Sunday, April 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Counter male fixation to fight adverse sex ratio in Punjab
Rainuka Dagar
he adverse sex ratio in Punjab is not a recent phenomenon. Punjab has had the dubious distinction of having the most negative sex ratio ever since 1901. The declining sex ratio, especially in the 0 to 6 years age group, from 875 in 1991 to 793 in 2001, shows that the female gender is perceived as a liability and the male gender as an asset.

BJP faces bigger danger than Cong
P. Raman
eputy Prime Minister L.K.Advani raised a pertinent question at the BJP’s national executive committee meeting at Indore. Referring to the days when the party upheld lofty ideals and moralistic traditions, he asked: Why idealism and power fail to go hand in hand? 


PM in Kashmir
April 19, 2003
Sword vs trishul
April 18, 2003
Naked aggression
April 17, 2003
Maya dares Mulayam
April 16, 2003
Pillage of heritage
April 15, 2003
Nation on holiday
April 14, 2003
Baisakhi: golden grains hide hardship 
of farmers
April 13, 2003
Freedom to loot
April 12, 2003
Saddam is history
April 11, 2003
Training guns on media
April 10, 2003
Quibbling over words
April 9, 2003
US double standard
April 8, 2003
BJP’s growing anxiety
April 7, 2003


Resolve Ayodhya through talks
he style of functioning of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and the spat between her and Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party has put the BJP in an awkward situation. 


Excellence in what?
Kiran Bedi
ithin weeks of my starting work at the New York office, I needed to return home to attend a family wedding. Alongside, I accepted an invitation to receive honorary doctorate from the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. I, of course, used the opportunity to go once again to the Harmandar Sahib and found the traffic circulation and management now under control. 


Harihar Swarup
Congress’ pain in the neck
.Karunakaran is, perhaps, the wiliest politician in the Congress who would never say die. A master tactician, he would tire out his opponent and then have his way and nobody knows it better than Kerala’s spartan Chief Minister A.K.Antony.


Mayawati’s tactic to keep Kalyan out
wo is company. Three is a crowd. This is precisely what Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and former UP BJP president Kalraj Mishra seem to believe. Mishra’s proximity to Mayawati is a universally known fact. 

  • Faux pas bytes

  • BJP’s dilemma

  • Shankar's record

  • AICC attendance

  • B-weapon


Humra Quraishi
Book releases galore as mercury rises
ack this month to the last day seems to be the ongoing mood, for though the temperature is rising, events continue in full swing. Several book releases in this April heat — Ram Jethmalani’s “The Authorised Biography” (Penguin), Ardashir Vakil’s “One Day” (Penguin), Anil Kumar Singh’s “India’s Security Concerns in the Indian Ocean Region” (Har Anand), Gurmukh Singh’s “The Global Indian: The Rise of the Sikhs Abroad” (Rupa). 

  • Jazz concert

  • US honour

  • J&K House


Bollywood bulls in a China shop
Subhash K. Jha
ivek Oberoi’s public accusations against Salman Khan bring back to flickering life infamous media wars between Bollywood stars in the past. The most shocking scandal that ever shook the papers of film glossies in the late 1950s was thespian Dilip Kumar appearing in court to testify against Madhubala on behalf of his producer B.R. Chopra. Top


Counter male fixation to fight adverse
sex ratio in Punjab
Rainuka Dagar

The adverse sex ratio in Punjab is not a recent phenomenon. Punjab has had the dubious distinction of having the most negative sex ratio ever since 1901. The declining sex ratio, especially in the 0 to 6 years age group, from 875 in 1991 to 793 in 2001, shows that the female gender is perceived as a liability and the male gender as an asset. It is the lack of a male child that is considered a curse rather than female foeticide. In other words, the abuse of female foeticide is taken to be the remedy.

Socio-cultural factors impinge on distorting the natural sex numbers. Historically, Punjab has had fewer women than was biologically designated. In 1901, the sex ratio was 832, while the Indian average was 972. Certain factors in Punjab were more predisposing in their influence on these numbers, than they were in the rest of India. In fact, among all states, Punjab represented the worst conditions for female survival, including Rajasthan. According to the 2001 census, every female in Punjab is “missing” or has not survived because of her gender.

The negative sex ratio is composite in its claim of unnaturally fewer females than males. Males could outnumber females either because women do not have the right to life itself (female foeticide) or are discriminated against in survival conditions after birth. It is the birth, infant, and child sex ratios that reveal the nature of discrimination the female faces. The sex ratios at birth and at different age groups reveal the play of socio-cultural factors in determining female life chances. Adverse sex ratio at birth indicates that even prior to birth, certain factors influence the sex of the foetus to be male — this could be at the time of conception, gestation or delivery. Thus it is only the sex ratio at birth that can point to the misuse of prenatal diagnostic techniques to determine male child preference. However, the decline in the sex ratio after birth (infant sex ratio and other age groups) stress the importance of neglect and care sans technology to influence the natural number of males and females. Misappropriation of “technology” is indicated in both the adverse sex ratio at birth as well as the sharper decline in the sex ratio at birth of subsequent years. In Punjab, the child sex ratio fell from 946 in 1981 to 854 in 1991 (figures for 2001 not available).

