, labour or employment. It shows an integrated or holistic design woven as a consequence of learning from the past patterns.

Good governance: In this backdrop, the report comes out strongly for “good governance”. Punjab's development radar today shows that where it lags behind in education, information technology, it also projects skewed sex ratio, flaunts a high percentage of school dropouts and poor infrastructure in terms of roads and railways lines, bridges and communication. Even educational institutions sans basic amenities/facilities like toilets and drinking water what to say of classrooms, furniture, blackboards and chalk!

The report, while repeating and reiterating the “message” contained in Punjab government's White Paper on financial management and other budget documents also stresses that the “economy cannot improve in isolation and that it should be outcome of political consensus”.

Since financial profligacy in Punjab continues unabated at both political and administrative levels, one wonders, if all the suggested and promised reforms will help put Punjab economy and finances back on the right track. But reforms must be implemented, if Punjab is to take advantage of the lending agencies, particularly, the World Bank without losing sight of this fact — development with a humane face.

In respect of labour and employment, for instance, there is a comparison of employment opportunities in different sectors with other states and most of the space is consumed by tables and their interpretation. This section is too academic and, if one may say, uninspiring. Nevertheless, for all that well-wishers and such reports hope and suggest to happen, Punjab has to accelerate its growth rate, which alone can generate opportunities and shore up economies and incomes of small, marginal and medium farmers and labourers, on the one hand, and the small sector industry and labour, on the other hand. Punjab's 42 per cent labour is illiterate.

Material gains: On the contrary, the observations on education are revealing and startling. Enterprising Punjabis, somehow, somewhere went astray in their search for material gains and easy access to money and forgot all about education—the cradle of civilisations.

Punjab is sixteenth among all states and union territories in terms of literacy. Despite an 11.44 per cent increase in literacy rate from 1991 to 2001, the state has 95 lakh illiterate. There has been a “quantum” jump in expansion of educational institutions but at the same time “quality” of education has plummeted steeply. Schools in Punjab do not attract children, what to speak of teachers, who are known for their abseentism and truant ways of debunking.

Enrolment is poor. Nearly one-fourth of the children are either not enrolled in schools or are in unrecognised schools. At present, 2.97 lakh children, in the age bracket of 6 years to 14 years, are out of school. And with each passing year, the share of government schools in total enrollment in primary classes is decreasing, gradually. It was 66 per cent in 2000 against 71.86 per cent in 1996. Meanwhile, the number of unrecognised private schools shot up to 25 per cent from 19 per cent in these four years. “It reflects the discontent of public from the government-run schools”.

Punjab may have the highest number of students after Uttar Pradesh enrolled in private schools. But should it pride itself with the percentage of dropouts from schools? This dropout rate is alarming: 20 per cent children dropout at primary level, 37 per cent at middle level; 40 per cent at secondary level; and 78 per cent at 10 + 2 level.

There is neither motivation in teachers nor commitment. If teaching methodology is outdated, lack of teaching skills is the hallmark of teachers! Schools are neither inspiring nor capable to hold interest of students. Moreover, there is no relevance of existing education system to day-to-day life. The very fact that 50 per cent students taking matriculation examination flunk speaks volumes about the state of education. What does one do with the system of education, where 99 per cent of the budget allocated to education goes into salaries and wages out of the meagre resource allocation of 2.88 per cent against targeted 6 per cent of the state gross domestic product? The situation of higher education is no better. There is no link or continuity between school- college- university education/ teaching.

Cause for concern: The socio-economic indices for rural Punjab, compared to urban areas, are a cause for concern. This rural-urban disparity or divide has potential to cause tension and strain in the society that could eventually lead to law and order problem. This divide, howsoever artificial or real, has to be bridged and erased. In this context, policy and decision-makers have to think in terms of “nai talim”, as envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi, opt for rural-based industries and infrastructure to check migration of population, educate farmers on diversification, create awareness about acquiring industrial, technical and knowledge-based skills, prepare plans for a “model” village etc.

Just as the report itself is only the beginning, it can be said that the report has also set in motion an evolutionary process that will require its constant updating. By no means it is the end-product in terms of suggested planning processes and methodologies.

