September 3, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Our bomb, their bomb
Turmoil in universities
In another arena
Indo-Israeli strategic cooperation
“Chharas” and freedom struggle
Striving to banish starvation amid plenty
A secular front on anvil?
Our bomb, their bomb
THE first meeting of the Political Council of India's Nuclear Command Authority on Monday underlined the fact that the so-called nuclear button is safely in the hands of the Prime Minister. Eight months ago, the Vajpayee government had made public the civilian control of the nuclear command structure. It had ended all speculations and had brought transparency to the control system that was being put in place. There is now greater international appreciation of India's nuclear doctrine, which is not country-specific but is attuned to the growing security needs of the country. It is now three decades since India mastered the nuclear technology and began harnessing its potential. Again, it is now five years since it demonstrated its nuclear weapon capability at Pokharan. During this long period, there has not been a single instance of proliferation for which India could be blamed. As Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee disclosed recently, there were many tempting offers, which India had spurned in the interest of nuclear non-proliferation. Though some of the sanctions imposed on India still remain, the world today recognises India's sense of responsibility, restraint and disciplined behaviour.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Pakistan, whose nuclear programme has always been clandestine and India-specific. There is a large body of evidence to suggest that Pakistan's nuclear and missile programmes are based on knowhow obtained secretly. It is now common knowledge that without the help of China, Pakistan could not have gone in for a blast at Chagai days after India tested its device at Pokharan. What's worse, it is also guilty of proliferation as it has been supplying knowhow and enriched uranium to North Korea in return for missile technology. Yet, the irony is that this has not prevented Pakistan from getting a kid-glove treatment from countries like the US. Because Pakistan claims to be in the forefront of the fight against terrorism, it is even able to get substantial economic aid, most of which is used for further armament.
Unlike India, there is no transparency about Pakistan's nuclear command structure. President Musharraf holds Pakistan's nuclear button by virtue of the fact that he is a military ruler, it does not set at rest fears that Pakistan's nuclear weapons can land in undesirable hands. After all, he is not answerable to anyone. The world dreads the prospect of a coup or some such development in Pakistan when the nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of the jehadi forces. Musharraf has been cashing in on such fears to cosy up to the West and to get goodies from it. So long as a transparent, democratic system eludes Pakistan, such fears will persist in the world. These need to be allayed.
Turmoil in universities
THE latest developments at Punjabi University, Patiala, and Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, are the result of political meddling in the academic affairs of the two premier institutions of this region. The sudden closure of Punjabi University by the Vice-Chancellor, Mr S.S. Boparai, following a student agitation over a sharp increase in fees was a hasty step that took academic circles by surprise. The former IAS-turned-VC has accused his senior colleague, the Pro-VC, of fomenting trouble and the district authorities of delaying police deployment on the campus. An academic VC with experience of dealing with students could have deftly handled the situation by just listening to the protesters, whose demand is not altogether unjustified. If the government can roll back the fee hike in Punjab colleges, why not in the universities? While the universities need to cut down their wasteful expenditure and generate own resources to the extent possible, the state governments should treat education as a priority and continue the required aid.
The Executive Council of HPU, a majority of whose members are reported to be government nominees, took the unusual step of holding a meeting on Saturday without the statutory head being in the chair. It rather forced the Vice-Chancellor, Prof S.D.Sharma, an appointee of the previous government, to leave the meeting and recommended to the Chancellor to send the VC on leave to ensure an independent inquiry into allegations of misuse of power and financial irregularities levelled against Professor Sharma. The legality of the meeting is being questioned and the Chancellor’s response to the turbulent events is awaited. While only an inquiry will establish how far the allegations are true, the way the Executive Council has treated the VC cannot earn it respect from the public.
The root cause of trouble in some of the universities is the interference in their functioning by shortsighted politicians in power. If appointments are not made properly and wisely, specially in the selection of a VC, this is bound to cause heartburn. Ideally, a VC should be an academic, taller than those around him, with reasonable administrative skill and proven integrity. But politicians prefer a pliable academic or a loyal civil servant as a VC. Transparency in decisions, a fair play in admissions and more funds can restore order on the campuses.
