Thursday, January 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Problems panchayats face

THE letter by Dr Hari Krishan Verma titled “Problems of panchayats” has touched only the fringe of the problems of panchayats.

The panchayats operate under the Punjab Panchayat Raj Act, 1994. Section 4 (5) states: Every Gram Sabha shall hold two general meetings in each year, one in the month of December after the harvesting of Sowni crop and the other in the month of June after the harvesting of Hari crop. The budget of the panchayat has to be passed by the members of the Gram Sabha where at least one-sixth members should be present. After the works are executed, these are to be approved during the meeting in June.

In the event of the Sarpanch failing to hold two consecutive meetings of the Gram Sabha, he or she automatically ceases to hold office.

Unfortunately such meetings are never held and if this yard-stick is applied, a majority of the Sarpanches will have to be dismissed.

In case of women members of Panchayats and women Sarpanches, more in case of reserved category, their rights are hijacked by their husbands.

Since there are no checks on the income and spendings of Panchayats gross irregularities are committed. This happened in the misuse of large sums given by the previous Chief Minister. I know a definite case where a cheque for Rs 3 lakh was sent to a Sarpanch by mistake instead of Rs 2 lakh. He was asked to deposit back Rs 1 lakh. He never did and passed spurious bills with the connivance of local officials.


In order to ensure the smooth functioning of the Panchayati Raj system, a local audit by educated and public spirited members of the Gram Sabha must be constituted as suggested by former Minister of Panchayats Venkaiah Naidu during his programme “Ham Hazir Hain” in June.

Now hints are coming that even primary education and the appointments of teachers will be entrusted to the Panchayats. If it comes, it will spell the doomsday for primary education. The Sarpanches and members of Panchayats will appoint their own undeserving relatives as teachers.

Becoming members of panchayats and Sarpanches should not be taken as means of their “Garibi Hatao” but service for the uplift of villagers. Every penny given should be accounted for. Then and only then the dreams of thinkers like Munshi Prem Chand that “God Lives in Panches” will come true.

G.B. SHARMA, Bathan Kalan
(Fatehgarh Sahib)

Promote tourism

States like Kerala and Rajasthan are promoting tourism and their cultural events at the national and international levels and getting good response in terms of foreign and national tourists.

Punjab has various cultural festivals and events which can be promoted globally. Maghi Mela held in January every year can be a source of attraction on the lines of Pushkar. The sports festival at Qila Raipur, dubbed “Rural Olympics”, the Hola Mohalla at Anandpur Sahib and Baisakhi at Damdama Sahib can be great tourist pullers nationally and internationally.

All it needs is a bit of marketing strategy and Naidu-like leadership skills. Wake up Punjab. Wake up Captain! Pull up the mast! Speed up the ship and put it into the front where it belongs.


When marriages split

IT is not easy to live without a companion. I have seen marriages breaking up. The reasons cited are many, but one of the most important one is that women are becoming aware of their rights. Good for them! Why should the woman always be a victim?

But what she does not realise is that the moment she leaves her husband’s house, her social status takes a nosedive. She was “Mrs so and so”, The tag “Mrs” gives her social standing, respect in society. She reverts to her maiden name with a bagful of problems, she couldn’t have dreamt of. Men think she is an easy catch, an available commodity.

She fights her battles but all alone. Her parents, brothers, sisters do help, but for how long? It breaks her heart not once but many times when her sister with her family is given special treatment. The single woman is taken for granted “she is alone, can eat anything, will sleep anywhere. If she is in her parental home, sometimes her mere presence starts to create a feeling of frustration and helplessness since they have been unable to find a suitable match for her. There are quarrels on small issues.

This woman who had a traumatic marriage, is carrying the stigma of a divorcee, is somehow unwelcome everywhere! She cannot go back to her husband: The siblings have their own families to look after. Where should she go if she does not have her own house? I think all the women who are contemplating walking out of a marriage must be mentally prepared to face all the brickbats if they want to live without a spouse.