Despite grey areas identified in the report, one does see oasis of development, where in, Punjab still standout, though, in several respects and aspects, it is no longer outstanding. The report is as much a litmus test to see how effectively political and administrative leaders take up cudgels on behalf of the state that sustains and tolerates such leaders. Will the report act as a stimulus to activate these leaders to help the state evolve a sustainable civil society by ensuring equitable distribution of social and economic justice?

In the development perspective chapter, the report spells out; the “dream” of Punjabis as also of those who contributed to the compilation of the report, making it look like a prism showing Punjab in a wider and different perspective and context. They hope it will provide a “vision” to those who voluntarily or because of call of duty have to “reconstruct” rather than “built anew”, a Punjab of tomorrow.

In the final analysis, as one ponders over Punjab, one cannot but agree with the hypothesis given in the report that for any meaningful change in the state and the state of affairs, the need is to change the “mind-set”. Usher in a “revolution of minds”, as professed by The Tribune Editor, Mr Hari Jaisingh, at the presentation of the report at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development to Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh.

This hypothesis should also be followed by “'rejuvenation of socio-economic dynamism, improvement in the quality of life/services as well as habitat in rural/urban areas. The need is also for upgradation/ management of physical/ financial resources/ sources and human development, diversification of economy from agriculture to non-farm sector and making Punjab investment-friendly.

Above all, it persists in giving people a government that is transparent, corruption-free and where economies and not politics drives policy planning. It is time Punjab took the next step forward and rediscover itself now and here.


The current financial position

* Revenue deficit is Rs 3842.00 crore. It is 5.48 per cent of the GDP.

* Gross fiscal deficit is Rs 5211.00 crore. It is 6.92 per cent of the GDP.

* Public debt at Rs 33037.46 crore which is 47.16 per cent of GDP.

* Annual interest liability at Rs 3149.00 crore account 32.71 per cent of the state’s revenue.

* The revenue receipts are not enough even to pay salaries, pension and interest and other committed expenditure, which is 112 per cent in 2001-02.

* With this background, it is not possible to approach multilateral funding agencies, financial institutions and capital markets for funding development programmes.

* The government cannot access funding under Centrally Sponsored Schemes in the absence of sectoral reforms and its inability to contribute its own share.

There is need to correct the revenue/fiscal deficit and substantially reduce public debt. The measures required are:

* Fiscal deficit, which at present is around 7 per cent of GDP be reduced to 3.5 per cent by the end of 2007.

* Revenue deficit be reduced by 0.5 per cent per annum with 1999-2000 as the base year and reduced to zero by 2007.

* Public debt as GDP percentage be reduced from 47.16 per cent currently to 25 per cent by 2007.

* Committed expenditure, 112 per cent of the revenue, should be reduced to 60 per cent by 2007.

Source: The tables used on this page have been culled out from Punjab Development Report, 2002, Crrid, Chandigarh.


Urgent fiscal steps

* Three-year rolling budget from 2002-03 onwards for the sake of consistency and continuity.

* Action taken report on announcements made in the budget.

* Revision of user charges for services like transport, drinking water, technical and medical and higher education, secondary and tertiary health care to improve quality.

* Issuing of future governmental guarantees to be stopped and creating a sinking fund for the same purpose.

* For transparency and accountability, the Finance Department should compile a quarterly statement of its income and expenditure and make it available for wide circulation.

* Strict enforcement of tax laws for higher yield from sales tax, registration/stamp duty and motor vehicle tax.

* Compression of expenditure on non-tax and non-plan expenditure.

* Enhancing quality of public expenditure an governance.

* Aggressive disinvestments in public sector undertakings.

* Power sector reforms and improving the finances of the PSEB by implementing in full the recommendations of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission Report.

* Diversification of agriculture.


What has gone wrong in Punjab and what needs to be done
Nirmal Sandhu

The Congress government has not yet addressed itself to the development issue. It is terribly slow on reforms. Having done its homework on the economic front — since it had issued a charge sheet against the Badal government on the eve of the February elections this year — the Congress is quite clear on what is wrong with the state’s finances, but is dithering on remedial measures. That Punjab’s growth rate at 4.7 per cent has been below even the national average of 6.5 per cent in the last decade is hard for a proud Punjabi to swallow.