In another arena
FLYING Sikh Milkha Singh had a grouse about the non-representation of sportspersons in the Rajya Sabha. A television channel showed him as saying that "we give our lives for the country". He was evidently referring to the short career span of sportspersons. He should now be happy. In Dara Singh the Rajya Sabha will have a real heavyweight, both literally and figuratively, as one of its new members. It may prove to be a grave error of judgment for members who take him lightly. According to an old Indian saying it is wise to laugh with a wrestler, even if the cause for the laughter is not clear, rather than laugh at him, even though there may be a valid reason for a bout of unrestrained laughter. Dara Singh is clearly the exception that proves the rule.
At 70 plus his career as a professional wrestler is over, but the sports world's loss has been Bollywood's gain. And now a real life role as an elder statesman. He should not feel lost in the new role. He has the example of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, a wrestler-turned-teacher-turned politician, to help him find his way in the complex world of Indian politics. Of course, in the Rajya Sabha he may not be called upon to do what the UP lawmakers once did inside the House. That is just as well. It will help him retain his image as a gentle giant. He can also learn the secret of actors becoming successful politicians from the ultimate Hollywood hunk Arnold Schwarzenegger who is running for the governorship of California.
Dara Singh had won the ultimate title of Rustam-e-Zaman, and retired undefeated as Rustam-e-Hind, before quitting the "akhara" for a career in films. His co-stars have interesting tales to tell why some of the fight scenes with him looked so real! He floored the best in the business of acting through his uncomplicated approach to emoting. That approach may prove to be the key to his success as a Rajya Sabha member.
Thought for the day
Indo-Israeli strategic cooperation
JUST over half a century ago two ancient peoples managed to cast off the bonds of colonial rule and assert their political independence as sovereign nation-states. At their inception, the newly born states could hardly have been more dissimilar. The one, India, was a giant subcontinent with an enormous and impoverished indigenous population. The other, Israel, was minuscule in size but eager to augment the sparse numbers of its domestic populace by large-scale immigration from countries as diverse as Morocco and Austria, Yemen and Canada.
Moreover, despite the fact that both opted for heavily state-controlled economies in their early years, the divergence between the two countries appeared to grow over time. Israel, on the one hand, gradually began to adopt an orientation increasingly conducive to free trade and private enterprise. India, on the other hand, continued to maintain its emphasis on centralised control and an aspiration for economic autarky. On the political and diplomatic front, Israel and India were estranged for several decades, with the former unequivocally aligned with the US, while the latter opted to maintain close links with the Soviet Union.
This significant Indo-Israel disparity hardly boded well for mutual cooperation between the two nations, which remained a vision entertained only by a few far-sighted optimists. However, since the onset of the 1990s with the fall of the Soviet bloc and the accelerating liberalisation of the Indian economy, considerably, dramatic changes have begun to take place, bringing with them a marked convergence of Indo-Israeli interests and policy goals.
The future of Indo-Israeli relationship should not be left only to the political and state institutions of the two countries. For it would then be dependent on the prevailing vagaries or constraints of incumbent governments. Accordingly, it should be bolstered by the more durable ties cultivated by networks of like-minded elites within civil society. Such elites often have a view of the long-term national interest which is more far- sighted, clearer and less cluttered than those of incumbent office-bearers. They may thus be better equipped to compel politicians to engage in issues which they would otherwise be loath to, or constrained from, dealing with. Thus, the future of Indo-Israeli relations should, in many aspects, be “privatised”, at least insofar as it relates to laying the groundwork for its long-term durability.
Israeli and Indian sea power could become a factor of increasing significance. Israel’s long-term strategic need to strengthen its navy corresponds well with India’s desire to extend its maritime capabilities. New Delhi appears to be placing growing emphasis on its sea-borne prowess, primarily to patrol its enormously long (8000 km) coastline. However, there are signs of an emerging awareness of its potential as a strategic second-strike facility in the case of non-conventional attack, possibly comprising nuclear submarines and a locally built aircraft carrier.
