Friday, September 12, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Consensus must on all major national issues

Apropos of Mr H.K. Dua’s article “Consensus, not confrontation: keep some issues above petty politics” (Aug 23), in today’s fractured polity, there is a need for national consensus on some basic issues like education, poverty and unemployment. Unfortunately, the rulers in our country have been treating the Opposition with contempt and derision. They don’t like even fair criticism of their policies and programmes.

The usual rhetoric of their aggressive spokesman is “This is merely politically motivated”. They don't think “Dissent is natural for democracy”. Mr Dua sounds quite realistic in his down-to-earth observation that "religion and caste have divided every village". The commoners don't trust politicians but their disunity and division keep them tied down to utter negligence and exploitation.

If we take a close look at the banal debates in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies, we really feel sorry because even the so-called national leaders avoid their opponents and skirt a meaningful scrutiny of their fears and doubts. Many political parties don't find it unscrupulous and unethical to defend their leaders even if they are corrupt and tainted. Great leaders have always been self-critical, self-effacing and perhaps the most sensible human beings on the earth.



Given our mediocre leadership, we have a fractured polity. Most of them can't see beyond castes, religions and regions. They are parochial, communal and even insensitive as most of them attach the greatest importance to winning the elections and then staying in power for five years.

Consensus is possible only when we are ready to listen to our die-hard critics and try to remove our drawbacks honestly. The selfless, patriotic and seasoned Opposition leaders ought to be regularly consulted at the time of national crisis and even for addressing the main problems of the masses. In such a big country like ours, we can't force millions of people to think and behave in the same way.

Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee wants to have consensus on foreign policy. His intention is clear but shouldn't he (as Mr Dua also opines) try to develop consensus on domestic issues also?



This has reference to Mr H.K. Dua's article "Consensus, not confrontation; keep some issues above petty politics". No right-thinking person would differ with Mr Dua that for better and smoother functioning of the government there must be a national consensus on major issues. This would be possible not by proclaiming dogmas and principles on either side but by subordinating them to imperatives of national interest and by enlisting support, however ad hoc, for compromises between principles.

Prime Minister Vajpayee would do well to direct his government in a manner where contentious issues are consciously avoided. Instead of conflicting statements of intent by senior leaders and introduction of bills in haste, the government should establish a framework of decision-making by national consensus, taking the Opposition into confidence at every stage.



In his article “Consensus, not confrontation” (Aug 23), Mr H.K. Dua has rightly stressed the need for consensus rather than confrontation in our polity. He has aptly picked up the Emergency and the demolition of Babri Masjid as two most important events which dealt a severe blow to the country and its institutions. In spite of the shrillness of the debate on the No Confidence Motion in the Lok Sabha, it is good that both the BJP and the Congress forge consensus on important issues such as terrorism, Kashmir and Pak-related policy, sending troops to Iraq or the ongoign process of economic liberalisation. What is, however, needed is maximum interaction between the parties on issues like effective and transparent governance and fighting corruption.

There is also need for consensus on judicial and constitutional reforms to make democracy more pro-people by ensuring the rule of law so as to safeguard the day-to-day life of our citizens. Issues like heath, education, environment and overall development are other spheres which must be included in the consensual agenda of the major parties who should be bound to the policy, irrespective of being in the ruling party or in the Opposition.

Brig H.S. SANDHU (retd), Panchkula

Another clean chit

I was surprised to go through the report “No need to shift Ranbaxy lab” (Aug 28) wherein Ranbaxy got an unqualified reprieve from the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC). Though the latter said that the former need not shift the unit from its present (prime) location, at the same time, it has asked the firm to get an inspection carried out by the National Safety Council.

Is it not contradictory to give a ruling first and then speak about inspection? This is like putting the cart before the horse. The other day, the Union Health Minister gave a similar clearance to soft drink companies in haste, but soon she had to retract.

The PSHRC is supposed to be a check on the autocratic use of the sovereign power by the state and its agencies in society. However, by declaring that there is no need of an investigation into the devastating fire in the laboratory on June 11, 2003 by an independent agency and that compensation to the victims or their dependents be considered on compassionate grounds is neither fair nor justifiable.

Compensation is a sort of penalty on the erring firm for its acts of omission and commission. The argument that the firm is giving employment to hundreds of families (Union Carbide also gave employment to thousands of families affected in the Bhopal gas plant) and that all articles were burnt and hence it would be futile to investigate the matter further does not hold water. The PSHRC should not have given a clean chit to the firm.

PROF M.R. DANG, Dharamshala

Bush’s gameplan

Bush’s brusque brushing broadside at the UN and his arrogant assault on Iraq with shock and awe (some) arsenal betrays symptoms of a dreaded disease that afflicts him; a disease that was, quite confessedly, diagnosed and proclaimed by the patient himself: Be with us, be thus. Against us, face us!

His decision (and instant action thereon) to eliminate Saddam, (a colleague of sorts whose competitive imbecility is equally capable of destroying world peace, if not the world, albeit with ‘Not Approved’ set of armaments) had it been deliberate, had it been consensual, would have been welcomed by one and all.

However, his Kangaroo-courtish award of capital punishment to Saddam is worse than the one meted out by an Inspecting Colonel (in an advertisement for an undergarment aired these days on TV) whose disapproving shake of ‘greyless’ head results in a rookie face the firing squad that very instant. The unfortunate Rookie had incurred Colonel’s Idi Aminsque wrath as he, unlike other trainees, neither wore his superior’s favourite (or, may be, otherwise made mandatory by his whimsical diktat) Dixcy Banian. Nor was the Rookie truthful about it while answering to the Colonel’s questioning glance.

Bush must have taken a cue from this Colonel Blimp (there are dime a dozen in the American Army) who, rather than inspecting the brand tag (read, ordering Hans Blix to have another dekko), was smugly satisfied of the commission of offence just by condescending to allot a cursory glance to and a two-finger feel of the evidence.

Bush promises a second Iraq. He even promises a Utopian third world. He should know: A world at hand is better than the two in Bush!

A. CHANDRA, Chandigarh


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