Wednesday, March 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Need to ITise Himachal

In Himachal Pradesh the Congress has taken over from the BJP. Change anywhere and in any form is always welcome for it holds out a ray of hope that better days dawn ahead. Looked from that perspective, one tends to cross his fingers whether the new regime would at all be able to pay attention to the real problems of governance of the state, an area badly neglected by all past regimes not only of this state but everywhere else in the country. It is as a result of this gross indifference of the governments of the past that the common man continues to reel even after nearly six decades of our Independence under the oppression of the petty government officials, the guilty go scot-free, wrong persons manipulate decision, making, hoodwinking the poor hapless persons right and left and so on. So long as governance of the state is not properly streamlined such an ugly state of affairs would continue indefinitely.

In the present-day world of scientific and systematic living, it is the information technology that holds the key to good governance of the state. If developed political systems of the West and elsewhere have provided to their people efficient administration and corruption-free government, the secret is that they have harnessed this technology for governance purposes and that too in a most effective manner. Why look for the West even some of our far-sighted Chief Ministers have blazed a trail in this respect by recasting their administrations on IT lines. Their efforts have borne marvelous fruits. As reports trickle down from time to time, the people of these states get things done in a faster manner and at less cost and above all without greasing the palms of petty officials as they had to do earlier.


It is high time that Mr Virbhadra Singh, the new CM, too takes steps in this direction and revolutionises the functioning of his government. It is already very late. But unfortunately, his initial statements and actions do not throw any hint that he is in any way serious about it. IT does not appear to be anywhere near his priorities. He has entrusted this crucial portfolio to a comparatively junior minister. His approach to governance still continues to be stereotyped. He should better lift his vision, see around and feel the pulse of the new times. Mr Singh should better draw a leaf from the book, if not of Chandrababu Naidu (who is the true harbinger of the movement in the country), of at least S. Krishna. These are the persons who have metamorphosed their administrations.

We hope that there is no reason why Mr Singh does not rise to the occasion and blaze a trail by bringing all government departments and public undertakings under this new technology in one single sweep. Sporadic experiments here and there that might already be under way will not help achieve the objective. In fact, IT needs to be taken up as a mass movement, colouring every aspect not only of the government but also of the life of the people. If a vigorous campaign is initiated, the whole face of our public life would be changed in no time. The onus for all this falls on the government that should give a lead in this respect as well.

A timely note of caution may be sounded. In case Mr Singh fails to rise to the occasion, he would miss the bus once again and his regime would remain as lacklustre as the earlier regimes. Let IT be the watchword of the state for the next five years, so that HP enlists itself among the few front rank states of the country to have tackled the basic problems of the people through this magic wand of the IT. I am sure if he brings about an IT revolution in the state, he need not go with a begging bowl for votes in 2008. People would themselves be drawn towards him, for by then he would have turned into their messiah for having rescued them from the petty problems of bread and butter that torment them so much today.

SATYAVAN BHATNAGARr, Watsonville California

Old age ‘benefits’

The age limit for declaring a person as a Senior Citizen (or old) has been lowered from 65 to 60 years. And now many people demand it to be reduced further to 58 years.

I am doing research on health. It has been observed that if we apply the label of “old” over a middle-aged person and the middle-aged label to a youth, his or her health would fall at a faster rate than in the absence of this label. So some money-minded people are eager to have monetary gains given to Senior Citizens at the cost of their health.


A baseless controversy

Religion is too sacred a subject to be dragged into petty personal and political matters. But every now and then the self-appointed custodians of religion and unscrupulous politicians, for their own narrow gains and short-sighted motives, start raising a hue and cry in the name of religion.

Now this controversy regarding the compulsory wearing of helmets while driving two-wheelers is totally baseless. Sikh men who sport a turban should be rightly exempted from wearing a helmet on two grounds.

First, a turban (7-9 metres of cloth) provides adequate safety to the head. Second, the turban is an inseparable item of the Sikh dress code. Moreover, it is not possible to wear a helmet over a turban. The same is true for Amritdhari Sikh females who wear a turban. So not merely for religious/sentimental reasons, but also on technical grounds, Sikhs rightly deserve exemption from wearing a helmet. And they have already been exempted, so where is the confrontation?