Regional sex ratios: Regional variations in the sex ratio reflect social impediments to the natural sex ratio. While the 2001 sex ratio of Punjab is among the lowest in the country, large variations within the districts exist. Ludhiana, with 824, has the least female representation while Hoshiarpur, with 935, has the most favourable sex ration. A look at the patterns of sex ratio over the century reveals that there has been a historical consistency among the regions with regard to sex ratio. For instance, Malwa, which is characterised as a feudal region, has the poorest sex ratio. In fact, historically, Ropar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Ludhiana share the lowest sex ratio. In contrast, the Doaba region has had the best sex ratio, always above the state average. Hoshiarpur, in particular, has the highest sex ratio. The Majha region comprising Gurdaspur and Amritsar has had sex ratios hovering around the state average. While the sex ratio is a cumulative indicator of women’s placement over time, the child sex ratio is indicative of trends in improvement or deterioration of the status of women.

An analysis of the sex ratio and child sex ratio reveals a distinct pattern based on cultural zones of Punjab. Districts comprising the backward region of Malwa, namely, Bathinda, Mansa, Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala as also Ropar and pockets of the Majha area have both the most adverse sex ratio as well as an adverse child child sex ratio in 2001. Interestingly, in most of these districts (Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, Mansa, Sangrur and Ropar), the decline is far greater in the rural child sex ratio.

What is revealing is that the districts with the lowest child sex ratio are also the districts which have witnessed the largest decline in child sex ratio since 1991. These areas represent the most hostile conditions for women. It is perhaps here that pre-natal diagnostic techniques have been misused the most. Ludhiana is the only exception. While it has the most adverse sex ratio of 824, it has not had a significant decline in the child sex ratio in comparison with Punjab as a whole. Perhaps the low sex ratio is caused by single male migration to this industrial centre. Regional consistency now seems on the verge of a change. Gurdaspur and Amritsar in Majha and Kapurthala in Doaba are districts with the highest decline in the child sex ratio.

Extent of foeticide: The predominance of male child preference and the simultaneous rejection of the girl child is reflected in the adoption of methods to beget a male child and subsequent resort to female foeticide. In a 2001 survey, 33 per cent of households with couples in their reproductive age acknowledged having undergone sex determination tests. While in 2000, 17 per cent of the households mentioned abortion and 45 per cent mentioned the use of methods including traditional modes such as pilgrimage etc to predetermine the male sex of the foetus. The 2001 study and other reports highlighted the adverse sex ratio and consequent need for legal stringency to curtail the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques. Even the clergy decried the practice and supported the ban on female foeticide. The respondents were reluctant to mention abortion, fearing legal and religious repercussions.

Strata & location variance: By far the largest user of pre-natal diagnostic techniques was the upper income group in which 53 per cent were found to have used these methods. Middle and lower income groups mentioned undergoing these tests to the extent of 39 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.

Male child preference: The use of sex determination tests were socially ratified as a reliable means for pre-selection of a male child. Thirty-two per cent of the respondents were of the view that these tests helped in the selection of a male child and another 24 per cent even mentioned that these helped in not having a female child and would ultimately increase female worth since it would create a “scarcity”. Ten per cent of the females were of the view that it helped in family planning. It was mentioned that this method helped to restrict the size of the family by not packing the family with female children in the hope of giving birth to a male child.

The option of sex choice in the context of patriarchy is reflective of the unfavourable status of women. More importantly, only 10 per cent of the respondents cited the use of these tests to detect biological deficiencies in the foetus, thus undermining the positive use of the technology. The preference for the male child in the socio-cultural milieu of Punjab was found to be an important factor in the use of sex determination tests, constituting pre-birth gender violence. Justification for the male child preference is found in the importance accruing to the male child and the perception of the female child as a liability.

In a survey of Punjab, 81 per cent of the respondents were candid in mentioning the necessity for a male child, with female respondents registering a higher preference of 84 per cent in comparison with 78 per cent male respondents. Cited reasons for preferring a male child were that he is an old age insurance (72 per cent), a family bread winner (69 per cent), that he carries on the family name and that a son is a physical protection and support to the family. Studies have shown that the more patriarchal and male-centered the kinship structure, the more sons are perceived to be a major source of social and political power.

In contrast to the male child preference, perception of the girl child as a burden was also stated as an incentive to female foeticide. As many as 46 per cent of the respondents viewed a girl child as a social burden and 49 per cent stated that she was an “expense” to be avoided. Utilitarian justifications varied with the strata and even the region. For instance, in the urban areas of Ludhiana, Punjab’s commercial capital, preference for the male child was stated as necessary to look after the business even when they accepted that the present generation of male children was not very respectful and caring of parents. And as an indicator of the male child preference, Ludhiana has the lowest sex ratio in Punjab.

