July 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India
The guilty in uniform
The why of itch
Why India and China are so distant
If it moves, salute it...
Punjabi favoured at primary level
Check out — A column on consumer rights by Pushpa Girimaji
WHAT Gen Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali of Pakistan have stated lately in the context of Kashmir cannot be dismissed as mere rhetoric or something for the consumption of their political constituents. Studied closely, their utterances are clear indicators of how distant a dialogue between India and Pakistan is. The General told a gathering of Pakistanis in Paris that “anyone compromising on the core interests of Pakistan like its international stance on Kashmir would be a traitor”. Mr Jamali echoed this in a BBC programme, claiming that Kashmir is Pakistan’s “lifeline” and, therefore, there could be no compromise on the question. If anything, this shows that they were not sincere when they were making demands for a dialogue with India from every available forum before Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took the initiative and extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan at a rally in Srinagar in March last.
The Pakistani leaders had been making welcoming signals after Mr Vajpayee’s offer. Later on, it seems something happened either at General Headquarters, Rawalpindi, or elsewhere leading to Pakistan resorting to a fresh posturing on Kashmir. General Musharraf’s statement on another Kargil made in the course of an interview with an Indian TV network could not be a slip of the tongue, his clarification notwithstanding. Pakistan, perhaps, does not know how to go about the dialogue process. It insists on taking up the Kashmir issue at every stage and indulges in usual rhetoric which only delays a meaningful dialogue.
This, however, does not mean that there can be no dialogue. One gets the impression that the two neighbours may agree to start the process at the lowest official level possible. Going by Pakistan’s rigid stance on Kashmir and reluctance to end cross-border terrorism, high-level parleys may not become possible in the near future. India cannot afford another Agra fiasco. Mr Vajpayee’s response — that Pakistan is itching for a fourth military defeat — to General Musharraf’s provocative utterance on Kargil should be seen against this background. In any case, the emerging posturing after the initial euphoria underlines India’s stand for a comprehensive dialogue, inclusive of economic, cultural and other issues like Kashmir. The rulers in Islamabad may understand the significance of this approach.
The guilty in uniform
FRIDAY'S protest by the villagers of Mahal in Amritsar district has a ring of frightening familiarity. They were protesting against the custodial death of a rickshaw-puller who was picked up by the Jammu police. What compounded their concern was the unknown fate of seven others who were taken for questioning on the suspicion that they were members of a criminal gang. The local police has managed to defuse tension but their version of the incident, obviously dictated by the Jammu and Kashmir police, does not stand to reason. The youth is claimed to have died of pneumonia in which case he should have been in a hospital and not in the police lock-up. The manner in which the J&K police sought to dump the body at Mahal raises doubts about its claim. Under the circumstances, the villagers cannot be blamed if they jumped to the conclusion that he died of police brutality.
Given the record in such cases, it is unlikely that the truth will ever come out. The victims are too poor and unorganised to take on the police. But there are certain institutional mechanisms to deal with such cases. The police and law commissions have enumerated the steps to be taken when the police is accused of highhandedness. However, such cases are seldom taken to their logical conclusion. The disappearance of Rajan, an engineering student in Kerala, after he was taken into custody by the police, attracted national attention as former Chief Minister K. Karunakaran had to resign on this count. But the guilty policemen have virtually gone scot-free.
Nearer home, the Committee for Coordination on Disappearance in Punjab recently published a report detailing 672 cases of "custodial death" in Amritsar district alone during the days of militancy. Though the CBI has been investigating these cases, justice has not been done to the relations of the victims. When the state fails to uphold the rule of law, the civil society has a duty to come to the aid of the victims so that the guilty in uniform can be dealt with under the law of the land. After all, protection against custodial torture is embedded in the fundamental guarantee to right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution and India is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture. All this makes it obligatory for the Punjab Government to take up the matter with the J&K police to ensure that justice is done in this case.