But what about those Sikh men/boys who simply wear a patka “small scarf” on their heads or ladies who simply cover their heads with a dupatta? Had this section of the Sikhs demanded exemption on the basis of “inconvenience”, their demand as well as protest would have carried logic, but using religion as a shield, I am sorry to say, it’s too mean and selfish on their part. They certainly do not deserve exemption. Either they should wear a helmet or a turban (even otherwise, kids up to the age of 13-14 years are legally not allowed to drive two-wheelers). There should be no such compromise or a middle path.

We would like to ask these people that, apart from the helmet issue, are they really leading a life in accordance with the values and tenants of Sikh “Rehat Maryada”? We would also like to request the leaders of the community to devote more time and energy towards the propagation of “Sikh Rehat Maryada” rather than on these petty issues.

No doubt, in the beginning helmets will cause inconvenience to people who are not used to them, but so did traffic lights, road dividers, speed-breakers and safety belts. But in the long run, they are for our own safety.

India is perhaps one of those few countries where self-safety measures have to be forced by court orders. Though due to aesthetic reasons, I would not suggest it, but try dropping a pumpkin from a two-wheeler and see how it shatters into pieces — it could be your head.


Around us

I am an ordinary citizen of India. I lay no claim to superior wisdom, achievement or partriotism. Yet I feel awfully ashamed of what goes on around us in the sublime name of democracy: a corrupt, unresponsive administration, grubby political goings-on, apathetic citizenry and intelligentsia. The use of physical force and disorderly scenes recently witnessed in the UP Vidhan Sabha are yet another reminder that all is not well with our brand of democracy, our loud pronouncements to the contrary notwithstanding.

We must see the writing on the wall and take corrective measures in time before any further degradation takes place in the quality of polity and public life in this country.

The “tamashas” we are enacting inside the legislatures and outside are making us a laughing-stock among other nations of the world. How long can you stop the people here from speaking the truth? Our politicians should realise that respect is best commanded when deserved and not just demanded.

S.C. KAPOOR, Noida

Lensman mishandled

This is in response to the news item "Tribune lensman manhandled". It is disturbing that public servants are making a mockery of the rule of law and a fool of themselves. The anti-social acts by public servants are increasing under the rule of the Maharaja of Patiala.



Q: Name the post which one gets by chance?

A: Chancellor

K.J.S. AHLUWALIA, Amritsar


What khap panchayats do

Even as the technology revolution has ushered in a new thinking resulting into changed ways of living, social values in Haryana do not seem to have changed much. It is a matter of serious concern that the khap panchayats in the state have assumed enormous illegal powers and are bent upon erasing the achieved impact of modernity by issuing crude forms of “fatwas” on private and public matters. The incidents of the recent past are a testimony to this fact. One will note that several innocent boys and girls have been “sentenced to death” for committing the “crime” of inter-caste or inter-religious marriages in the last four to five years.

In 2000 Darshana Gehlawat faced endless humiliation when the panchayat in Jaundhi village in Jhajjar district ordered her to tie a “rakhee” on her husband Asheesh Dagar’s wrist and declare him her brother. The couple had an 18-month-old son, but that was of little value to the panchayat which held their wedding invalid because both of them hailed from the same village, and were therefore, brother and sister.

One would also recall of a couple being stoned to death for an “endogamous” marriage in Shimla village of Kaithal district sometime in 1999.

Similarly, in October 1999, the bodies of two teenagers were found in Ismaila village in Rohtak district. Here the Jat girl had fallen in love with the backward class “lohar” boy. Both were killed by the girl’s uncle and cousins. The “lohars”, too, had joined hands with the Jats to teach them a lesson.

These patently illegal “sentences” are carried out in most brutal manners. The custodians of the khap often sanction couples’ murders, ostracism and various forms of torture which include tonsuring heads, blackening faces and parading people naked or on donkeys with a garland of shoes round the neck.

The ruling elite and the neo-rich higher middle class appear to celebrate the rise of these khap panchayats as the region’s cultural identity. In fact, the suffix “panchayat” for such an illegal assembly is also a misnomer. Though the argument that the dictates of khap panchayats are backed by “customary law” has no sanctity in the eyes of law, their clout is ever increasing. The politicians and the lawmakers do not want to be seen as opposing them. And the reasons are obvious. But who will take the lead to check this manace? We need a peoples’ movement as the one like the Arya Samaj.

Dr D.P. Singh Mor, Punjabi University, Patiala


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