Little has changed for the better. The unrepaired roads, incomplete school buildings, power interruptions — though less frequent now — paddy procurement woes, indecision on managing food surpluses, the grim situation of unemployment and the drug menace — it is life as usual for the ordinary people of Punjab under the Congress, which they had voted to power in the hope of a better future.

There is repeated talk of an empty treasury, but there has been little action on the ground to raise resources except through slapping more taxes. Whenever any one runs short of money, he/she first buttonholes the borrowers for refund of loans. Punjab Government enterprises like the PSIDC and the PFC have lent thousands of crores of rupees to industrial borrowers, who have refused to pay back. Their names and details of loans have appeared in the Press. And yet there is little effort to nab the defaulters and recover the government dues. The reason: they are all influential and some are part of the government itself.

Bloated bureaucracy: Reducing the government size and expenditure is a widely suggested and accepted idea for cost-cutting. The bloated (and politicised) bureaucracy has grown from strength to strength. According to a survey published in the July 16 issue of Outlook, Haryana had 37 IAS officers against the sanctioned strength of 28, Himachal Pradesh had 29 IAS officers (sanctioned strength17) and in Punjab the number of IAS officers was quite high at 69 (sanctioned 26 only). Does a state with a fiscal deficit of Rs 5211 crore need such a large elite battalion at the top?

It seems the Punjab Government exists for its employees only. They are the highest paid in the country. Their wages, salaries and pension bill jumped from Rs 2,180 crore in 1995-96 to a staggering Rs 5,426 crore in 2000-01. These are the Punjab Finance Department’s own figures. The table, taken from the “Punjab Development Report 2002”, shows how the state employees have been getting pay scales higher than those recommended even by the Central Pay Commission.

Over-exploited resources: The most worrisome is the over-exploitation of natural resources. The state’s agricultural soils — 94 per cent of these irrigated by tubewells and the canal system — have been nutritionally exhausted due to heavy cropping intensity. Because of lack of funds the canal system has been poorly maintained, resulting in about 36 per cent reduction in the cultivable area.

The underground water level has gone down by 10 to 15 metres in the central zone necessitating the frequent digging of hand-pumps and tubewells, and use of submersible pumps. Eminent scientist M.S.Swaminathan has given the alarm signal by warning of a major water crisis in Punjab, apart from Rajasthan, Orissa and Maharashtra, in 2003. Due to deficient rain this year some 200 villages in Jalandhar district faced drinking water scarcity as hand-pumps went dry. Water sources are getting polluted. Many in Jalandhar, Ludhiana and elsewhere are forced to drink unclean water and eat contaminated vegetables. The problem of water-logging and soil salinity has lingered with more areas going beyond the reach of irrigation. Efforts to reclaim waste lands, to recharge the underground water and spread the green cover are woefully inadequate. Rainwater goes waste for want of water harvesting measures.

There is no dearth of studies on development. One that was carried out on the initiative of the Planning Commission to chart out a roadmap for growth in Punjab is called the “Punjab Development Report 2002” by the Chandigarh-based Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID). The data quoted above is from this study. What the 648-page volume suggests is broadly the growth agenda currently in vogue.

Consensus on agenda: There is almost a global consensus on how a poor nation or a poor state can achieve prosperity. There is no other goal than achieving a high growth rate. There are two things that make high growth possible. One is an enabling climate for business and investment. Two, empowering the poor and ordinary citizens to participate in growth. Both these are yet to become a reality here. Punjabis are eating out their past prosperity. Denied growth opportunities, talented youth are leaving the state to go abroad or work in progressive states.

Punjab continues to be dogged by red-tape and corruption. The change-resistent bureaucracy, cumbersome procedures, outdated laws and poor infrastructure scare away private investment. Old methods are still in vogue. Take for instance the latest Punjab Government decision of “creating employment” for 10,000 youth. That is an old style populist meausre. Jobs are not created by official orders. Employment is generated when there is growth. Otherwise, adding to the already inflated work force creates more problems. One reason for public sector enterprises’ collapse is the bloated work force that has hit productivity and profits.

