Saturday, March 22, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Logic of Freedom Fries

Representative Bob Ney, frustrated with the French opposition to the war on Iraq, has ordered that the popular “French Fries”, should hereafter be only called “Freedom Fries” in the USA! The British brutally killed the irresistible dachshund breed of pet dogs during the last war because these dogs were of basic German stock! Madness has no limits!

According to some reports, President George Bush, an alcoholic till 40, feels that “God has called” on him to destroy Saddam Hussein! A la Idi Amin style a couple of decades ago! Saddam Hussein must fall at his feet. Compliance with the UN is not enough.

In reality, there is a nexus between Christianity-obsessed Bush and the unparalleled religious fanaticism of the Jewish country of Israel. It is visible to the naked eye. Unlike the Iraq-Al Qaida nexus Bush harps about. Have you met a Jew any where in the world who does not consider Israel as his country, regardless of the country where he was born and educated?

Unlike in 1991, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, no such threat existed now. Kuwait’s ruling monarchy fled then and stayed in Europe, in 7-star comfort and security, returning only after similar comforts were restored months later. In the perception of Bush, they committed no wrong in abandoning their people to be brutalised by Saddam’s marching hordes. One “collateral damage” of that war was that every fifth baby died at child birth!


The US-Israel axis holds a greater threat to peace in the world than the Iraq-Al Qaida axis.

The Head of the UN Inspection Team, Mr Blix, did a commendable job, despite his objective reporting rubbing the USA and the UK on the wrong side. I hope he gets the next Nobel Peace Prize!

N. NARASIMHAN, Bangalore

Bureaucracy & defence

I fully endorse Brig Harwant Singh’s views contained in his letter “The defence budget” (March 13). The problem is not of budgeting for defence but the politco-bureautic attitude in sanctioning its expenditure. The politicians keep themselves engaged in the game of politics and trying to guard their flock from straying into enemy territory, by throwing crumbs of office before them by frequent expansion of their cabinets/changes in portfolios. The job of administration is left completely to “jack of all and master of none” bureaucrats who are perhaps trained not to do anything without raising “why and how” questions, at times very irrelevant and unnecessary, to every issue before them.

I would like to quote an incident, which although minor, is a classic example of the casual and careless manner our babucracy works. While employed at Army HQ in 1969, I initiated a case for sub-allotment of budgeted funds (under Rs 20,000) for coolie hire charges to Command HQs and issue of a sanction letter to the CDAs concerned by the Ministry of Finance (Defence) without which not a single paisa could be spent. It was a routine exercise once a year and did not involve any brain work on anybody’s part. The case was complete in all respects and even a draft letter to be issued was placed in the file.

The file reached the Deputy Secretary concerned in the Ministry of Finance (Defence) after crossing 6 or 7 stages in the babudom where every official had written “Forwarded” and signed. The sanctioning official perhaps did not bother to read my note or read it very casually, asked for more information, raising some unnecessary questions, the answers to which were already contained in my note and returned the file. It came back to me after about two months, following the same route on its return trip. Surprisingly, no official on the way tried to read the file and gave a note “Returned for resubmission with required information”.

I wrote back “The required info is contained in Note-1 ante”. The sanction letter was then issued. This is perhaps the fate of all cases sent from Defence HQs and the reason for surrender of budgeted funds.


Problems of defence

This refers to the letter by Col (retd) D.S. Cheema (March 18). I have gone through the main article by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh and the comments by Col Cheema. Majority of our retired defence officers are generally loud mouthed, either in self-praise or in denigrating others. Perhaps during service they were never confident enough to express their views. In any case, writings either by seniors or juniors is not likely to set the MOD on fire.

His belief that he alone knows the remedies of the ills of the defence services betrays a self-opinionated personality. He is perhaps alien to the concept of “war wastage rates”, “general staff reserves”, “training reserves” etc. Imported equipment requires backing of “life time spares”. Discarded ammunition and outdated spares are not easy to dispose of nor are the bureaucratic procedures easy to circumvent. Capacities are created for peak requirements for a war situation. All that does add up to the unavoidable inventory costs and infrastructure. All management solutions of the industry cannot be blindly applied to the defence services. Yet it is not to say that inventory cannot be better managed. His touching belief in corporations is indeed ill-founded. Perhaps he is unaware of corruption and endless scandals in these.

Elsewhere in his letter he has merely tried, unwitting though, to elaborate on what had been noted in the article in more subtle and broader terms. His insinuations that the Press is pressurised more by rank than content are baseless and cast serious aspersions on the screening process in the selection of articles.