The why of itch
A New York Times health supplement recently carried an article on the why and when of an itch. It was enticingly captioned "The mystery of itch, the joy of scratch". But for the headline and the introduction, the article offered serious and scientific information on a subject that is usually associated with forbidden pleasures. Marilyn Monroe fans now need no excuse to keep alive the memory of the most famous blonde in motion picture history. The itch report gave them the opening to get passionately involved in a debate on the many facets of a sensation that stands at the intersection of pain and pleasure. In Director Billy Wilder's sex comedy, Marilyn plays the incredibly sexy (right!) upstairs neighbour of Tom Ewell -- whose wife just happens to be on vacation. Wilder was at his comic best in letting the male cast handle the subject as delicately as was humanly possible considering that MM was literally the "leading lady" throughout the movie .
Of course, there are kinds and kinds of itches. There is the common itch that is caused by a mosquito. Those with hyper active skins, or minds, tend to read too much symbolism in the harmless nature of a male mosquito bite and the life-threatening jab of a female "machchhar". Be that as it may, the scientific community should be provided unlimited supply of funds for busting the mystery of the itch that makes crooks embrace politics and politicians embrace just about anything that comes their way. When an American politician is caught with his itch on, it is called his "Wilder moment". Indian politicians with parasitical tendencies? Remember Shilpa Shetty's sizzling number "main aaee hoon UP, Bihar lootney/ dil walon kay dil ka qarar lootney" in "Shool"? Scientists would do honest mankind a good turn if they were to isolate the strain of another itch that feeds somewhat soothing syndrome, widely prevalent as a doctrine: "You scratch my back, I scratch yours."
Thought for the day
One of the most common defects of half-instructed minds is to think much of that in which they differ from others, and little of that in which they agree with others. —
— Walter Bagehot
Why India and China are so distant
PRIME MINISTER Vajpayee’s visit to China was packed with various engagements. One that did not get the needed media attention at home was the inauguration of the Centre for Indian Studies at Peking University. This Centre will serve a very useful purpose if it is manned by meritorious academics and not by the bureaucratic hierarchies. Unfortunately, India treats think tanks as institutions engaged in a marginal activity, keeping them on starvation diets. Major world powers, including China, carefully nurse and pamper their institutions.
I recall a meeting that Mr Vajpayee and myself had with a renowned Chinese think tank, The Institute of Contemporary International Relations, in 1993. Prof Geng Huichang had utilised our presence in Beijing to invite us to interact with his South Asia specialists. This formidable think tank had, at that time, 4,000 academics on its rolls — working in 12 divisions. Even when the world had not witnessed the surge of terrorism that peaked on 9/11, the institute was already devoting its energies to studying Islamic fundamentalism in Asia. To a degree of our embarrassment, the institute was also studying the Ayodhya crisis and its fallout on South Asia. Amusingly, it was also studying the ‘failings and accomplishments of the world’s VIPs”.
Huichang said, “If you ever want to know your genealogy, please refer to us.” The ‘autonomous institute’ is financed by the “intelligence wing of the foreign office” and is networked with several “sister institutions” in the rest of China.
“The South Asia experts suggested that India and China should jointly study the emerging world order and its impact on the Asia-Pacific region. This would be an appropriate Sino-Indian agenda for the 40th anniversary of the Panchsheel. We may now build relationships on dialogues and not competition. China and India should cooperate to confront the secessionist movements in the two countries.”
They added that “Kashmir is an internal affair of India and Pakistan that was caused primarily by lack of international psyches and because both India and Pakistan had weak governments. The Government of India has, therefore, tried to meet the situation militarily by repressive methods. Had India looked at it politically, the problem would not have assumed such grave dimensions”. And “Pakistan itself is afraid of an independent Kashmir. It does not want a third independent country in the region. The way Pakistan had firmly stopped the large marches into Kashmir testifies this.”
Years before the Pokhran -II and Pakistani nuclear tests that followed, the scholars said that “Pakistan is now a nuclear power and so it is no more aggressive. China does not have any independent information regarding the nuclear weapons acquired by Pakistan. If India and Pakistan have acquired nuclear weapons, it will be helpful for both to enter into a mutual agreement regarding nuclear disarmament”. They supported Gen Sundarjee’s perception that peace would be more durable when both India and Pakistan had nuclear weapons. “China”, they said, “had no intention of disarming itself of the nuclear weapons.”
