Friday, April 4, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Should govt breed horses?

The Punjab Government is planning to set up a stud farm in the public sector to breed “Sindhi horses”. The Punjab Technical Education and Industrial Training Minister, while inaugurating the equine show at Jalandhar on March 29, reportedly said that 32 stud farms were being developed “as a part of diversification” (March 30). These steps are contradictory in nature and scope. While on the one hand, the Punjab Government is rightly disinvesting some public sector industries and is even thinking of privatising the power sector because of the over-all proven inefficiency and prevalent corruption in the public sector, yet it is planning to set up a fresh ‘stud farm’ for horse breeding in the same public sector! Setting up such a farm will only mean wastage of public money and more corruption. The Director, Animal Husbandry, is already in the Vigilance Bureau net on corruption charges. What can be a bigger contradiction in the thinking of the government than this? The government’s business is to “govern” and not to do “business”. Let the business of business be left to the businessmen.

As regards breeding of horses “as part of diversification”, the minister should realise that commercial breeding of horses by average farmers is unimaginable since it is far beyond their capacity and capability. It is only very big farmers, the likes of former Chief Minister Harcharan Singh Brar, who can indulge in the luxury. Also diversification is required for the masses for mass production of wealth. If we really mean to diversify, we must concentrate on dairy animals and have dairy farms on the Israeli pattern, whose climate, land, water and fodder availability are far worse than us, yet they are amongst the top few countries in the world in dairying.

The whole idea of setting up a stud farm in the public sector is utterly unworkable and smacks of “vested interest” on the part of the powers-that-be. This reminds one of a Punjabi saying: “Dekho usdi matt mar gayi, majh vech kay ghorhi layi; dudh peenon giya, lidh chakkni payee”. (Look, he has lost his head, he sold a buffalo to buy a mare. He has deprived himself of drinking milk and instead has to lift horse (mare) dung).



Building houses at Kulu

In recent years Kulu has witnessed phenomenal constructional activity, which has started telling on its ecology. In the Dhalpur area government land has been encroached upon to construct dwellings.

Any amount of digging earth of high-angle slopes is bound to make the latter unstable. And then, with the increase of habitation there is going to be a corresponding increase of water seepage into the soil, which would readily make it slide-prone. In 1998 in this very area, a house tumbled about 500 feet down below, taking a toll of eight persons. This was attributed to the water-saturated soil consequent on rain and leakage of a septic tank. This should have served as a warning. But nobody seems to care.

In February a sizeable chunk of land slumped on a busy track behind the Govt Higher Secondary School due to leaking water pipes and lateral road cutting. It has not only damaged the track badly but has also threatened the stability of houses above the affected area.

The area is getting ecologically fragile by the day. In such conditions, incessant rain or an earthquake of even moderate intensity can spell disaster. Can’t haphazard and unscientific construction be stopped?

— K.C. PRASHAR, e-mail

Gandhi Peace Prize

This refers to the news item (March 19) where you have mentioned the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan being given the Gandhi Peace Prize by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and being accepted on its behalf by former President R. Venkataraman. This issue raises some very strong moral and other questions.

It appears that we in India have got stuck in a time capsule of yore. Instead of critically examining our past, we religiously worship our history. In Parliament I hear senior leaders from both the Treasury and the Opposition dreaming of the good old days of the non-aligned movement, Nehru’s socialism and his copying the Soviet ideals of planning, building the public sector, buying arms from the Russians, though they have shed the Soviet nomenclature, blaming Pakistan for all our woes, sticking to our corrupt ways, supporting Palestine, whether right or wrong, praising M.K. Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and reviling Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

I don’t mind listening to this Rip Van Winkle syndrome but we must be seen to be getting on. I don’t like sitting in the lower House of Parliament listening to all this, excuse me, but I will say with all truthfulness, balderdash.

I think calling M.K. Gandhi a prophet of peace and giving a Peace Prize in his name is a lot of poppycock. Gandhi’s fasts, which he called were peaceful, spewed a lot of violence, rioting and damage to life and property. His austerity cost the public exchequer dear. His, along with Nehru’s and Jinnah’s agreement to partition the Indian subcontinent on communal lines led to the worst ethnic cleansing, genocide, rioting, rape and molestation of our women, displacement of populations, known to history, yet it did not solve the communal problem. Watch the Indo-Pak animosity and the three wars we have fought since these three wise men did the cartography in all their wisdom of South Asia. By no measure of fairness can the Labour government in Britain be exonerated of this cardinal sin.

