Hell called Iraq
SAD manifesto is wrapped in populism
The release of its manifesto by the Shiromani Akali Dal when it is neither in power in the State nor the Assembly elections are in the offing is intriguing, more so when the last manifesto was issued just two years ago.
When Judges protest
From old libraries to new-age
A NATION cannot progress when 15 per cent of its population, spread across the country, remains in pitiable condition. They are as much integral to the development of the country as the rest of the population is. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee hit the nail on the head when he emphasised the need to foster better Hindu-Muslim relations while appealing to the minority community to support the National Democratic Alliance. It is easy to dismiss his appeal as an exercise in garnering votes when elections are already on. His appeal should be seen in the context of the BJP’s efforts to woo the Muslims and other minority communities. Obviously, it realises that the party cannot win an election without their support. What follows from this is the question why it did not recognise this need a little earlier when such efforts would not have aroused suspicion.
To be fair to Mr Vajpayee, he has always been a votary of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood. Except for an aberration when at the Goa conclave of the BJP, he made some remarks which were uncharacteristic of him, he has always upheld the need for communal amity. Small wonder that today he enjoys the support of a large section of the people cutting across the religious divide. But that cannot be said about the Narendra Modis and Ashok Singhals of the Sangh Parivar who are never tired of portraying the Muslims in the darkest hues to curry favour with the communally-inclined. It is they who allowed the riots in Gujarat to continue for long and drew upon the Newton’s law of motion to justify the reaction to the Godhra massacre. If the party had come down heavily on such elements, it would have definitely earned the goodwill of the minorities.
late than never, the BJP has through its election manifesto and the
Vision Document promises steps that will ameliorate the conditions of
the Muslims, who are educationally and economically one of the most
backward communities. The so-called “appeasement” of Muslims during
the last five decades has only worsened their plight with the
community’s representation in various walks of life taking a
consistent nosedive. If the ruling conglomerate recognises this
reality and does something to improve their lot, it will certainly add
lustre to India Shining.
Hell called Iraq
Like most incidents of violence in post-Saddam Iraq, Wednesday’s bomb blasts in the southern city of Basra, though aimed at demoralising the occupation forces, claimed mainly civilian lives — 70 in all. The only difference is that the Basra tragedy devoured a large number of school-going children. Yet the show of anger by the people is not directed against the killers, but the Americans, regarded as the cause of turning Iraq into a virtual hell. While what has happened is the latest proof of the growing chaos and lawlessness in Iraq, US President George W. Bush has blamed Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network for unleashing a new wave of terror. He may be right because a situation like the one prevailing in Iraq suits Al-Qaida and its associates, which have also struck in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) again.
But who provided the terrorists a new and fertile breeding ground? The Iraqis had never experienced terrorism before the US-led invasion of their country over a year ago. Those who believe in Osama’s destructive ideology are having a field day in Iraq today because of the shortsighted US policies under President Bush. He defied world opinion and went ahead with finding a military solution to the Iraqi crisis. However, Mr Bush could not achieve anything beyond a regime change. The crisis in Iraq has only changed its form, which seems to be more dangerous than what was there earlier.
If the Iraqis are living a life of hell amidst suicide
bombings and firings by the occupation forces, the Americans are also
losing lives almost every week, if not every day. Anti-US sentiments are
getting stronger in every area in Iraq, irrespective of the Shia-Sunni
divide. Sectarian issues have taken a back seat in the fight against a
“common enemy”. This shows that the US will continue to pay a heavy
price in terms of money and human lives to ensure its control over
oil-rich Iraq. That is why the US public is thoroughly disappointed with
the Iraq policy of President Bush. Perhaps, the Iraqi resistance forces
are trying to do all they can to further reduce the victory chances of
Mr Bush in the November Presidential elections. Whatever is the truth,
nothing should be allowed to defeat the cause of peace in Iraq.