The rural peasantry was of the opinion that the presence of a male child was a social deterrent to anti-social elements to harass the family. In particular, this came in handy to avoid harassment on account of dowry. The border areas of Amritsar were predominant in the belief that the birth of a male child gave resurgence to the masculinity of the patriarch. Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), narratives, and even case studies involving male respondents reiterated that “the birth of a male child makes one young again, while the birth of a female child makes one feel aged”. This perceived burden of a girl child due to enhanced dowry payments and the need for safeguarding the girl from sexual abuse were added factors favouring the use of sex determination tests.

Right to life: The issue raised by the decline in sex ratio is not that the female’s right to birth is violated rather the non-existence of the female's right to life. The historically adverse sex ratio as also the socio-cultural legitimacy of traditional methods (visits to hakims, deras, pilgrimages for boon of a male child) that register the selection of male child over female is proof enough of lack of right to birth of the girl child. Consequently, the need is to enshrine the right of birth to the girl child and then the right to life. After right to birth, if the right to life is denied in terms of female infanticide, cultural neglect or the blatant use of violence as in dowry death all lead to the imbalance in the sex ratio. This calls for a holistic strategy that deals with unfavourable status of women.

Relative worth: Female foeticide occurs because there is a male child preference in society. This emanates from the perceived higher relative worth of the male to the female. There is a need to arrest the rapid decline in the child sex ratio. Some legal measures have been adopted by the Punjab Government, but these can be enforced only through social mobilisation and community support. Some sections would respond to the laws and initiate behavioural change by appealing to the rationality while to another section gender sensitisation along with increased worth of the girl child would diminish male child preference. However, for the large majority sensitisation would not succeed in undermining the male child preference. This section seems to undermine the norms, values and practices that have been historically institutionalised and promote male child preference.

Both individual adherence and institutionalisation of the gender ideology provide invisibility to gender violence. The widespread invisibility attached to gender violence and its various forms can be inferred from the prevalence of gender typed roles, values and norms, reflected in the justification for male child preference, affinity to female role of nurturers and caretakers and acceptance of gender practices such as dowry exchange. This widespread gender ideology produced partial and fragmented understanding of the assumptions, processes and even actions of the gender system. Moreover, this inadequate understanding isolates the events and acts from the assumptions and processes of the gender system and reduces them to mere problematic aberrations. Thus, female foeticide is assumed to be the problem rather than male child preference.

Gender justice: There is a need to sensitise the community on gender justice and women’s development — sensitisation to all forms of deprivation, discrimination and atrocities. Enactment of male child preference through traditional methods is invisible and not perceived as denial of right to life or as an act of violence against girl child.

Functions such as rearing children, earning for the family, performing household chores, participation in familial, social or political decision-making can be undertaken by members of either sex. Individual capacities can be harnessed according to the situation and need. Role fluidity will help combat the restricted and inferior social placement on the basis of sex. If women are to be productive earners, then they would be encouraged to imbibe market valued skills with high remuneration.

Given the increasing economic demands, earning an income has become necessary for all individuals. However, women even upon entering the wage market, have remained restricted to the primary role assumptions of child rearing and housekeeping. They earn only to supplement the earnings of the menfolk since the burden of household chores and child-care continue to be their sole responsibility. Earning only as a supplementary function results in marketing of existing skills which are domestic in nature. If women’s potential as workers is harnessed according to their capacities i.e they learn skills before entering the workforce as part of their education like men and are encouraged to learn market valued skills, then, more women would join the labour force in various skilled categories with corresponding remuneration. This, then, promotes productive participation of women in all social spheres, creating an increased social worth for them.

Today, what is of concern is jot just the decreasing sex ratio but piecemeal intervention for gender development. To focus on female foeticide as a cause of the adverse sex ratio amounts to trivialising the issue. The need of the hour is to counter male child preference, introduce role fluidity and ensure gender sensitisation.

Excerpts from a paper presented at a seminar on “Female Foeticide” held at Chandigarh by the writer, who is Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh.


BJP faces bigger danger than Cong
P. Raman

Deputy Prime Minister L.K.Advani raised a pertinent question at the BJP’s national executive committee meeting at Indore. Referring to the days when the party upheld lofty ideals and moralistic traditions, he asked: Why idealism and power fail to go hand in hand? Apparently, Mr Advani felt perturbed over the large-scale revolts by senior Himachal party leaders when denied tickets.

Certainly, the BJP faces a bigger danger than the Congress, both in severity and magnitude. Though Mr Advani has rightly mentioned the symptoms afflicting the party which he had built from the scratch from 1989, he conveniently avoided a diagnosis. This is so because things have already gone out of control.