Now let us come to former President R. Venkataraman receiving the Gandhi Peace Award on behalf of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. In India we do believe in the principle of collective responsibility of the Cabinet. Mr Venkataraman was a responsible and senior member of the Indira Gandhi Cabinet.

Important Sikh leaders negotiated with him to see if a military attack on the Golden Temple and the Sikh populace could have been warded off in 1984. Indira Gandhi did not listen to reason and she and her Cabinet launched the infamous Operation Bluestar, which the Sikhs will never erase from their psyche or memory. In this context was Mr Venkataraman the best ambassador of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to receive this award?

President Kalam, by virtue of his office, is also made to give out the Indira Gandhi Peace Award. I would sincerely advocate that we honestly examine the gods, goddesses and icons we have created out of our past.


Religion as insurance

This refers to Lalit Mohan’s article “Religion as insurance against retribution”. While I agree with his views about the place of superstition in our lives and gods being unjustly kind to their devotees, I wish to point out that religion is based on feelings and a firm faith in any object, concept, person or deity. You may call it one’s own focused mental power, but this power can even create the image of one’s chosen deity (“ishta devta”) before the devotee.

Lalit Mohan’s litany of grouses against all religions centres on the premise that rituals have become the be-all and end-all of devotion. But that surely is due to the misunderstanding of religion on the part of devotees To condemn religion lock, stock and barrel on this count is, to say the least, unfair. His averment that “our” religion does not prescribed social service as the preferred path to salvation is not correct. The entire philosophy of Vedanta is based upon the recognition of divinity in man. The concept of “Nar-Seva, Narayan Seva” (The worship of man is the worship of God) has been preached by innumerable saints and sages over the ages.

To say that social service has no place in the conduct of our religious seers shows utter ignorance on the part of the writer. The world-class charitable hospitals run in the North by the Radhasoamis and in the South by the Satya Sai Baba Trust, S.D. and D.A.V. educational institutions run all over India by the Sanatan Dharma and Arya Samaj bodies, free kitchens for the hungry poor and dharamshalas for poor travellers attached almost to every temple are some examples that come to my mind instantaneously.

Similarly, the claim that no godman visited Gujarat to stand by the earthquake victims is borne out of total ignorance. Pictures of the guru of the Swami Naryan cult, which organised a massive free kitchen for thousands of suffering people daily, are quite fresh in our minds. Similarly, at the time of cyclone, thousands of people from all over India went there to lend a helping hand. It would be a travesty of truth to believe that these people were not inspired or accompanied by their religious gurus.


Traffic jam at Beas

On March 30 the journey from Amritsar to Jalandhar became a nightmare because of the traffic jam at Beas which lasted almost one hour. Petrol and diesel worth thousands of rupees must have been wasted as was one precious hour. What to speak of the noise and air pollution. Responsible for this was the “bhandara” at Beas. All around 5 p.m scores of vehicles from the Radhasoami dera reached the G.T. Road and created the problem. May I request the Babaji not to allow all vehicles from the dera to leave at the same time and ensure better management of traffic in future. The traffic from Beas towards Jalandhar has to pass through a narrow bridge which adds to the woes of commuters.


Tension after pension

As I celebrate my 2nd anniversary of retirement, I could not help writing a few lines to share my experience. I had given this scheme a name: “Vehle rehan di scheme”. What I observed and analysed in the last two years is totally different from what I had thought then that “Ki main kar loonga zindagi muthi mein”. What I got after the pension was tension. The reason is very simple. My calculations and happy life got a jolt when the Finance Minister of this great democracy reduced the interest income which was the lifeline of this VRS scheme. The FM is bent upon turning the pensioners into “tensioners”. I expect a tension allowance in the next Budget. “Jab dil hi toot gaya, hum zee kar kaya karenge”. Still I have decided to celebrate my VRS.


Teachers await promotion

Because of red-tape and corrupt practices in the “transparent” Punjab Government, the medical teachers recommended by the departmental promotion committee are denied promotions. There is no shortage of eligible teachers who are stagnating despite availability of vacant posts. Nobody seems to be answerable for these lapses.


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