Tuesday, May 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Tighten law to end rolling defections

THE amendments proposed in the rules by which our Parliament functions, or is constituted, are a mixed bag. The one that seeks to scrap secrecy of ballot in elections to the Rajya Sabha should be the least controversial. The lure of lucre does at times tempt state legislators to violate party whip, vote against the official candidates and get away with it because of the secrecy of ballot. The proposed change will make voting open.

Some jurists are, however, up in arms against it. Former High Court Chief Justice, Rajinder Sachar, for instance, has said in an article; “Secrecy of voting is the fundamental principle of elections in all democratic forms of government.” Why? Because the common citizen would otherwise be exposed to all kinds of pressures to vote against his will. However, elected legislators are not ‘common people’. They should be able to withstand pressure, or temptation. That is why all voting in the House is open. Their vote for or against any measure is recorded openly. The general electorate must know how they have voted on particular issues. The same principle needs to be extended to voting in the assembly for electing members of the Rajya Sabha.

The question of residency requirement for election to the Upper House is a little more complex. As members of the Council of States candidates should be residents of that particular state, but frequently outsiders get in by submitting ‘proof’ of domicile.


This does violate the spirit of the Constitution. However, there is a practical problem here.

Most persons who get elected to the Rajya Sabha in this manner are residents of Delhi. Being the national capital several prominent public figures live here. But Delhi has no quota for the Upper House. People like Mr I.K. Gujral, Dr Manmohan Singh, Mr Arun Shourie or Mr Arun Jaitley, who were, or are, assets to our Parliament would never have become MPs had the residence qualification been more stringent. The solution to this problem is to give Delhi also a share in Rajya Sabha and then tighten the domicile condition, instead of doing away with it altogether.

Then, there is the proposed amendment to the Anti-Defection Law whereby a legislator who defies party whip or quits his party is thrown out of the House. But what about a situation when the party defects’ and the legislator is left stranded. The party seeks votes in the election on a certain manifesto. What if it reneges on its mandate and adopts a different stance in the legislature? Why should the member who abides by the original promise and votes against the new party line suffer?

It would be better if the law is amended just to stipulate that any person who severs his ties with the parent party will not be allowed to hold any ministerial or other office.


Bias against Punjab

The article ‘Resolution of SYL Dispute’ by Mr Ram Varma (April 26) is lopsided and biased heavily against Punjab. One couldn’t have expected anything better from a former Haryana government bureaucrat.

The following facts support my argument:

1. Punjab was allotted 7.2 maf water out of 15.85 maf surplus of the Ravi and Beas waters in the 1955 Agreement.

2. In the 1976 notification by the Central Government, Punjab and Haryana were allotted 3.5 maf each and Delhi 0.2 maf. Under the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, section 78(1), only the Beas waters were apportionable. However, in the 1976 notification, the Ravi waters were also taken into account for allocation to Haryana. 3.5 maf to Haryana meant withdrawal of 2.0 maf of allocation of water from 9 lakh acre of irrigated lands of Punjab which are already getting irrigation since 1960. It is obvious that the Centre has been willingly playing the Haryana game and all governments at the Centre have acted against the interest of Punjab.

3. The 1981 Agreement signed between the Chief Ministers of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan in the presence of Prime Minister, the availability of water was inflated from 15.85 maf to 17.17 maf out of which Punjab was allotted 4.22 maf and Haryana 3.5 maf.

4. In 1982, the suits filed by Punjab and Haryana were dismissed as a result of the 1981 Agreement.

The adverse consequences of the SYL canal are as follows:

(i) Nine lakh acres of land in the districts of Faridkot, Muktsar, Ferozepore and Moga would be deprived of irrigation water.

(ii) Reduced agriculture production;

(iii) Reduced agriculture income;

(iv) Green areas may have desert conditions;

(v) Reduced re-charge of ground water

(vi) Unrest amongst farming community

(vii) Unemployment

(viii) Uneconomic growth Punjab could face

(ix) Disturbances in socio-economic condition in the border state

(x) Threat to national security.

Col D.S. CHEEMA (retd), Panchkula


Hospitals under MTP Act

IN her letter “Hospitals under MTP Act” (April 29), Dr Jatinder Kaur has rightly commended the government’s decision to register MTP (medical termination of pregnancy) centres after thoroughly checking the facilities available there. However, she has asked the government to avoid seeking regular reports and checking of the documents in respect of the MTP work done at the centre. She has also highlighted the need for secrecy of the documents. As a result, malpractices may creep in and there will be no transparency. Proper documentation of the services rendered must be maintained and there is no harm in showing the records to representatives of the Civil Surgeon. Such records in the Civil Surgeon’s office are maintained well and are not accessible to any person without the permission of the Civil Surgeon. So, I disagree with Dr Jatinder Kaur that the visiting CS Team should not be shown the documents regarding MTP cases.

I admit that some illiterate women or couples, who don’t know about their right for getting MTP done at a recognised MTP centre, go to unqualified persons and many a time face problems. This social evil can be curbed only by persuasion and proper counselling by Anganwari workers, ANMs, NGOs and panchayat members.

Dr R.K. JAIN, Yamunanagar

Teachers & taught

The middle ‘Shakespeare in Lock’ (May 10) by Ranbir Parmar transported me to Government College, Bhiwani, where I taught English literature in the early 70s.

One morning, while I was coming out of the BA Final class after teaching the murder scene in ‘Julius Ceasar’, I was greeted by a well-meaning student, standing at the entrance to the room. “Could you mark me present, Sir?” he said. “I’m afraid I can’t,” I said, “for you haven’t attended the lecture.” “It’s true, Sir, that I wasn’t present in the class,” he said, “but I have attended the lecture. Standing at the door outside, I heard every word that you spoke. You can ask me any question on today’s lecture. I didn’t request you to permit me to enter the class, for I was a bit late and didn’t want to disturb your flow of thoughts.”

There was no reason for me to disbelieve him, and I marked him present. If there are considerate teachers, there are considerate students, too.

M.K. KOHLI, Gurgaon

Economic Council

The 21st century belongs to Asia. The Asian Development Bank, in its annual forecast, has said that Asia’s developing economy will outperform the rest of the world. The world economy is expected to grow at 2.5 per cent. India, which accounts for three-fourths of the South Asian economy, is expected to grow by 6 per cent in 2003 and China higher at 7.3 per cent. As a result, the potential lies here. Sixty per cent of the world population also lives here.

To provide impetus to this growth potential and to have a unified stand, it is necessary to form an Asian Economic Council (AEC) on the lines of the European Economic Council. It can have its own currency like Euro Dollar. It will better the growth prospects here.

Dr B.L. TEKRIWAL, Mumbai

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