According to the scholars, China’s South Asia policy had radically changed with the end of the Cold War. “We now want a stable neighbourhood.” Therefore, the “Sino-Pak relations are not against any third country. The arms bazars are wide open. If Pakistan does not get arms from China, they could easily get from elsewhere: France, Hong Kong, etc. Our arms supplies to Pakistan are on a purely commercial basis and on commercial prices”, and “China is the only country that is genuinely trying to improve Indo-Pak relations. We keep on advising Pakistan, though quietly, to mend relations with India and not to lend any support to terrorists”.
President Huichang’s team did not hesitate in telling us that the institute had close relationship with Myanmar diplomats. The “Army in Myanmar is playing a stabilising role since the western type of democracy is not suitable for Asia”, he said “We Asians must realise that the western model of democracy emphasises competition and not consensus, so it is unsuitable for us. We have to give priority to stability and not competition”.
They told us frankly that China had given a sizeable amount of arms to Myanmar in the previous year. Though they favoured unification of the two Koreas, they thought, “it should move at a slow pace. They must learn from Germany and Yugoslavia where hasty unifications were counter-productive.”
The constraints of space do not permit me to state at length their views on Vietnam, Afghanistan, Russia, Central Asia and so on. Though their comments are now dated, it is obvious that the parameters of the Chinese policies do not change hastily as was obvious during Mr Vajpayee’s recent discussions in Beijing. Prime Minister Li Peng had told us a decade back, “There are, however, some problems between India and China. The first problem related to the boundary. I had put forward a proposal to the Indian Prime Minister (V.P.Singh) that while talks continue to resolve the boundary problem, the question should not be allowed to affect the relationship between the two countries. The relationship between the two countries should be strengthened, despite the boundary issue.”
Both India and China should avoid tension on the border while talks were proceeding. Li Peng had hoped that “the issue will be settled.” This philosophy was re-stated with more clarity to Mr Deve Gowda and me during President Jiang’s visit to India and Pakistan in 1997.
Referring to the presence of the Dalai Lama in India, Li Peng said that “India had repeatedly assured that it recognised the People’s Republic of China as one China, and that the Dalai Lama would not be permitted to speak against China from India”. And “Chinese were prepared to talk with him on all issues except independence, which was a matter concerning the sovereignty of
If it moves, salute it...
I came across an interesting saying of the war-ridden 1940s: If it moves, salute it; if it doesn’t move, pick it up; and if you can’t pick it up, paint it white. I think it conveys the hollowness of militarism and establishes that peace should prevail. And then I moved on to mull over salutation.
As a corollary perhaps to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, recognising another’s superiority has been another contributing factor of lowly and submissive creatures’ continued existence, where elimination by the victor of the vanquished wasn’t really warranted.
A salutation is the token of your acceptance of the superiority of the other capable offender. Animals have their own instinctive methods that generally are overtly mute, suppressed and unobtrusive. Human beings resort to salutations in different ways by bowing, beseeching, bending, buckling etc depending on the degree of intended pleasing, appeasing and obliging, with an accompanying gesture of hands or eyes. Bending over backwards or crawling are the extremes.
Some people deserve obeisance and get a salute. Others command authority and draw out salutation. Then there are the ones who reciprocate the salute. Still others are there who do not deserve a salute but by bullying, they compel a salute by creating circumstances with their overtly overbearing disposition that the object thus targeted has to oblige them with a half-intended and confused salute.
A lawyer friend of mine belonged to the last mentioned category of salute-seekers. Whenever he had to visit an out-of-bounds place, he had a trick to play and hoodwink the guards with his patented method. He had instructed his driver to bring the vehicle to a near-screeching halt in a brazen manner, just a little ahead of the usual parking space in the porch.
He would then barge in briskly, impressing upon all and sundry that he was a big shot who did not need any frisking or questioning, and that if he was subjected to such an indiscretion, the sentry might have to face the (disciplinary) music. If at all the polite-but-firm guard indulged in the temerity of bothering this man, he would make his hand reach his pocket as if to flaunt his I-card (which he did not have) at the same time saying, “ Now, do I show you something!” And most of the times, he would have the right of way followed by a smart salute.