Israeli technological expertise in areas such as electronic support systems and counter-measures, radar surveillance and sea-to-sea missiles could be fruitfully exploited by India to create a strong sea-based deterrent force that is likely to have a stabilising effect in the region. Indeed, in several of these areas there have already been reports of bilateral contacts — and in some cases contracts — for the installation of Israeli equipment in the Indian Navy, as well as for joint development of naval systems and patrol vessels. Israeli and Indian motives for the development of maritime power seem to have different but non-conflicting emphasis. For Israel, although patrolling its 200-km coastline is undoubtedly important, it is primarily the need to create platforms for elusive second-strike retaliatory capabilities outside its minuscule territorial dimensions that is likely to elevate the strategic importance of its navy. The US must seriously address the question of who will dominate the Indian Ocean, the eastern approaches to Europe and South and Central Asia.
There are, however, considerations beyond regional stability that make a vibrant Indo-Israeli axis a clear US interest. In terms of the geostrategic balance of power, a growing apprehension of a future Chinese challenge to US primacy will, in all probability, lead to a commensurate warming of sentiment in Washington to the notion of regional counterweight to Chinese domination. In this regard, a powerful, progressive India, bolstered by Israeli technological expertise, is a prospect that would be clearly concordant with such an American goal.
However, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the policy of liberalisation instituted by New Delhi, the US continued to be reticent in its relations with India. Indeed, following the Indian nuclear test in 1998, reticence turned into unequivocal opposition, including the imposition of American sanctions against the country. In the wake of the May 1999 insurgency in Kashmir from across the Pakistani border, there appeared to be emerging signs of a thaw in Washington’s attitude towards India and strenuous efforts should be invested in ensuring that this trend is not only maintained but strengthened. Such endeavours ought to be channeled towards promoting US recognition that strong Indo-Israeli ties are not only compatible with but also conducive to America’s strategic interests. Hence fostering trilateral Indo-American-Israeli cooperation and coordination is likely to produce considerable benefits for all sides.
Israel’s experience gained during its long and war-torn history would be invaluable to India in bolstering its security and in helping it repel those who would assail it. Israeli expertise in techniques of border surveillance, sensor technology and electronic detection could contribute to the prevention of undetected incursions into sensitive regions along the Indian frontier such as that experienced in Kashmir.
Other areas of collaboration that could enhance the capabilities of the Indian Army relate to the upgrading of many aspects of India’s military inventory. Such upgrading need not be restricted to the often cited fields of avionics, radar equipment, missile technology and other electronic systems. India could also benefit from Israel’s extensive combat experience by introducing proven improvements in the personal equipment (and therefore in the combat effectiveness) of the Indian soldier — from footwear and clothing to the type of weapons and ammunition.
Democratic peace is indeed a concept of tremendous significance. However, it has not as yet been given its rightful weight in the formulation of the foreign policies of most nations (particularly and perversely in that of the US, which in many cases seems to persist in an unfounded evenhandedness in its attitudes toward libertarian and authoritarian regimes). It is therefore, important that both India and Israel act vigorously to make this feature of international conduct the conceptual cornerstone and foundation for both the bilateral relations between the two countries and for the mobilisation of US support in favour of their continuing strength and development.
“Chharas” and freedom struggle
SOCIETY has been, by and large, unkind to chronic bachelors, teasingly called “chharas” in Punjab. The realisation came to my mind after the death of Baba Khem Singh of Mansa. At his bhog ceremony, one of the elders paying tributes narrated stories regarding his contribution to the freedom of the country.
All those who used to deride the Baba by calling him “chhara” felt guilty for a while for their behaviour with him when he was alive. However, all this generated a curiosity to find out if there have been any other “chhara(s)” who played a role in freeing the country from the British. Interestingly, many revelations came the way once I started dwelling on the subject.
In Punjab, freedom fighters — you may call them rebels or revolutionaries — fought on two fronts, especially in the Malwa region, which was called PEPSU. Besides freeing the country from the colonial bondage, they were also active against the local princes and their agents. Princely states were known as “riyasats”.
