Sunday, November 30, 2003

Short Takes
Irani demolishes flagbearers of Ayodhya
Jaswant Singh

Ayodhya: Demolishing a Dream
by C.R. Irani. UBS Publishers’ Distributors, New Delhi. Rs 250. Pages. 196.

Ayodhya: Demolishing a DreamC.R. Irani, who came to hold the centre-stage in The Statesman after the withdrawal of British interests, has been commenting on national and international affairs with rare frankness and objectivity which has often embarrassed the high and mighty and vested interests. Particularly hard-hitting are his comments under the title ‘Caveat’ which have the quality of hitting the nail right on the head.

This volume is a collection of nearly 80 selected editorials and ‘Caveats’ written since December 6, 1992, when Babri Masjid at Ayodhya was pulled down by Kar Sewaks. The pieces cover more than a decade marked by changing positions of leaders, who remain unfazed by the contradictions in their statements. The collection begins with Irani’s ‘Caveat’ in the issue of December 7, 1992, a day after the demolition, and after wending its way through the events related to Ayodhya, ends with another ‘Caveat’ in the issue of September 28, 2003,dealing with Murli Manohar Joshi’s resignation after the framing of charges against him and six others by a Rae Bareli court in the demolition case.

In all the pieces, Irani maintains his well-known position regarding the BJP and its politics, mercilessly dissecting the utterances and actions of its leaders and exposing what he has described in the introduction as "the incredible twists and turns by the actors in the drama, now saying one thing, now another, and often contradictory".

Newspaper articles have a short shelf life — just about a day. Irani has lent longevity to his writings on Ayodhya by turning these into a book. However, the last word has not yet been said on the issue, nor has the last act been performed. We can safely expect to hear more on it from the leaders and people like C.R. Irani.

Improving People’s Lives

edited by Mukul Sharma.
 Sage Publications, New Delhi. Rs 280. Pages 210.

Improving People’s LivesIn this age of globalisation, progress is often achieved with little concern for the poor and the marginalised. Growth is generally measured in quantitative terms and these sections who play a major role in creating the wealth of a nation hardly derive any benefit from the progress. Commonwealth Foundation is an inter-governmental organisation with 54 countries as its members, that support the NGOs that facilitate contacts between people to encourage mutual learning in community development. This book is the result of the foundation’s documentation programme and forms part of a series on ‘Lessons in Empowerment’. The first volume was on the Caribbean and the present one relates to the Asian region — India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Malaysia. Written by people working with the NGOs in these countries, the book presents the experiences of these workers. The Indian experience, narrated by Gragory Placid, a postgraduate in Economics from Kerala, is related to ‘Sahai’, a support organisation of the NGOs engaged in a qualitative capacity-building programme.

Ali Dastgir, a product of the London School of Economics, describes six rural support programmes in Pakistan. These programmes happen to be the biggest network of rural development, next only to the government of Pakistan.

Muthuvadivoo Sinnathamby, an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, describe the work of ‘Satyodaya’ among the poor Tamil estate workers. Siti Hawa Ali, a teacher at the School of Health Sciences, University Sains Malaysia, describes the support extended to women by the Women’s Centre for Change, Penang.

These are personal accounts of active workers and describe the programme of empowerment evolved by each organisation to tackle the problems of the poor. These also confront some critical problems in the process and try to suggest answers to a vast range of questions that arise from their experiences. These questions relate to the programmes, the target groups, the fundamental principles of the NGOs, the relationship between the NGOs and the state, the tools of empowerment and how various groups can advance in a modern society. The accounts present a critical analysis of the situation in poverty-stricken Asia and can serve as a guide to bureaucrats, administrators as well as the NGOs concerned with social and rural development.

Psyche of the Common Man

by V.K. Singal. Manas Publications, New Delhi.
Rs 295. Pages 149.

Psyche of the Common ManWhen you toss in your bed and sleep eludes you; when you are in a train that speeds on, swaying on its rhythm of ‘clang, clang’; when you are in a garden savouring the fresh morning breeze, your mind tends to wander in all kinds of directions. Most of the time, these fleeting thoughts disappear in a moment and the mind gets back to mundane matters of daily existence. You do not care to put such thoughts on paper, but not so with engineer-bureaucrat-turned-author V.K. Singal. He has not only given expression to his stray thoughts in this book but also arranged these in alphabetical order, themewise. The result is a collection of statements, even slogans and mottos concerning human behaviour. Some examples:


Anger is often a manifestation of frustration and dissatisfaction with oneself, rather than the result of unacceptable behaviour of others.

Last laugh

Only those can laugh at themselves, can have the last laugh.

These and several other words of wisdom fill the pages of this book. Not all the thoughts will be equally meaningful to all readers. However, surely there will be some who may find some of these relevant to their situations. So here is a collection of a variety of thought on a variety of subjects for you to accept or reject.