The release of its manifesto by the Shiromani Akali Dal when it is neither in power in the State nor the Assembly elections are in the offing is intriguing, more so when the last manifesto was issued just two years ago. Be that as it may, the 20-page document is full of populist measures. It has something for everybody, but the most ambitious – and controversial – is the offer to reintroduce free electricity and power. There is consensus among economists that this unwarranted sop was the main cause of the financial difficulties of the State. And yet, the Akalis have committed themselves to making the same mistake again, only to garner the farmers’ votes. Since manifestos do not go into the nitty-gritty of how the finances for this facility will be arranged, one has to take this offer with a pinch of salt. Borrowing from the NDA’s “India Shining” campaign, the Akalis have promised a “shining Punjab”. Trying to do this through “complete eradication of politics of confrontation and replacing it with politics of conciliation and consensus” is welcome but beyond that there are many dark areas.
For instance, the promise to have an employment ministry is vague. Similarly, the undertaking to set up the sixth pay commission for employees and turning Punjab into an IT and industrial hub by opening broad opportunities for economic and political empowerment of youth is in the domain of make-believe. The attempt to woo young voters is prominent but ill-defined.
In a subtle departure from the previous
manifesto, the issue of foreign origin of Mrs Sonia Gandhi has been
soft-pedalled this time. All that the manifesto says is that those who
had no understanding of the culture and heritage of India could hardly
be trusted to solve the problems facing the country. Other ticklish
issues like Chandigarh and SYL have also been given an understated
One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.
When Judges protest
CLOSE on the heels of H.K.Dua’s forthright front page editorial, “It’s censorship”, comes the disquieting headline in The Tribune, “Punjab & Haryana High Court in deep crisis”. Twentyfive Judges proceeded on casual leave en masse on April 19; an extreme form of protest paralysing the court’s work, hitherto unheard of in the annals of the Indian judiciary. The simmering discontent has erupted at last.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court is not the only court where the Chief Justice and most of the puisne Judges are at loggerheads. Differences between the Chief Justice and most of the puisne Judges have been noticed in the South as well.
Strained relations and growing tensions weaken the judicial structure. The Constitution is silent on this aspect. The Chief Justice of India and his senior colleagues should find a way of not only defusing the crisis but also removing the irritants. They have the moral authority to undertake this delicate task. Each one of them, fortunately, commands great respect from the Bench and the Bar in India. Their voice of reason and persuasion is bound to yield results. The institution cannot afford internal dissensions coming out in the open, particularly at a time when it has to face serious challenges of our times.
Corruption has assumed unmanageable proportions and has entered the portals of the judiciary as well. Political battles are fought frequently in the guise of public interest litigation (PIL) these days. The executive and the legislature have lost their credibility as they are unable to provide clean, efficient and honest governance. The extent to which political interference in the administration could go resulting in the miscarriage of justice has come to light in the latest judgement of the Supreme Court in the Best Bakery case. The need of the hour is for the Bench and the Bar to act together to save the judiciary and preserve the rule of law.
The in-house inquiries into the allegations made against certain judges of the High Courts of Punjab and Haryana, Rajasthan and Karnataka, conducted by informal committees of Judges, have resulted in the relinquishment of jobs by a couple of Judges on the advice of the Chief Justice of India. A similar thing had happened in the Bombay High Court a few years back when a few Judges resigned and some others were either transferred out or not assigned work. A former Chief Justice of the Madras High Court had to face prosecution for criminal misconduct of being found in possession of large assets disproportionate to his known sources of income and the prosecution dragged for too long.
There were allegations of violation of FERA against a Judge of the Calcutta High Court at one time. A Judge of the Supreme Court refused to submit himself to an inquiry under the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, in the early nineties. When the Committee of Judges found him guilty of financial irregularities (committed while functioning as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court), the politicians in Parliament saved him from impeachment.