Punjab 16th in literacy: There are some basic development ideas that few dispute. Giving top priority to education is one. Punjab ranks 16th in literacy in the country. The literacy rate in 2001 was 69.95 per cent, up from 58 per cent in 1991. The dropout rate is alarming. Out of 100 enrolled in Class I, only 22 reach the secondary level. Teaching standard is abysmal. Fifty per cent fail to clear the matriculation exam. What should be done? Invest more in primary and secondary education, promote technical education, impart skills in demand within and outside the country. Education is key to development.

Health is another area that demands attention. Punjabi diet is leading to increased heart failure deaths. Eighty per cent children aged below 6 and 41 per cent women in the 15-49 age group are anaemic. Most Punjabi men and women are obese and they don’t realise its dangers. The state’s health infrastructure is among the best in the country. There is one doctor for 1,589 people and one hospital bed for 864 persons. Public health spend in all Five-Year Plans has ranged between 1.9 per cent and 4.5 per cent of the total outlay. The USA and the UK devout 14 to 20 per cent of their outlays to health. Adding to the official neglect of this vital area is the fact that Punjab has no health policy.

The third area of unquestionable importance is infrastructure, which implies the development of transport and road network, power, IT and telecomunication. Bad roads and chaotic traffic daily kill or maim people in large numbers, spread respiratory diseases, damage vehicles and delay the movement of commercial goods. Private participation has been encouraged but only to a limited extent. Bus routes, which could have been thrown open to unemployed youth, have been captured by rich, influential persons.

With the commissioning of the Thein Dam it was believed that Punjab’s power shortages would be over. Hardly. The PSEB is in terrible shape and needs a professional overhaul, fund infusion and a ruthless anti-corruption operation, and if these fail to produce results, then privatise power generation and distribution. Burdening the consumer with frequent tariff hikes is unwarranted. To its credit, the board’s transmission losses are lower (15.07 per cent in 1990-2000) than Maharashtra (32.17 per cent), Karnataka (32 per cent ), Haryana (37.29 per cent) and Delhi (47.52 per cent).

In IT and telecommunication Punjab is a late starter. That is because, as Capt Amarinder Singh puts it, the Akalis do not think beyond agriculture. There is no institute for high-end IT/BPO training. The Mahindras conceived, but failed to deliver Mohali’s software park, delaying Punjab’s IT march. NIIT was given the job of computer education in schools, but the deal seems to have got stuck. In Andhra Pradesh they are taking computers to village panchayats. Here even the students have limited access.

A model for agriculture: Punjab’s future lies in developing agriculture, agro-industries and agriculture-industry linkages. In June, 2001, Hindustan Lever Chairman M.S.Banga outlined his dream for a food revolution, which he termed as “a win win for the farmer and the consumer”. If implemented honestly, it can lift farm incomes and growth. He suggested the creation of “partnership webs” involving the farmer, agri-input companies, banks, insurance firms, grain handling and storage firms and food processors. This can be done by setting up farmer service centres to be run as private enterprises by farm input providers and food processors.

The food processors will directly lift farm produce, eliminating handling charges, commissions and fees, besides reducing transportation costs. Restrictions on the movement and storage of foodgrains will have to go. To encourage demand-led crop planning a futures market will have to be developed. The cost-inflating fiscal levies will have to be rationalised. This will in turn lower the average cost of wheat by Rs 2.50 per kg. This, Mr Banga believes, will increase production, offtake of agro-products and farmers’ returns despite a lower minimum support price.

Mr Banga’s plan is quite workable and worth giving a try. This will require a change in the role of procurement agencies like the FCI. It is also in keeping with the Centre’s stated policy of decentralising the procurement process. Simultaneously, the Johl committee’s report on diversification can be pursued. Punjab’s agriculture and industry need mutually beneficial linkages. The importance of value addition and processing of agro products has been stressed by expert after expert with little results on the ground. India is the largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, but hardly 7 per cent of these are processed. In the advanced countries the ratio is 60 per cent.