Most of the rebels used to have close contact with “chharas” of the area for a specific purpose. “Chharas” used to provide shelter to freedom fighters and parza-mandalists (who were fighting against princely states) in the Malwa region.
The British and princes had a well-developed network of their toadies, who used to give all sort of information about the activities of the rebels. Even women and children of those families, who extended any helping hand or provided shelter to revolutionaries, were subjected to brutal treatment by agents of princes and the British rulers. All family members were arrested and put behind bars after a prolonged torture.
To avoid police harassment to women, children and other folks, rebels in all their wisdom came out with a solution of staying with “chharas” while working as underground rebels.
Hari Singh, Dalip Singh and Puran Singh of Bir Khurad village, near Mansa, were all chronic bachelors. They provided cover to those who were fighting against the feudal lords, front men of various princely states. Likewise, freedom fighters such as Dharm Singh Fakkar, Teja Singh Swatantar, Jagir Singh Joga and Sarwan Singh Bir stayed by and large with Bir Singh, Tirlok Singh Gurila of Dalel Singh Wala, Bagga Singh of Channarthal and Mehar Singh Nihang of Kasaiwara village near Bathinda. They were all chronic bachelors, who extended all support to revolutionaries.
And there have been revolutionaries, who remained bachelor, because of their commitment to a greater cause of freedom. Even today, if one is to look around at the national level, one can find several leaders, who remained unmarried because of their active participation in freedom struggle.
Another interesting factor was use of railway stations by rebels to their advantage to escape arrest. All stations in the princely states were a property of the then “Angrezi rulers” of India. Angrez rulers had built railway stations by acquiring land from the riyasats. To avoid arrest in the hands of the riyasati agents, parza-mandalists used to take shelter in railway station buildings. The beginning of most of the agitations against the then Raja of Faridkot started at a railway station there. The late Giani Zail Singh was one of the main rebels against the raja.
Boundaries of princely states were by and large unguarded. It was easy for rebels to cross over from one princely state to another to avoid arrest. The twin towns of Rampura and Phul, now in Bathinda district, had a common railway station, but while Rampura was a part of Patiala state, Phul was part of the Nabha State. It was very convenient for rebels to cross from Patiala state to Nabha and vice-versa to avoid arrest.
Because of their role in freedom struggle, there is a strong case in favour of “chharas” that Punjabi writers, especially lyrists and folk singers, who have been ridiculing them no end in their creations, should change their perception about them. One hardly finds a word of praise for them in Punjabi folk songs. The only exception seems to be Gurdas Mann, who recently paid a glowing tribute to these people in one of his songs, “Sade chharian da dunia te sardari”. Whom he was referring to in the song, is easily
Striving to banish starvation amid plenty
INDIA is his chosen battleground and his war is against the twin problems of poverty and under-nourishment ailing the country. Born in Belgium, educated in the United Kingdom and addicted to
Clad in his usual kurta and jeans, Prof Dreze is busy working on his computer in his room at the Delhi School of Economics when this correspondent catches up with him. The switch from the machine to his only passion in life, the campaign, is easy.
Almost immediately, he is on a different wave length, talking of the project close to his heart. “The idea is to make the ‘Right to Food’ campaign a mass movement and make hunger a political issue. Despite creating headlines drought after drought, hunger has not generated a debate and the problem is going unaddressed. If it becomes a political priority, there are chances that something will be done. However, at our level we are doing the best we can, roping in orgnaisations and individuals,” he asserts.
Considered an authority on development economics, he is fired by the mission of “research for action”, which has contributed to expanding the scope of the campaign.” There is no fun in research if it does not contribute to addressing problems of society and remains confined to academics. Most surveys conducted and data collected are usual since these lack credibility and objectivity. We try to overcome these problems and present the true picture,” he says.
Back to his monitor, a computer-savvy Prof Dreze clicks on the website of the campaign as he recalls the initial years of struggle when their support group of four members had no identity of its own. Travelling and touring as well as chalking out a strategy to reach out to the people kept their hands full.