Compulsions of retaining power at any cost has its own toll of the party’s moral fabric. Opportunists and power brokers have taken over the party at the middle and lower levels while the time-tested party workers and old guard watching the decline helplessly. If the corporates and big shot fund the political parties at the all-India and state levels, in districts and tehsils you have to depend on property dealers and cheats who will extract their pound of flesh.

Political dishonesty, opportunism and corrupt practices have all become an essential part of this emerging matrix. There has never been any serious effort within the BJP to check the rut. Strangely, the BJP leaders continue to assert that corruption cannot be an issue in elections provided the government has fairly good performance to its credit. What is important, they argue, is that the Prime Minister and other senior leaders should be insulated from the allegations of scandals. It is the designer image of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister that matters while going to the voters for endorsement. Mr Pramod Mahajan says that Indians are used to bribes and local issues cannot be an election issue. Bofors was a symbolic case.

Availability of ready political alternatives — like a variety of competitive consumer goods — seems to be influencing the new voter. Non-performance and corruption charges have been the main issues in the recent Assembly elections except Gujarat and possibly Goa. In Himachal Pradesh, the BJP had to suffer more due to the exposure of its Chief Minister’s illgotten wealth as projected by the Opposition. The rebel candidates only contributed to the process.

The tragedy of the post-1998 BJP has been that it has lost its best election plank of clean image and organisational discipline. Its leaders were once known for their spotless public life due to their pracharak background. They had never aspired for wealth and power. These qualities gave them respectability and moral authority.

It has been this lingering but clearly waning image that had raised hopes among the people of a corruption-free and honest administration in 1988 and 1999 elections. The unfolding corruption and scandals in the Delhi Development Authority and the Prime Minister’s inability to come down heavily on the political protectors has been an eye opener. The DDA is known for frauds. But under the political patronage during the five-year BJP rule, things have gone out of control. This month the CBI arrested ten top men and recovered huge amounts from them.

Even judicial files have been recovered from the arch middle man Dharambir Khattar which has led to the exit of a high court judge. From the suspended land commissioner, Rs. 36 lakh in cash has been recovered as part of the bribe money from DLF. Seizures have been made by the CBI from another suspended DDA Commissioner. Subhash Sharma, the suspended Vice-Chairman of the DDA, has been a familiar figure among the ruling politicians. Earlier, he was the NDMC head. The CBI has seized documents to prove innumerable out-of-turn allotments, waving of fees, etc to friends and political bigwigs and the moneyed men for a price.

Just before he quit NDMC, Sharma had installed a Rs.1.3-lakh swing at BJP leader Madan Lal Khurana’s house as ‘gift’. The beneficiaries of the DDA’s recent benevolence included Union Ministers Vijay Goyal and Sahib Singh Verma and VHP leader B.L. Sharma and Congress minister A.K. Walia. Delhi newspapers have carried long lists of BJP beneficiaries in the DDA’s bonanza with details. Union Minister Ananth Kumar is in charge of the DDA. While the arrests of officials and seizures were going on for ten days, there was not a word from the Prime Minister or his deputy. Still worse, BJP stalwarts like Mr Khurana represented the Centre against the Lt-Governor demanding his replacement by some one in line with the BJP. Initially, the corrupt Vice-Chairman was replaced by Ms Suman Swaroop. But the BJP politicians forced the Centre to remove her in 48 hours and appoint Mr Anil Baijal.

Such open defence of the guilty by senior BJP leaders damages the party’s image in the public eye. It only strengthens the perception of a growing nexus between the politicians, senior bureaucrats who are in a position to distribute favours and the high society touts, all of whom provide funds and patronage to the politician. In the past, many big fish after having been caught with sufficient proof, were let out under political pressure. A former Enforcement Directorate official was reinstated. Virendra Singh, an MCD commissioner, and J.K. Sharma, a senior police official were reinducted even while cases are pending against them in courts.

This week witnessed a spurt of misdeeds by politicians. A Gujarat BJP leader’s house in Delhi was allegedly searched. Union Minister Chamanlal Gupta tried to save his former BJP MLA friend from action under a high court order. A Bihar minister and a Delhi Congress councilor were found involved in fraud. While the Congress expelled him, the BJP alone maintained a stony silence. Instead of cleaning the stable, the party has directed its state units to compile dossiers of scandals and corruption by the Congress leaders every where.


Resolve Ayodhya through talks

Vinay Katiyar The style of functioning of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and the spat between her and Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party has put the BJP in an awkward situation. Her sharp comments on the Hindu religious practices as showed in the video-tapes and her remarks during the recent "pardafash" rally have caused considerable discomfort to the BJP. But the compulsions of coalition politics seem to have forced the BJP to take them in its stride despite resentment within the party. In an interview to The Tribune, Uttar Pradesh BJP President Vinay Katiyar accuses the Samajwadi Party of desperately trying to create a rift between the BSP and the BJP.


Q: Don’t you think the video tape charge against Ms Mayawati has dealt a blow to the image of the BSP-BJP combine in the State?