The contract system being implemented by PepsiCo in Sangrur and Hoshiarpur districts is producing good results. Since most of the farmers have small land holdings, they cannot afford to buy the latest farm machinery, fertilisers and improved seeds. Corporate contracts can yield good results provided there is legal protection for them against exploitation. They have to organise themselves in cooperatives and go in for value addition to farm produce, organic farming or/and agro-based businesses. The government has to update the relevant laws to ensure modern farm practices.


Focus on development of agriculture

Punjab has been an agriculturally progressive state producing over 8 tonnes per hectare of wheat and rice having 94 per cent cropped area irrigated and 186 per cent cropping intensity. It used 184 kg/ha of chemical fertilisers and has 9.35 million tractors in use. Of late, signs of fatigue are visible in agricultural activities because of:

* Monocropping of paddy and wheat with attended manifestations of stagnating yield, increase in cost of production and low returns.

* Overexploitation of water and soil resources

* Declining public and private sector investments

* Inadequacies of marketing, pricing and processing of vegetables, fruits and other crops.

* Dwindling agricultural research and extension inputs.

There is need to rejuvenate agricultural development with the adoption of:

* Crop diversification with high yielding, remunerative alternate crops supported by pricing and marketing.

* Soil, water and environmental conservation.

* Efficient management of input use for increasing crop and animal yields

* Facilitation for contract, commercial and organic farming

* Introduction of corporate sector in services and agro-processing sector

* Reorientation of subsidies in the light of WTO

* Strengthening Panchayati Raj and cooperative systems.


Judging the Judges
S.S. Sodhi

At long last the heat and dust raised by the insinuations in the media and by the rabble rousing elements in the High Court Bar Association regarding the alleged involvement of some Judges of the High Court in the Punjab Public Service Commission scam stands settled. Looking back it now comes across as no more than the manifestation of mass hysteria. Needless to say the greatest harm it has caused has been to the image and reputation of the High Court besides of course to the Judges concerned — and the manner in which the matter was handled by the powers that be has its own tale to tell.

What led this issue to assume sensational proportions was undoubtedly the withdrawal of judicial work from the three Judges whose names came to figure in the PPSC scandal, namely, Justice Amarbir Singh Gill, Justice M.L.Singhal and Justice Mehtab Singh Gill. It was on June 28, 2002 that Chief Justice A.B.Saharya took this step. It was done pending his inquiry into the allegations against these Judges. This cannot but be construed as temporary impeachment. Oddly enough, later after, in his report to the Chief Justice of India, indicting these Judges he restored judicial work to them. This happened on August 27, 2002. Ever since then they have been functioning and discharging their duties like other Judges of the High Court. In other words, when the inquiry was initiated against them they were barred from functioning as Judges but later when Chief Justice Saharya came to the conclusion that the allegations against them were correct he permitted them to resume their judicial functions and duties. One wonders what the judiciary would have said and done had the executive acted in this fashion?

Regarding withdrawal of work from a judge of the High Court, the in-house procedure adopted by the Supreme Court and all High Courts no doubt provides for it but only if three conditions are fulfilled:

1. The committee of three Judges appointed by the Chief Justice of India to inquire into charges against the Judge finds substance in the allegations against him,

2. The misconduct disclosed in the allegations proved correct is such that it calls for initiation of proceedings for removal of the Judge, and

3. The Judge thereafter declines to resign or seek voluntary retirement.

It is thereafter that the Chief Justice of India would advise the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court not to allocate any judicial work to the Judge — a procedure followed by Chief Justice Saharya only in its disregard.

In the present case what also deserves mention is the full Court meeting of Judges where despite the asking of several Judges Chief Justice Saharya adamantly refused to show to Justice Mehtab Singh Gill the material he was relying upon with regard to the allegations against him. He no doubt offered to show it to other Judges but not to the one who really deserved the opportunity to give his explanation, if any, with regard to it.