A civilian guest to an army unit was accompanying a Major on the round .To the salutation of all men encountered on the way the Major replied, “Same to you!” The guest asked him why he was not answering the salute and instead saying, “Same to you.” “I know what”, the Major said, “they whisper to themselves while saluting
Punjabi favoured at primary level
MANY people develop ambivalent language attitudes under cultural, pragmatic and socio-economic pressures. Such is the linguistic situation in Punjab: Punjabi is the state language, Hindi is the national language and English is presented as the link language as also the language of science and technology. The intelligentsia and the bureaucracy flaunt English as the language of better governance and knowledge. A high proficiency in English ensures better employment opportunities.
Punjabi is characterised as the language of cultural group association and the language of contact between the ruling elite and the masses. The notion of English as a powerful language has trickled down to the lower ranks and the parents belonging even to the lower middle class status send their children to expensive English medium schools.
In this backdrop we conducted a research on the postgraduate students of English/ Punjabi/ Hindi in Punjab to study the correlation between socio-economic background, language attitudes and motivation of postgraduate students of English/ Punjabi/ Hindi in Punjab as the students at this stage have the choice and they are at the threshold of becoming major players in the social dynamics; they are the real stakeholders as well as constituents of the future Punjabi community.
The results based on the responses of these students at Panjab University, Punjabi University and Guru Nanak Dev University reveal that there is a significant correlation among the factors such as area of residence, educational, professional and economic status of parents, school education and linguistic skills of a respondent on the one hand and between these factors and the choice of an individual to postgraduate in English, Punjabi or Hindi, on the other.
The students whose socio-economic background is low often postgraduate in Punjabi or Hindi and since they postgraduate in Punjabi or Hindi, they have fewer job opportunities and economic benefits in comparison with those who postgraduate in English.
The children/wards of the educated parents benefit from the awareness, access, encouragement, knowledge and economic position of their parents. Parents’ education is very important in shaping attitudes and developing abilities of their children. More than 63% of the students of English claimed that education of their father was postgraduation and above, while only 21% of the students of Punjabi made such claims.
The positive attitudes of students towards English do not necessarily and automatically lead to the negative attitudes towards Punjabi. Rather the majority of the students of English, Punjabi and Hindi suggested Punjabi as the more suitable medium of instruction at the primary level, while English language to be introduced as a compulsory subject from the first standard. They also suggested English as the medium of instruction for the higher courses in science and technology. An important lesson that we can draw is that the motivation of the students to acquire proficiency in Punjabi and English will change if the circumstances that generate instrumental and environment adaptive value of a language are changed.
The level of linguistic skills in different languages reflects in the choice of English, Punjabi or Hindi in an interesting manner: those who claim to have a high level of linguistic skills in all the three languages choose to postgraduation in English and those who possess low-level of linguistic skills in English are circumstantially restricted in their choice of either Punjabi or Hindi.
Between Punjabi and Hindi, Punjabi is preferred due to reasons like cultural association, more job opportunities within the state and better linguistic proficiency. It is thus obvious that given the choice, English is the favoured language for postgraduation and it is also obvious that the choice is conditioned by the instrumental motivation. Thus the policies and socio-economic circumstances being favourable to English assign it the status of an asset worth possessing. It is thus creating a new constituency of those who possess this asset and those who do not. It is an emerging situation of linguistic inequality which is instrumental but at the same time contingent on other inequalities.
English and Hindi are penetrating the life of Punjabi educated youth in a vigorous manner resulting in a potential multilingual setting. It points to a partial language shift and to future possibility of a mixed language. It may seemingly not pose any threat to the development and maintenance of the native language and culture, but its real force may be gauged from the increasing number of English medium schools. Now even DAV and Khalsa educational societies have instituted new English medium schools in Punjab.
It is not that we should stop learning English but the need is that the socio-economic realities should be changed so that Punjabi gains more instrumental value. English must be taught from the first standard but the medium of instruction must be Punjabi at least at the primary level.
The argument here is not to eliminate English but to say that the role of English must be characterised by the critical discourse that unfolds social inequalities and injustice resulting directly from the exclusive and hegemonic use of English and also by an awareness of the rich multilingual heritage of the learner. It has been rightly said, “In a country like India, the question is not whether English or Indian languages but English and Indian languages”.