Brig K.S. KANG (retd), Chandigarh

Buying small arms

The letter “‘General’ problems of defence” by Col (retd) D.S. Cheema is in poor taste. He is under the illusion that he has the answer to all problems of the defence services, whereas he has merely dilated on what was said in the article in concise and broader terms. We are not only buying small arms but even importing ammunition for these and other types. Small arms developed by the DRDO, after over two decades of effort, are still not free of some of the defects and these weapons do not find favour with our troops. So where is the possibility of exporting these, as suggested by Colonel Cheema?

Brig H.S. LAMBA (retd), Chandigarh

New engg colleges

The Chief Minister of Punjab at the 3rd convocation of Giani Zail Singh College of Engg & Technology disclosed that the state government would open four new engineering colleges in Punjab. There is already a mushroom of engg colleges in the state and thousands of engineers are passing out every year and unemployed engineers are tremendously increasing every year. The government should pay more attention to the creation of more jobs instead of opening new engineering colleges.

ER. R.K. SINGLA, Patiala

Laloo’s Taj Mahal

This refers to the write-up “Laloo’s Taj Mahal” (“Delhi Durbar”, March 9).Apropos of the issue of reservation for women in Parliament, when the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, Najma Heptullah, said that Laloo Prasad Yadav was so much in favour of women that he had made his wife the Chief Minister of Bihar, the RJD President quipped that Shahjahan had built Taj Mahal after the death of his wife, but he had already given a Taj Mahal to his spouse in the form of Bihar state.

There is absolutely no comparison between the real Taj Mahal and that in the form of Bihar state. The Taj Mahal, built by Shahjahan by lavishly using the white marble, is the master piece of Mughal architecture because of its artistic dignity and stateliness. It is one of the wonders of the world. An Urdu poet has likened his beautiful beloved to it thus:

“Uf voh mar mar ka traasha hua shaffaaf badan.

Dekhney waaley usey Taj Mahal kaihtey hain.”

On the other hand, Bihar is the worst-administered state, where there is no regard for laws and rules, corruption is rampant and hooligans frequently commit murders, robberies and rapes. Quite a large number of Biharis, living in wretched poverty, go to other states, particularly Punjab, to eke out their livelihood.

Taj Mahal is a magnificent tomb, not a palace. Has Laloo given to his wife a tomb in the form of Bihar.


A glaring error

In spite of being in the USA, I still make sure I get time to read my favourite newspaper. You are doing an excellent job by bringing out the online edition. I was reading the news “Bhattal’s function draws crowd”. On one page Kultar Singh is written as the younger brother of Bhagat Singh and on the detailed page under the photograph, Kultar Singh is mentioned as an elder brother of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Please try to avoid such errors, especially when the news is about persons who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the country.




Ageing with a purpose

Apropos “Anti-ageing drugs may change society” , the very thought of living forever is fraught with the vexing dilemma pertaining pros and cons of agelessness. For as long as man has lived, he has harboured this magnificent obsession with immortality. In his endeavour to realise this dream of his, man has been busy conjuring up schemes to conquer age and defy death. One of the questions that appears paramount in mind is, even if it were some way or the other possible for humans to prolong life-span, will we be doomed to suffer from the curse of living trapped forever in decrepit bodies?

What purpose will longevity bestow through a life that goes on forever, or at will, if we lack the matching mind and an agile body to be able to enjoy the fruits of agelessness? And what will happen of the years and years of piled up mental clutter accumulated through vast experiences, useful and otherwise; will we be able to erase these selectively, at will, or simply have to bear the burden of the ages? Compounded with and for each successive generation!

Most promising of the methods used to extend life span till date appears to be through calorific restriction. According to this theory, animals fed with restricted diets, just above starvation levels, have significantly longer life-span c.f. average. The plausible explanation, though it appears simplistic at face value, is that this happens due to lowering of the catabolic rate to a relatively low value, lesser energy levels, low levels of harmful free radicals. Reduced food intake is found to enhance DNA repair. Oxygen burns at lower rate, creating less free radicals, this slows the ageing process. My own observations while working with certain flowering plants viz. chrysanthemums, dahlias, carnations and gladiolus over a period of nearly 20 years seems to stand by this line of thinking. Simply put, the overfed or well-fed plants may bear excellent growth results for a short season, but for one they fail to reproduce, and second, more often than not they are most susceptible to fall prey to diseases and decay.

VIVEK KHANNA, PU, Chandigarh.


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