Be that as it may, months went by with no indication of the action, taken on Chief Justice Saharya's report. This report had been submitted to the Chief Justice of India as far back as August 26, 2002. Not surprisingly there was criticism in the press regarding the delay and inaction on the part of the Chief Justice of India in dealing with this matter with the importance and urgency it so deserved.

After his retirement, Justice B. N. Kirpal, the former Chief Justice of India, in his interview that appeared in the Chandigarh edition of the Hindustan Times of November 20, 2002, sought to refute this charge by saying “the Supreme Court had within 10 days of receiving the report recommended the transfer of Justice Amarbir Singh Gill to Guwahati High Court for his alleged involvement in the Punjab Public Service Commission scam.” As regards the other two Judges, Justice M.L.Singhal and Justice Mehtab Singh Gill, it was said that he had requested Justice Rajendra Babu of the Supreme Court to go through the report of Chief Justice Saharya. The question that immediately comes to mind is if there was such promptness in dealing with the case of Justice Amarbir Singh Gill why was that of the two other Judges left in limbo, as it were? Justice B. N. Kirpal, the then Chief Justice of India, had the whole of September and October and a week in November too before he retired. It was only after his retirement that the new Chief Justice of India sought the response of the three Judges concerned to the report of Chief Justice Saharya and then appointed a three Judge committee to inquire into the matter. The agony that those absolved of blame must have gone through during long this period with allegations of unbecoming conduct hanging over them can well be visualised.

No less pertinent is another aspect of the matter. Justice B. N. Kirpal in his interview also said “The Supreme Court cannot do much when it comes to acting against High Court Judges. Transfer is the only weapon in our armoury”. This being so with the transfer of Justice Amarbir Singh Gill having being recommended he stood convicted and sentenced, as it were and thereafter came his “trial” — how else can the subsequent appointment, by his successor, of the three Judge committee to inquire into the findings recorded against the three Judges concerned in the report of Chief Justice Saharya be construed?

While no one is above the law, not even Judges, no matter how high the Court they may belong to, but to ensure that public confidence in the judiciary is not undermined it is imperative that inquiries against Judges regarding alleged wrong doing on their part must be marked by due care and discreetness — a norm so blatantly violated here with the involvement of the police, the publicity it received as also the manner in which the police went about it, almost as if it were an investigation against some criminals.

With regard to the involvement of the police even Justice B. N. Kirpal in his interview was constrained to remark that he was “disturbed over a report that some cops were sent to the native village of one of the three Judges to make inquiries about him”. The police, he said had no business going there. He went on to add, “I can certainly tell you that I wouldn't have involved any police officer. They are litigants before us. I see no purpose in involving them.”

What is more, against one of the Judges — Justice Mehtab Singh Gill — two lawyers also figure in the report of the Chief Justice. They being H. S. Mattewal and Anupam Gupta. About the former the report says, “Mr H.S.Mattewal, the then Advocate General, Punjab had brought to my notice that the Judge was interfering in matters of local administration of the Municipal Council, Moga”. This obviously had no connection with the PPSC scam. Further, the complaints in this regard pertained to 2000 and 2001. What begs the question is why was no action taken regarding them till the name of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill came to figure in this scandal?

Turning to Mr Anupam Gupta, the report of the Chief Justice adverted to an article published by him in The Tribune of June 3, 2002 where it was said, “While one of the Judges named has been established to be innocent, the name of another — perhaps the most important of all — has not surfaced at all till date”. The report then goes on to say “Since the above noted excerpt indicated that some relevant information was available personally with the author, who is an Advocate of the High Court, I sent for him to find out what was in his mind. He candidly named Mr Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and added that the Judge was making an effort through certain highly placed contacts to keep his name out of the scam.”

Conspicuous by its absence in the report is mention of the material or information on the basis of which Anupam Gupta had pointed the accusing finger at Justice Mehtab Singh Gill nor does it appear that Chief Justice Saharya even asked for it.

There is then the aspect of delay. It is bad enough that there should be allegations or insinuations against Judges but to give the media and the rabble amongst the lawyers the opportunity to sensationalise the issue, as in this case, cannot but adversely affect the credibility of the judiciary and thereby undermine public confidence in it. The image and reputation of the judiciary is too precious to be so jeopardised. Let us also not forget that Judges too are entitled to justice and that too prompt and immediate lest delay makes even the innocent amongst them victims of false and malicious accusations.