A: No. I don’t think so. The video tape controversy raked up by Samajwadi Party is a clear reflection of its desperation. I strongly feel that the video-tapes were shot before the BSP-BJP combine assumed power. Moreover, Samajwadi Party’s senior leader Amar Singh is a "magician" having links with the film world. He could have well got the tapes doctored.

Q: How will you justify the silence of the BJP after the release of the second video tape by SP which showed Ms Mayawati making derogatory statement against Lord Ram?

A: I have seen the video tapes reproduced in TVchannels. There was no mention of the word "Ram" in Ms Mayawati’s statement. However, she did talk about Goddesses and criticised idol worship. There was nothing new in what she had stated but it would have been good had she not used that kind of a language (read derogatory language).

Q: There have been more controversies of late.

A: It is but natural to have differences as the political ideologies of the BJP and the BSP are different. In the past, twice the BJP and BSP fell apart due to ideological differences. Today we want that the BSP-BJP coalition government functions on the basis of a common minimum programme including the agenda for the BSP and the BJP. The BJP is the root and the BSP is the tree. There should not be any move to destroy the roots. It is because of the BJP there is a Dalit agenda on which Mayawati’s existence depends which in turn helps the Dalits.

Q: What about BJP’s agenda?

A: The ban on cow slaughter was on BJP’s agenda. But we have successfully implemented it in Uttar Pradesh. The second was to prevent the misuse of provisions of the SC/ST Act. We had fears about its possible misuse. So, we took steps to check this. Also, because of the BJP, villages are adopted on the basis of the total number of population, not a particular community. We have also implemented the naming of housing projects in urban areas after Maharishi Balmiki. Next in the line is the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. What agenda has the BSP implemented? It could merely develop huge parks after Dr Ambedkar’s name which would be used by all.

Q: Are you sure the BSP-BJP combine will continue or do you visualise a mid-term poll?

A: We are now preparing for the Lok Sabha elections. We want the BSP-BJP combine to continue. If the situation remains normal, the combine will last its full term.

Q: Why are BJP legislators openly opposing the continuation of the Mayawati government?

A: Many BJP workers do not keep track of the party’s agenda. Unlike the Opposition parties, especially the Congress, which tries to survive on false promises, the BJP implements the agenda and then publicises it. That is why many BJP legislators don’t know the actual position.

Q: The BJP has been maintaining that the Ayodhya issue should be resolved through dialogue or the court.

A. The court is a very respectable institution in a democracy but it should not be dragged into this matter. If the court gives its verdict, it will be opposed by one or the other. So the only way to resolve this sensitive issue is through dialogue. We are confident that this issue would be resolved through talks. Did Sardar Patel seek the court’s permission to construct Somnath temple? Did Babar seek similar permission to destroy our Ram temple? Several Muslim leaders do not know the ground reality of Ayodhya.

Q: Are you sure about constructing the Ayodhya temple?

A: I am confident that the construction work will begin during Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tenure.

Q: The BSP has been opposing the construction.

A: The BSP is entitled to its views. I am one of the first few persons who had initiated the temple movement. I believe that the construction has begun with the court’s direction for excavation in Ram Janambhoomi. In fact, I consider the ongoing excavation work as the beginning of the construction of a magnificent Ram temple in Ayodhya.


Excellence in what?
Kiran Bedi

Kiran BediWithin weeks of my starting work at the New York office, I needed to return home to attend a family wedding. Alongside, I accepted an invitation to receive honorary doctorate from the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. I, of course, used the opportunity to go once again to the Harmandar Sahib and found the traffic circulation and management now under control. The district police had displayed its determination to right the situation. Darbar Sahib officials confirmed the improvement. This only showed that when the police is determined to ‘enforce’ to ‘improve’ it can ‘achieve’.

But in this piece my focus is on the convocation ceremony, which I attended. It was presided over by the Chancellor of the University, Lt.-General J.F.R. Jacob (retd.), Prof. Arun Nigavekar, Chairman University Grant Commission, Mr. Anil Kakodkar and Mr. Sunil Dutt. We four received honorary degrees. Over 60 students received Ph.D degrees and others.

The convocation was an example of precision and perfection ably organised under the astute leadership of the Vice-Chancellor. It started dot on time and so did it conclude. Everyone spoke within his or her time frame. The degrees too were given without errors at all. Very large number of students were awarded Ph.D degrees, which was a very healthy indication.

But my thoughts got triggered by what the Vice-Chancellor said in his introductory remarks. He informed the auditorium full of virtually who’s who of Amritsar and degree-deserving students that the University Grants Commission had rated the Guru Nanak Dev University as one of ‘excellence’. I couldn’t agree more. The institution has it all — sprawling campus with all the requisite infrastructure and academic disciplines under praised by enthusiastic and motivated faculties. Great! But what about the end products? That’s, the human resources which pass out from here? Who and what kind are they? Is there any way of assessing which the UGC may have formulated? Because for me a University qualifying for “excellence” would imply the quality of the student as a final result of the infrastructure available to her and him. I started to ask.