“It all began in mid-2001 when the prevalence of “hunger amidst plenty” took a new turn. The country’s stocks reached unprecedented levels while hunger intensified in drought-affected areas and elsewhere. This situation prompted the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan, to approach the Supreme Court with a writ petition on the right to food. The petition demanded that the country’s gigantic food stocks should be used without delay to protect people from hunger and starvation,” he explains.
With a vivid memory of how the campaign took shape, Prof Dreze narrates, “We used to have regular discussions on the case and the arguments we were to present. During one such session, the idea of a campaign to push forward our cause cropped up. Our enthusiasm soared when we first tasted success in the implementation of the cooked mid-day meal in schools following interim orders of the Supreme Court. After that there was no looking back.”
Growing at a steady pace, the campaign has taken up cudgels on behalf of emancipated women, undernourished children and malnourished tribal people, in the states of Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh after a rigourous round of surveys.
“We are a decentralised network, which builds on local initiative and voluntary cooperation. We have a small support group of Colin Gonsalvez, Harsh Mander, Kavita Srivastava and myself, which plays a basic facilitating role in the larger campaign. In these states we have managed to strengthen our base with the help of organisations and individuals,” explains Prof Dreze.
Participating in the Right to Food campaign in their personal capacity sans any remuneration, the group members, though, have grown from strength to strength, they are still preparing the ground in other states where nourishment and health present a dismal picture.
Surrounded with files, printed matter and books in Hindi and English on the Right to Food, Prof Dreze, himself a fluent speaker of Hindi, digs into a pile of papers to recover a file on the many linkages to the campaign which have widened its scope and gone beyond the petition in court.
Married to an Indian, who shares his zest for working for the under-privileged and is as committed to making the campaign a success, Prof Dreze is accompanied by his wife, Bela, a Fellow at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi, on his journey to the remotest of villages. At home in India, his love for the country was almost instant.
“I first came to India as a student in 1979 and knew I would never go back. I did return to the UK briefly, worked with the Gulf Peace team but returned to the place I belonged to. I am dyed in the wool Indian and I felt my bearings were here. Then, Bela came along to complete my circle,” he contends.
Traversing to the interiors of the country together, the couple has no hang-ups about travelling by third class in a train, a bus or a tempo or the place of stay. The only thing that matters is their mission and their people. “All this is tough and involves a lot of back-breaking work but she has always been by my side, supporting me, encouraging me and motivating me. I met her in London during my stint as a lecturer at the London School of Economics and, then again, in Gujarat, where she was working with small farmers. It was after this meeting that we decided to get married,” he remembers fondly.
Talking of his job at the London School of Economics, Prof Dreze turns to another interesting chapter in his life’s book—that of co-authoring three books, “Hunger and Public Action” in 1989, “India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity” in 1995 and “India: Development and Participation” in 2000 and editing a couple of others with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
A secular front on anvil?
THE irascible Janata Party chief, Subramanian Swamy, is taking up the cause of Chandra Shekhar to head a broad secular front with the Congress included but minus Sonia Gandhi. Though Chandra Shekhar has invariably kept his counsel to himself in such matters, the proposal appears headed for a premature crash even before its takeoff. Swamy is clearly testing the waters of disgruntled Congressmen who are unhappy with Sonia Gandhi being at the helm of affairs in drawingroom conversation but afraid to come out in the open seeking a change in leadership. The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has had an indelible sway on the Congress and Congressmen are not known to desert the ship till the ship starts sinking. Swamy is not the one to throw in the towel easily.
Ex-PMs’ invite Four former Prime Ministers — Chandra Shekhar, P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda and I K
Gujral — teamed up to host a rendition of poems of “our very dear friend” VP Singh in the Parliament House complex the other day. “Listening to his rendition of simple,
beautiful and humane poetry is a rare opportunity,” they observed. President A P J Abdul Kalam and the four former PMs were in attendance in a very select audience. Not everyone in the audience, however, understood Hindi and poetic nuances. That found Kalam and Deve Gowda in deep conversation to the annoyance of others who wanted to savour V.P. Singh’s poetry.