What has happened here cannot, of course, be undone but there are lessons to be learnt from it. This has been a sad episode riddled with avoidable errors that should never be repeated. The legal fraternity and the media owe it to the Judges absolved of blame to undo the grievous wrong done to them by wiping off the stain on their integrity and credibility caused by the untrue insinuations against them.

The writer is former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court.


Mufti’s remedy for J&K economy

It was all there: glittering atmospherics; floral adulation; grandiloquent eulogy. All this and many more ostensibly to discuss ways and means to pitchfork the badly bruised Kashmir economy on a high-growth trajectory. Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, in his new avataar as the Chief Minister, sought to hardsell his state to potential investors at the 75th AGM of FICCI. As top corporate honchos of the country listened with rapt attention, one was reminded of Sayeed’s predecessor, Farooq Abdullah’s last visit to such as industry meet in similar ambience in the national capital.

Towards the end of that meeting a visibly upset Abdullah had vowed not to attend any such meetings in the future as he thought it was an exercise in futility. Sayeed may be thinking otherwise, but going by the fact that FICCI President-elect A.C.Muthiah did not hesitate to state his last visit to the Paradise on Earth was three-decades ago, one is left wondering whether the CM has to raise the sales pitch to a completely different level altogether.

As during the luncheon, one delegate asked another fellow delegate with a distinct tone of sarcasm: “Aren’t you doing anything on the Shikaras?” An irony, that discussions on poverty are taking place over sumptuous meals in five-star hotels.

Gujarat & AICC

The result of Gujarat elections would impact the Congress as much as the BJP. While the party would relook its political startegy to take on the BJP, quite a few top-level changes are also in the offing. The Congress high command is not too happy with the fiasco over party manifesto in Gujarat and general secretary Kamal Nath, who is incharge of the state, may have some answering to do if the Congress loses. Ghulam Nabi Azad is also sending feelers for his return to the AICC after a good show in Jammu and Kashmir. Azad’s coming to the AICC would alter quite a few equations. Pranab Mukherjee has been keen to give up the post of PCC chief in West Bengal since the Assembly elections were held in the state over a year-and-a-half back but Sonia Gandhi has not obliged. Will Azad be lucky?

Kanshi missing

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Kanshi Ram was missing from the scene during the recently concluded Gujarat Assembly elections. The BSP, which was founded by none other than Kanshi Ram, was contesting over 50 seats in the state but neither Kanshi Ram nor Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati went to Gujarat for campaigning till Deputy Prime Minister L.K.Advani sent an SOS. Advani invited Mayawati to come to Gujarat and the BSP supremo for mobilising Dalit votes in favour of the BJP but the Chief Minister while immediately accepting the invitation told Advani that “the boss can’t come as he was indisposed”. But insiders said the Supremo was fit, roaring and laughing.

Simian spirits

During the debate on the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2002, in the Rajya Sabha, the issue of the monkey menace in the imposing North and South Blocks flanking the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi came up. Intervening in the matter, former Chief of Army Staff and nominated member General Shankar Roychoudhwry had an interesting observation, which resulted in peels of laughter in the House. He remarked “I do agree there is a menace, however, “woh to bhootpurv mulazimo ke atmain hain, isleya unka bhi protection zarori hai” (They are the spirits of the dead employees and their protection too is necessary).

Laloo magic

Of all politicians who campaigned in Gujarat, the inimitable Laloo Prasad Yadav had the best one-liners. Sample this. When asked about VHP’s Praveen Togadia having to face the humiliation of his name not appearing in the voters’ list, he quipped: “I went to Dwarka to offer prayers. And look his name has been cut from the voters’ list.”

Evergreen hero

Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj made no attempt to conceal her admiration for Dev Anand, the evergreen hero from Gurdaspur, at a function here recently. While releasing the music album of ‘Love at Times Square’, a film written, produced and directed by Dev Anand, the minister quoted an Urdu couplet to acknowledge his intoxicating presence.