The judiciary needs a thorough cleansing, which is not possible within the framework of the Constitution and the law. Radical reforms are overdue. The much-awaited National Judicial Commission has not yet materialised. There is no effective in-house machinery backed by law which can tackle problems of discipline or unrest in the ranks of the higher judiciary. The ad hoc in-house inquiries are unable to fathom the truth. Fear of contempt action inhibits witnesses, truth being not a defence against a charge of contempt of court.
Of the three wings of the State, the judiciary enjoys the confidence of the people in the largest measure. As the electoral process is increasingly dominated by money power and muscle power and those elected are, by and large, obsessed with reaping rich dividends by exploiting their position and power, the common man cannot expect justice either from the executive or the legislature. This is the main reason for the increasing inflow of litigation against the State in courts all over the country, resulting in a huge backlog of cases. Speedy justice remains an unattainable ideal.
Rule of law is a basic feature of the Constitution. In order to uphold it, the judiciary needs to be strong and united. Internal quarrels make the judiciary vulnerable to external influences jeopardising the independence of the Judiciary. It is, therefore, necessary that every Chief Justice of a High Court should make an all-out effort to carry the team with him by transparent conduct of court work, giving them the due sense of participation in decision-making on all issues, realising that he is no more than primus inter pares.
As held by the Supreme Court in the State of Rajasthan vs Prakash Chand & Others,“on the judicial side the Chief Justice is only the ‘first amongst the equals’, on the administrative side in the matter of constitution of Benches and making of roster, he alone is vested with the necessary powers.” In the matter of selection of candidates for elevation to the Bench, the Chief Justice and the senior Judges who constitute the collegium have equal say. In the matter of control of the subordinate judiciary, all important decisions are taken by the Full Court on the recommendation of the Administrative Committee of Judges.
A Chief Justice is not like a Chief Minister in relation to his colleagues. Judges are neither appointed only on his recommendation nor dismissed at his will. The Judges on their part should always give the Chief Justice due respect and help him to lead the team and provide efficient administration of justice in the state or states, as the case may be. Mutual respect and harmony among the Judges and the Chief Justice is essential for the smooth functioning of a court. Divisions on the Bench tend to get reflected in the Bar, which is equally harmful to the institution.
In Ex-Capt. Harish Uppal vs the Union of India the Supreme Court declared: “It is unprofessional as well as unbecoming for a lawyer who has accepted a brief to refuse to attend court even in pursuance of a call for strike or boycott by the Bar Association or the Bar Council. It is settled law that courts are under an obligation to hear and decide cases brought before them and cannot adjourn matters merely because lawyers are on strike. The law is that it is the duty and obligation of courts to go on with matters or otherwise it would be tantamount to becoming a privy to the strike.”
If lawyers cannot strike work, can the Judges stay away from the court en bloc? The local Bar’s spontaneous reaction is understandable. The Bar is the Judge of Judges. It is reported that on the intervention of Mr Justice S. Rajendra Babu, the CJI-designate, the Judges have relented and returned to duty the very next day. There is a sign of relief all over.
If the strained relations do not improve in spite of the best efforts of the Chief Justice of India, the only alternative is to invoke the power of transfer liberally. The institution cannot be allowed to languish. Likewise, the innocent consumers of justice shall not be made to suffer. Democracy and the rule of law will perish without a united and independent judiciary and a vigilant Bar. n
I should have written this piece last year, but I could not. The reality that dawned on me then was so shaking and shocking. For many years, I had been basking in the warmth of the fact that I am in my “naughty forties”. But all of a sudden, I realised that I had crossed my half century mark! In a moment I had the feeling of growing “old”, or that is how a person in his fifties is supposed to feel — old (who said old is gold?), faded and jaded.
Today as I have added one more run to my “two scores and a half”, I am able to gather some courage to laugh at myself for being so shaky last year. Only I know how I spent the whole year in a constant fear that one (un)fine morning, I’ll find myself a totally changed person; overnight, I’ll become an old hag, with tension and a frown on my face, salt and pepper in my hair and cynicism written all over. But lo! - The whole year has passed and I am still the same.