The writer is a Reader in the Deptt. of English, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
Check out — A column on consumer rights by Pushpa Girimaji
A few years ago, the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs wrote to all the state governments, drawing their attention to the need for protecting consumers from unfair terms and conditions stipulated on cash receipts issued by retailers. Referring particularly to the condition that “Goods once sold will not be taken back or exchanged” printed routinely on cash receipts, the ministry urged the state governments to take “appropriate action” to protect consumer interest and ensure that such terms are not printed on receipts. Predictably, most state governments ignored the letter.
For years, businesses have used such terms and conditions to escape responsibility for the poor quality of goods sold or services rendered. “No guarantee for colour or zari” say many shops selling sarees and dress materials. Similarly, receipts of drycleaners carry conditions such as “The drycleaner does not take responsibility for any damage to fabrics caused during dry cleaning”. “In case the clothes given for dry cleaning are lost, the drycleaner will assess its value and pay only 50 per cent of the assessed cost”
Well, a recent order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission now makes it clear that such terms and conditions printed on receipts cannot absolve the shopkeeper of his liability towards defective goods or deficient services. .(Tip Top Drycleaners vs Sunil Kumar, Revision Petition No 1328 of 2003).
The central issue in this case was whether the drycleaner can take shelter under the conditions printed on the back of the receipt and refuse to compensate the customer for the loss of clothes given for dry cleaning.. Mr Sunil Kumar, the complainant, had not taken delivery of the clothes that he had given for dry cleaning to Tip Top Drycleaners, Ranchi, on the due date. He had handed over the clothes in April (one piece) and May (13 pieces) 2000. On November 6, he came to collect the clothes, found that he had insufficient cash with him and so took the delivery of nine pieces and left the remaining five. Meanwhile, on December 4, a fire broke out on the drycleaners premises and completely destroyed all the goods, including Kumar’s clothes.
When Kumar asked the drycleaner to make good his loss, the drycleaner pointed to the conditions printed on the back of the receipt. One such condition was that the drycleaner’s liability ceased after two months if the delivery was not taken on the due date. It even stipulated that “if any article is not taken delivery of and all charges paid within two months after due date, the firm shall be at liberty to sell or dispose of the same privately or by auction and apply the net proceedings towards the payment of all indebtedness of the customer to the firm” The drycleaner said these conditions ensured that he did not have to pay Kumar any money for the destruction of his clothes in the fire.
When pressed further, the drycleaner pointed to another condition that said: “In case of fire, theft, misplacement or interchange, the liability of the drycleaner is limited to only 50 per cent of the cost of the clothes”. He eventually paid Kumar only Rs 5,000 towards the cost of a suit, two coats, one shirt and a tie.
Kumar then sought the help of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Ranchi. While Kumar wanted the drycleaner to make good his loss, the dry cleaner’s contention was that he was not required to pay anything at all as per the terms printed on the receipt. Yet, he had paid Rs 5,000 as “full and final” settlement. After considering all the facts of the case, the District Forum awarded him Rs 15,350.
On the ground that this went against the conditions printed on the receipt, the dry cleaner appealed against it before the Jharkhand State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and subsequently, the National Commission. Both rejected the appeal. The apex consumer court, in its order delivered in May this year, made it clear that the drycleaner cannot bind the consumer to the terms and conditions printed on the back of the receipt. The customer had not seen the conditions nor had he signed his acceptance of those. “As a matter of fact nobody reads the conditions on the back of the receipt”, the commission said.
In an earlier order too, the National Commission had held that conditions in small print limiting the liability of a service provider were not valid if the customer’s attention was not drawn towards it and her or his signature obtained to show that the terms had been accepted by her or him. The case pertained to the failure of a courier to deliver an application form for admission to a medical college sent by a student.
Concurring with the decision of the lower consumer courts to award a compensation of Rs 20,000 to the student, the apex consumer court had pointed out that first, the conditions printed on the courier’s receipt limiting the liability of the courier in case of non-delivery was in extremely small and fine print. Second, there was no signature to show that the customer’s attention had been drawn to the conditions and had accepted them. (Blue Dart Express Limited vs Stephen Livera, RP No 393 of 1997).
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