Four former Prime Ministers — Chandra Shekhar, P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda and I K Gujral — teamed up to host a rendition of poems of “our very dear friend” VP Singh in the Parliament House complex the other day. “Listening to his rendition of simple, beautiful and humane poetry is a rare opportunity,” they observed.
President A P J Abdul Kalam and the four former PMs were in attendance in a very select audience.
Not everyone in the audience, however, understood Hindi and poetic nuances. That found Kalam and Deve Gowda in deep conversation to the annoyance of others who wanted to savour V.P. Singh’s poetry.
Congress woes Congressmen in UP are keen that they should join the Mulayam Singh Yadav government in Lucknow. As usual, the party high command is yet to make up its mind whether to be part of the government or extend support from outside. The 16 Congress legislators in UP might just cross the floor for the “lal bathi”, a euphemism for a ministerial berth in the country’s most populous state. Congress strategists are in a dilemma because the BSP’s ousted Chief Minister, Mayawati, has sent feelers that she is willing to have an arrangement with them in the event of a snap poll in UP provided the Congress steers clear of Mulayam Singh Yadav. The question is: can Mayawati be taken at face value after having divorced the BJP no less than three times?
Congressmen in UP are keen that they should join the Mulayam Singh Yadav government in Lucknow. As usual, the party high command is yet to make up its mind whether to be part of the government or extend support from outside. The 16 Congress legislators in UP might just cross the floor for the “lal bathi”, a euphemism for a ministerial berth in the country’s most populous state. Congress strategists are in a dilemma because the BSP’s ousted Chief Minister, Mayawati, has sent feelers that she is willing to have an arrangement with them in the event of a snap poll in UP provided the Congress steers clear of Mulayam Singh Yadav. The question is: can Mayawati be taken at face value after having divorced the BJP no less than three times?
Parting advice The following is the parting advice the BJP gave to the BSP during the political impasse in UP: “Dushmani jam kar karo Lekin yeh gunjaish rahe Jab kabhi ham dost ban jayen To sharminda na ho.” Hello, is anybody listening?
The following is the parting advice the BJP gave to the BSP during the political impasse in UP:
“Dushmani jam kar karo Lekin yeh gunjaish rahe
Jab kabhi ham dost ban jayen
To sharminda na ho.”
Hello, is anybody listening?
Three Ms Has Atal Bihari Vajpayee emerged yet again an astute strategist after the fall of the Mayawati government in UP? Political watchers point out that true to his image, Vajpayee has left at least three women huffing on the roadside in his path to ensure that no harm comes to the party he leads with such control. The targets, or victims if you please, have been three women whose names start with the alphabet `M’. First it was Mamata Banerjee, then Maneka Gandhi and now Mayawati. Although Ms Banerjee is due to make a comeback in the Union Cabinet after being left out in the cold for a long time. Contributed by T.R. Ramachanran, R Suryamurthy and Girja Shankar Kaura
Has Atal Bihari Vajpayee emerged yet again an astute strategist after the fall of the Mayawati government in UP? Political watchers point out that true to his image, Vajpayee has left at least three women huffing on the roadside in his path to ensure that no harm comes to the party he leads with such control.
The targets, or victims if you please, have been three women whose names start with the alphabet `M’. First it was Mamata Banerjee, then Maneka Gandhi and now Mayawati. Although Ms Banerjee is due to make a comeback in the Union Cabinet after being left out in the cold for a long time.
Contributed by T.R. Ramachanran, R Suryamurthy and Girja Shankar Kaura
The purer the body and mind, the quicker the desired result will be obtained. You must be perfectly pure. Do not think of evil things, such thoughts will surely drag you down.
If you are perfectly pure and practice faithfully, your mind can finally be made a searchlight of infinite power. There is no limit to its scope. But there must be constant practice and non-attachment to the world.
— Swami Vivekananda
It is no sin for you to enter uninhabited houses wherein is comfort for you. Allah knoweth what ye proclaim and what ye hide.
— The Koran
A man of God never strives after untruth and therefore he can never lose hope.
— Mahatma Gandhi
Behold! My heart dances in the delight of a hundred arts; and the Creator is well pleased.
The best perfection of a religious man is to do common things in a perfect manner.
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