Today I can say with conviction that being in your fifties is not that scary as it has been made out to be. No, nothing changes — my hair is still as black as last year, I have not visited my dentist for the last 365 days, my “childish pranks” have not become less in any way and my family find me as “clownish” as ever. But, still, this tag of “in my fifties” is irksome.
“Not so soon” is all I say to my self. Though at heart, I have not grown beyond my college days. I wonder if I am fit enough to be included in the category of “grown up” people! Have I actually grown up? And in what sense? Please don’t go after my slow, cautioned walk (kneeache knocks at the door, sometimes by mistake) or the golden framed, bi-focal specs (these are “in things” you know). Otherwise let me see who dares to call me an “elderly lady”!
Yes, one thing has changed, I must confess. One thing has changed its colour with this changeover from the forties to the fifties.
Sharing my birthday with Shakespeare had always been a
matter of great pride for me. Only a few days back, when Mr Mani
Shanker Iyer said that he would file his nomination papers on
Shakespeare’s birthday i.e. 23rd April, I said “Oh. Thank you!” When I
came to know about this similarity many years ago, I (a teenager
then), without disclosing it to those around me, thought that may be
one day I’ll also write like him and become as famous as he is, and
that only then I’ll declare to the whole world that, “Look! I was born
on the same day as the Bard of Avon!” But alas! That was not to be and
my dream went phut like a bubble. But since last year when I joined
this “fifty plus club” another fact from the bard’s life has become a
nightmare for me — Shakespeare died at the age of 52!
From old libraries to new-age book cafes
Libraries and bookstores have traditionally been to the reading public
what the Indian Coffee House has been to the intelligentsia. Community
hubs that offer food for thought.
In earlier days, antiquated bookstores, ‘sarkari’ or semi-official libraries and stray book-lending enterprises run by retired gentry were the main booklovers' haunts. Crammed bookshelves, negligible leg space and uninviting interiors were the hallmark of most of these reading places. Satisfying the craving for the printed word was their foremost function. The comfort or convenience of the booklover usually took a backseat.
As the new market-driven economy has led to a proliferation of hip browsing dens and book cafes in recent times, the reading experience has been redefined. Cheerful décor, smiling staff and a reader-friendly approach have given a whole new face to the book scene.
Call it a marketing strategy to counter the Internet and satellite television explosion, the image makeover was the need of the hour to keep people hooked to books. The transformation has a lot to do with the arrival of more private players on the scenario. It has brought into play corporate practices of customer care whereby the booklover is actively wooed. Not only physical comfort, there is a stress on overall customer satisfaction. Gone are the days when a grouchy librarian barely parted her lips in a smile while parting with a book.
To a large extent the new people-centric approach is dictated by changes in the readership profile. The fact that young professionals form a major chunk of the membership of private libraries is reflected in the new book culture as well as the demand for titles. "A majority of our members are professionals between the ages of 18-35, which is why there is a great demand for books on computers, IT and management," says Sushant Banerjee, Manager, British Library, Sector 9. This fact is also borne out by the membership profile of the Browser in Sector 8. "We mostly have people aged 25 to 40 coming to us. This has caused self-help books to fly off the shelves with rapidity while the demand for other books is more or less stable," says its owner Pankaj P. Singh.
One factor that is definitely giving private browsing places an edge over public libraries is the longer timings, which particularly suit professionals and others working late hours. Take the case of a recent entrant on Chandigarh's book scene, Book Café. In collaboration with Café Day, it has brought the flavour of nightlife as well as coffee into a bookstore. "With branches in six other towns, including Ludhiana and Patiala, we provide an opportunity to browse over a cup of coffee till late at night (10.30 pm)," says Gitanjali Jindal, in charge of the local branch.