Elaborate, costly rituals

Apropos the response of Mr Prithipal Singh Kapur to my letter, “SGPC and Jathedars”. Although Mr Kapur has generally supported my views on the need for sovereign Jathedars, I would like to comment on a couple of controversial views expressed by him.

Well-meaning Sikhs like him might be aspiring to bring all gurdwaras including the Takhts at Patna and Nanded, under the purview of an All-India Act “to bring about uniform Gur Maryada and to eradicate the observance of Brahminical rituals wherever they have crept in the Sikh shrines”, but the SAD leadership apparently has political motives. This is the reason the Sikh sangat of Haryana, Delhi, Patna and Nanded want their independence to be preserved.

As for “Gur Maryada” and “Brahminical rituals” the less said the better. Sikhism used to take pride in having put an end to the loot of Brahminical priests. But now Sikh rituals and religious ceremonies have become much more elaborate and costly than those conducted by Brahmins. Sikh priests have become more demanding and greedy than the oft-derided Brahmins. Does the commercialising of numerous Akhand Paths booked by private parties in gurdwaras, even in Harmandar Sahib, deserve to be called “Gur Maryada”? Is the serving of “Guru-ka-Langar” in serai rooms and at SAD rallies sanctified by “Gur Maryada”? You can go on and on.

And what is wrong in the “mushroom growth of gurdwaras”? Who would spend money, effort and time to build a gurdwara unless he or they really wanted to use it for devotional purposes? Indeed many families and sants have attracted much fame, following and funds through establishing their own gurdwaras and deras, but they are doing what the politicos ruling the SGPC and their paid minions have failed to do — provide divine direction to the needy. Now they are merely jealous of the popularity and success of such places and want to monopolise the Gurus’ name for their selfish interests. Has any other religion of the world acquired such authority to prohibit or regulate the building of its shrines?

The “stalwarts” of the Gurdwara Reforms Movement like Amar Singh Jhubal, his younger brother Sarmukh Singh Jhubal, the first President of the SAD, and Teja Singh Samundari et al had strongly opposed the Gurdwara Act. The religious centres of which other religions of the world are managed under a government law? Unless and until the Sikh shrines and Takhts are entrusted to apolitical, independent, spiritually endowed and virtuous sants, true Sikhism will not be able to match the rising popularity of parallel sects like Namdharis, Nirankaris, and Radha Soamis.


Whose life is it?

My frail, but courageous 81-year-old mother, Mrs Satwant Kaur, spent 84 days in the Intensive Care Unit at Holy Family Hospital, New Delhi. She was put on a ventilator (mechanical respiratory support system) as her own breathing effort was weak due to the age-related weakness of muscles and nerves. As her son and a qualified orthopaedic surgeon, I was her attendant at the hospital spending 22 hours a day for the full duration of her stay. The caring medical staff provided us with the moral support.

Once a patient is put on a ventilator, the doctor tries several times over a period of days and weeks to wean the patient off the ventilator. The process may succeed at times when the patient starts normal breathing on his/her own. At other times the patient may start gasping and become drowsy or even unconscious. In such a situation the patient is put back on a ventilator. If the patient/family members sign a DNR (do not resuscitate), the patient is allowed to sleep off to death!

Sooner or later family members of many patients sign the DNR and ask the doctors to remove the ventilator; some choose to leave against medical advice, which implies that the ventilator has to be removed and the patient may die on way to his/her house.

Several questions arise. What is the legal validity of the DNR in India? How long should the process of weaning from a ventilator continue? Who is to decide when the ventilator should be removed? Is it ethical for a doctor to suggest to a patient or his/her family members to sign the DNR? Why is it that the entire onus is put on the family of the patient to decide when to discontinue the ventilator?

Dr P.S. SAHNI, New Delhi


Q: Expand N.R.I.

A: Not-Required Indian!

K.J.S. AHLUWALIA, Amritsar.

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