She told the gathering how excited she was when her secretary told her that Dev Anand had called up to talk to her. She said that although she is not star-struck like a teenager, she enjoyed meeting Dev Sahib who she has admired for years. Although the function was attended by a galaxy of celebrities and the new cast of the film, the evening undoubtedly belonged to Dev Anand.

Clad in a brown suede jacket, black trousers and red muffler, the ‘79 going on 80’ actor amazed the gathering with his age-defying spontaniety and alertness. Some of the prominent admirers of Dev Anand who were present at the function were artists Satish Gujral and Jatin Das, Director General of Doordarshan S.Y.Quraishi, VJ and television compere, Ruby Bhatia, Punjabi folk singer Pammi Bai and pop singer Jaswinder Jassi, editors M.J.Akbar and Vinod Mehta, television anchor person, Rajat Sharma, spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry, Navtej Sarna and his wife Avina.

MPs’ demands

An embarrassing situation is developing for the Vajpayee government which may well have larger ramifications on the national security. The much-hyped police lathicharge on a farmers’ rally near Parliament House recently led by Lok Sabha member Devendra Yadav (JD-U) is now turning out to be a battle between security forces and the parliamentarians. Delhi Police top brass is said to be deeply hurt and concerned by the MPs’ persistent demands and pressures on L.K.Advani for suspending the “erring” police officials.

A Parliamentary Committee has even recommended suspension of a Delhi Police officer. The security establishment in the capital is angry with this attitude of the parliamentarians. If the issue snowballs it is bound to force the security personnel to be deliberately extra lenient whenever the next rally or procession takes place near Parliament House.

If the MPs break the third barrier at Patel Chowk and start running to Parliament House, just about 500 metres away, the police personnel would obviously be averse to stop them. And if terrorists take advantage of the situation, who cares?

Contributed by Gaurav Choudhury, T.V. Lakshmi-narayan, Satish Misra, S.Satyanarayanan, Prashant Sood, Tripti Nath and Rajeev Sharma.



Time to bridge the social divide
Humra Quraishi

Last weekend the Art Of Living guru Ravi Shankar had invited a group of Muslims to hear their viewpoint, to try and ease the social divide because of the communal factors unleashed on society. It was a small, informal gathering where Ravi Shankar looked immensely concerned at what's been happening in Gujarat and its trickle-down effect in other parts of the country and wanted to know ways and means to combat the destructive forces at work. It’s his immense concern as a citizen that deeply touched me. I felt if all of us showed some degree of concern, the agendas of today’s politicians would not just fail but be exposed.

Busy month

Everybody seems to be doing everything possible this month. January brings in fog and chill. So do your things in the all clear weather, seems the obvious logic, perhaps. It’s impossible to put in details of all the happenings of the month. But then, one very prominent aspect stands out. On December 16, the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Memorial lecture is to be delivered by Columbia University’s Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati on “International flow of humanity: managing international migration today”. This lecture could be of immense importance in the backdrop of the fact that in the capital are representatives of the eminent persons’ group on refugee and migratory movements in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Their presence will be noticed on December 15 as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Chief of Mission, India, Lennart Kotasalainen and Justice P. N. Bhag-wati, chairman of the eminent persons’ group on refugees and migratory movements, India, will be hosting a reception in their honour. And though we talk of free flow of people, ironically, the worst hit seems this part of the subcontinent.

Alien land?

We seem to be so near yet all those laws and prejudices which seem bent on the great divide. And why talk of just the subcontinent when even citizens coming from Srinagar to New Delhi have to report to the police stations on the purpose of their visit and details of the place of stay whilst in the capital etc.?

As though they are not visiting the capital of their country, some alien land. It seems a shocking aspect and is humiliating enough for people to talk and ponder. Since Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed is coming here every week, it is time he looked into this clause at least.

When I had interviewed PDP’s vice-president Mehbooba Mufti, I had raised this issue. She was equally concerned as she had rightly pointed out that most people who visit this city are either small-time businessmen and young students and they have to go through a tough time answering various queries and also in trying to find a place to stay here. For most guest houses discourage Kashmiris.

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