I went up to Dr. Arun Nigarkar to find out what parameters were being used to judge the human quality coming out of the universities. Degree for them not in doubt for there are systems to judge the cream of a “knowing bank...” But how were we judging the value bank, which finally is the bedrock of the nation’s human wealth! I was informed that it is an issue but yet to be crystallised! It’s no doubt a Herculean task to evolve the right strategy to evaluate the value system of a student. I asked Dr Anil Kakodkar, who too received an honorary degree, whether it was possible in India. He said, “One system is very hierarchical”. It does not encourage peer evaluation”. What Dr Kakodkar said is very true, for I personally experienced it while running the police training institution. The moment we encouraged “feed back system”, “teacher evaluation” by the student or an open dialogue of value system there is a divided opinion on the issue of discipline. Whether it is being compromised? One was a traditional one and entrenched mind set and the other was trying to break free, grow and strike a balance!

But the fact of the matter is excellence of any education system cannot preclude “value bank” for knowledge or data bank of the degree-receiving students. And any education which does not soak or knit within its students’ integrity, courage and wisdom to make right choices, the excellence of infrastructure will be mere symbols of architecture made of concrete without the human element of which it was all created and invested.

I was quite aware of non-existence of evaluation systems for value bank when I raised the question before the UGC Chairman. But I did so for I know he also can trigger the beginning. And once he does it may well be the beginning of a whole revolution we all are waiting for...


Congress’ pain in the neck
Harihar Swarup

K.Karunakaran is, perhaps, the wiliest politician in the Congress who would never say die. A master tactician, he would tire out his opponent and then have his way and nobody knows it better than Kerala’s spartan Chief Minister A.K.Antony. Antony knows that he would have to live with his bete noire like constant pain in the neck. He says “the octogenarian leader is like pain in my neck which, my doctors say, I will have to take to my grave…it will continue till I demit office”. Karunakaran invoked his well-known pressure tactic when, in defiance of the high command, he fielded his nominee Kodoth Govindan Nair in the just concluded election for three Rajya Sabha seats from Kerala. This was, possibly, for the first time that the veteran leader’s manipulative skill did not work and he was rebuffed; rebel candidate Kodoth suffered a humiliating defeat having polled just 26 votes. Still, the party’s Central leadership dare not take action against Karunakaran and as many as 26 party MLAs owing allegiance to him but his son, K.Murleedharan, now the PCC President, may have to pay the price.

Now nearing 85, Karunakaran has always thrived in controversies and once a challenge is thrown to him, he enjoys the fight. Also, he is the only Congress leader in Kerala with solid base, commands allegiance of party workers and wields influence in 23 constituencies. Members of the high command scrupulously desist from antagonising the Kerala strongman because they feel, if he turns hostile, the Antony Government may find it difficult to survive.

Though age has starting telling on Karunakaran, he is still fit, walks fast, swims and loves to drive fast. He is a highly religious man and drives on the first of every Malayali month to the famous temple at Guruvayur to be at the feet of Guruvayurappan (Lord Krishna). He firmly believes that Guruvayurappan comes to his rescue whenever he faces a grim situation. Little do people outside Kerala know that Communists call Karunakaran “the black leg” and this nomenclature was given to him when he was in twenties. “A person, who betrays and escapes; a person who moves fast and disappears” is the literal meaning of the term commonly used in Kerala. Shrewdly, Karunakaran himself adopted that nomenclature meant to run him down. He derisively began describing himself as “the black leg” to the discomfiture of his Marxist adversaries.

Karunakaran’s penchant for fast driving had once almost cost him his life. His preference always had been a Mercedez Benz and a few years back the Benz could have taken his life. It was early hour of the morning and the road was empty as the Benz, at breakneck speed, raced towards Thiruvanthapuram. It skidded, rolled over and turned over thrice. The VIP passenger on the back seat lay crumpled when he was pulled out. So badly the Kerala leader was hurt that he had to be taken to the United States for treatment. He was in a bad shape when he returned and nobody thought that he would be the same Karunakaran again. But the old man subsequently showed astonishing recovery. He depended on Ayurvedic medicines to regain his health.

Two tragic events had shaken the generally cool and composed Karunakaran — the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 and the death of his wife, Kalyanikkuty, in 1993. She had been a source of inspiration to him and wielded much influence on her husband. Kalyanikkuty had been suffering from an heart ailment and was flow to the US for treatment. Hours before she passed away a call came from the US that she was improving. Karunakaran was in Delhi at that time. The telephone rang again and the caller conveyed the sad news that she was no more. As his aides ran in and switched on the lights, the Kerala leader asked them to leave him alone and switch off the lights. He might have cried in darkness.


Mayawati’s tactic to keep Kalyan out

Two is company. Three is a crowd. This is precisely what Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and former UP BJP president Kalraj Mishra seem to believe. Mishra’s proximity to Mayawati is a universally known fact. Everybody knows that Mayawati ties “Rakhi” on the hand of Mishra. But politics is a strange game where you practise the opposite of what you profess. Till recently, Mishra was officially telling media colleagues that an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party would damage the BJP in the state. However, insiders say that Mishra’s tough posturing was actually a bargaining counter.

Mishra’s excellent rapport with Mayawati is reflected by the fact that all his requests for transfers and postings are promptly executed. But reports of coming back of former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh to the BJP fold have put them on their toes. Both want to keep Kalyan Singh out. Almost every day, Mayawati and Kalraj exchange notes and work in tandem. One functions in her usual flamboyant style while the other prefers to work silently.

Mayawati’s latest attack on former state Chief Minister Rajnath Singh is also said to be a joint operation, an insider pointed out. The UP political cauldron has just started churning and more is in the offing. Watch this space.

Faux pas bytes

The race to stay ahead seems to be taking its toll among news channels. During the recent crash of a MiG 21 fighter plane in Ambala, a TV channel anchor asked the correspondent at the site of the mishap whether any information was available on the number of passengers who were on board the aircraft. The response was even sillier. He replied that no information was available on this question and the authorities were “tightlipped” — a commonly abused cliche among journalists. Flummoxed viewers were left wondering whether the new generation fighter aircraft doubled up as passenger carriers as well. All in the name of a byte.

BJP’s dilemma

Just six months are left for the Assembly elections in Delhi. But the Delhi BJP led by former Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana is still undecided about the issues to be focussed during the campaign to oust the Shiela Dikshit-led Congress Government. With no major controversies and issues to attack the performance of the Congress Government, many Delhi leaders are wondering how Khurana, who is not even a pale shadow of his old self, would be able to lead the party to victory in the coming polls.

Khurana seems to be more keen on focussing on issues like Value Added Tax (VAT) and the truckers’ strike instead of highlighting the failures of the Shiela Dikshit Government in the past five years. But the dilemma of the BJP high command is that despite all ills it has to repose faith in Khurana. After all, you cannot bet on too many horses in a race.

Shankar's record

Famous magician Shankar recently created a world record when he completed a century of his shows in just 65 days in one single theatre. With this feat, Aadharshila, a noted group of journalists and artistes, also got famous. Now magician Shankar has been invited with his 40-member team to conduct two shows daily at Mumbai’s Essel World resort from May 1 to 31. Aadharshila President Pradeep Sardana describes it as yet another feather in the Haryana-born magician’s cap who has conducted about 17,000 magic shows in a quarter of century. Of these, 12,000 were charity shows through which Shankar has given Rs 1.3 crore for the Kargil fund and several Chief Ministers’ relief funds.

AICC attendance

In terms of their presence at the AICC, the party general secretaries can be divided into three broad categories: mostly present, regularly present and almost never present. Some 22-odd secretaries seemingly have more flexible working hours and only a few are available at the AICC at most times. During last Tuesday’s meeting, which was to finalise follow-up programmes of the agenda outlined by Congress President Sonia Gandhi at the party’s national convention of block chiefs last month, only five secretaries were present.

Apparently, the reason for this poor attendance was the short notice at which the meeting was convened by party general secretary Oscar Fernandes. Most of the secretaries, it was said, were in states under their charge. Tuesday’s meeting of secretaries was preceded by that of general secretaries. The party’s work goes on irrespective of the attendance at 24 Akbar Road. But would attendance of office-bearers be a factor in the impending AICC reshuffle?


There is at least one biological weapon going around in Iraq. Don’t be startled! While the world knows that the elusive Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has not unleashed chemical and biological weapons against the US-led coalition forces, the Anglo-American obsession with Iraq’s so-called weapons of mass destruction, which are yet to be found, has become quite a joke in the western world.

The “biological weapon” news photograph has been unleashed on the Internet. The photograph shows an American soldier in a combat gear taking cover behind a wall in an Iraqi residential area. However, perched on the wall is a small Iraqi boy with his half pants pulled down to his knees and the full flow of his urine falling right on top of the soldier’s helmet. It has been captioned: “Iraq’s biological weapon unleashed”.

Contributed by T.V.Lakshminarayan, Satish Misra, S.Satyanarayanan, Gaurav Chaudhury, Prashant Sood, Girja Shankar Kaura and Rajeev Sharma


Book releases galore as mercury rises 
Humra Quraishi

Pack this month to the last day seems to be the ongoing mood, for though the temperature is rising, events continue in full swing. Several book releases in this April heat — Ram Jethmalani’s “The Authorised Biography” (Penguin), Ardashir Vakil’s “One Day” (Penguin), Anil Kumar Singh’s “India’s Security Concerns in the Indian Ocean Region” (Har Anand), Gurmukh Singh’s “The Global Indian: The Rise of the Sikhs Abroad” (Rupa). In fact, the latter is to be launched in the last week of April. As the writer says, it covers all the prominent Sikhs and their institutions across the world.

Journalist Madhavan Kutty’s book “No Curtains Yet” (India Democratic Press), centering around his own close encounters with death, is also to be launched, but one is not sure whether he’d prefer a more killing May evening to the still bearable April ones. And yes, though evening parties and receptions continue to do the rounds, the Iraq war details do barge in, in the midst of all that fun and frolicking...

Birthdays are no things of the past. It was touching to see New Zealand High Commissioner Caroline McArthur host one for her husband Simon Mark’s 47th birthday. Simon’s popularity can be judged from the fact that there were many who had come to wish the birthday boy — one of the best known golfers in the city and also an artist. Last year, he had exhibited his works at the British Council and next week, he will exhibit another range at the India International Centre. Several of Simon’s works will be on display at Virgin Airlines new office in New Delhi.

Jazz concert

If the French, led by their Ambassador to India Dominique Girard, can host a “gala reception” for all the Indians who have studied or got trained in France, then the Germans cannot be far behind. Max Mueller Bhavan arranged for a jazz evening — a jazz concert by the famous accordionist, producer, composer and arranger Manfred Leuchter. Incidentally, his latest album is — Arabesque. “As a long time traveller, he has long since woven the magic of the Arabian world into the ever-changing ornamentations of his music...”

But there seems all quiet on the embassies and high commissions of the Arab and African nations. And though the Iraqi National Day is still further away (July 17), there’s talk whether it will be celebrated or not. The coming national days of Jordan, Libya and the Africa Day, could throw some light on the mood of the people and diplomats from those countries.

US honour

On the World Health Day (April 7), Altanta-based The Prosthetics for Diabetes Foundation honoured India’s Dr. Jyoti Ghosh. He is the MD of the German Pharmaceuticals, also an ardent believer in homoeopathy. He made news when he came out with a cure for treatment of Diabetes Mellitus Type 11 “using the combination regimen of phyto-pharmaceutical and natural origin medicine...” The award money — US $500,000 — is said to be the highest ever award presented in medicine, excepting perhaps the Nobel Prize.

J&K House

As the renovated J&K House on New Delhi’s Prithvi Raj Road nears completion and wears a new look, it is said that there would be a formal opening of the building soon.


Bollywood bulls in a China shop
Subhash K. Jha

Vivek Oberoi’s public accusations against Salman Khan bring back to flickering life infamous media wars between Bollywood stars in the past. The most shocking scandal that ever shook the papers of film glossies in the late 1950s was thespian Dilip Kumar appearing in court to testify against Madhubala on behalf of his producer B.R. Chopra. The actress had refused to appear in Chopra’s ‘Naya Daur’ after signing it on.

Befoe a jam-packed courtroom, Dilip Kumar declared: “I’d love her as long as she lives,” drawing attention to Madhubala’s failing heart. The entire scene was reminiscent of a tragic melodrama that sent the then conservative film press in Mumbai into a tailspin.

The 1960s were relatively scandal free. The press refused to play up the Raj Kapoor-Nargis break-up when Sunil Dutt swept her off her feet on the sets of ‘Mother India’ and married her. Raj Kapoor’s love for Nargis was known to be even more obsessive and volatile than that between Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai, which has shocked Bollywood fans in recent times.

“I guess those were different times with different moral modalities,” sighs a senior actress. “We had our share of affairs, break-ups, brawls and real-life dramas. But it was done away from the public glare. Maybe we were hypocrites. But there was more dignity in our discretion than letting it all hang out.”

The 1970s saw the birth of an active scandal-mongering press that lapped up public declarations of star misdemeanours. Passionate triangles like Rajesh Khanna- Sharmila Tagore- Mumtaz, Shatrughan Sinha- Reena Roy-Komal, Dharmendra- Hema Malini- Sanjeev Kumar and ShabanaAzmi-Javed Akhtar-Honey Irani played out their cataclysmic karma in full public view. But none of the dramatis personae spoke up in first person.

In the early 1980s, all hell broke loose when a starlet called Sabia, daughter of yesteryear actress Amita, accused Rajesh Khanna of sexual harassment on the sets of a film called ‘Anokha Rishta’. When a leading gossip magazine broke the story with the girl’s sobbing confessions, the whole film industry tacitly supported Rajesh Khanna. Sabia was soon forgotten by the industry.

Manisha Koirala has been at the vortex of two media battles. First, she openly warred with Aishwarya Rai over a man whom they were both seeing. And then, it was Manisha’s differences with filmmaker Shashilal Nair last year. The language used in such cases was often abusive. The first time a slighted showbiz personality in Bollywood took legal recourse against a colleague was when Alisha Chinai accused composer Anu Malik of sexual advances. They eventually buried their hatchet. IANS


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