Even the distinction between a library and bookshop is slowly but surely blurring as the idea of providing a complete reading experience under one roof catches on. The Browser, for instance, has integrated the concepts of browsing, borrowing and buying books. It has even taken the process of lending books a step further. Its 'delivery at the doorstep' scheme takes books right into the living room or study of members. Says Singh, "We've recently introduced a pilot project to send books through courier to members in Ludhiana, Bathinda, Noida, Gurgaon and other cities. We pay for one side of the delivery."
Though old bookshops have also encouraged browsing without buying, the new stores have formalised the tradition with clearly demarcated seating areas.
Client care is the buzzword of the modern joints. "Even a minor complaint of rudeness on the part of a staff member is discussed at our weekly meetings and corrective steps are immediately taken. All suggestions from members are attended to on a priority basis," says Banerjee. He has himself participated in a couple of workshops on customer care at IIM, Ahmedabad, as well as Chandigarh.
Libraries and bookstores can no longer afford to be passive providers of texts and tomes. They are thus playing a more active role, attracting people through book festivals and clubs, interactive sessions with authors, workshops and the like. Last year, the T.S. Central State Library, Sector 17, reached out to students in the rural areas around the city to encourage the reading habit among them. "Many of the village children whom we brought here for the five-month-long reading programme were given prizes too", informs its Librarian Ramola K.C.
To be a true facilitator, a library must give what the reader wants rather than what it has. In an age when many readers find it convenient to browse and order books on the web, bookstores need to go an extra mile. "Instead of simply imposing our inventory on the readers, we try to stock and even hunt for books they want," says Singh.
But how far is this reader-friendly and interactive approach encouraging the reading habit? Going by sheer numbers, even if one were to make an allowance for the growth in population, more and more people are enrolling with libraries. "Our library makes almost 1200 to 1500 new members each year," says Ramola K.C. "Even though online browsing has caught on, people come back to us for the original copies," she adds.
"The British Library started with 1800 individual members in 2000. Now the figure has touched 8300," says Banerjee. He, however, feels that for the reading habit to get a further push, more and more parents need to actively strike a balance between their children's exposure to the electronic media and the printed word.
To be in tune with the times, both the T.S. Central State library and the British Library are stocking CD-Roms on a variety of subjects, from yoga to management.
With the book scene
witnessing conspicuous qualitative as well as quantitative changes,
the booklover can certainly look forward to being treated as king.
THE unease in the Congress camp about the spate of exit polls conducted by various television channels after Tuesday’s first phase of polling in the general election is palpable. What made the Congress leaders squirm in their seats was that all the exit polls sought to give a definite advantage to the BJP-led NDA.
The Congress initially decided to boycott the exit polls on the TV networks but better counsel prevailed that they needed to have their say which failed to carry conviction. They made the feeble noise that the exit polls failed to capture the ground realities while the BJP leaders were on a real high that there is no stopping them from retaining power at the Centre. The Congress continued to smart under what it described as the Election Commission’s inaction in barring exit polls till the fifth and final phase of polling was completed at 5 pm on May 10.
Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal rued that the EC had the requisite powers to block exit polls in keeping with the consensus evolved by the political parties. The EC reiterated that it is for the government to enact legislation banning exit and opinion polls till the democratic process is completed.
Sandeep banks on mom’s magic
Sandeep Dikshit, the son of Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit and the Congress nominee from East Delhi, is hoping that his mother’s magic will work in pulling him through. It was in 1991 that H K L Bhagat had won this seat and after that it has slipped out of the hands of the Congress. The unassuming Sandeep (39), sporting a stud in his ear, believes he has an advantage over those who are not from political families. His late father Vinod Kumar Dikshit was an IAS officer but his grandfather Uma Shankar Dikshit was a well known Congress leader.
There are more children of Congressmen in the fray this time than before. A Stephanian, Sandeep first worked for an NGO in Rajasthan before setting up his own NGO Sanket in Bhopal in 1990. He is not shy in acknowledging that for children of political parties, the entry is easier. He has no doubt that his mother’s image will help him and all the other Congress candidates in the national Capital.
outsider in Assam In Assam the BJP’s lone woman candidate is Jebin
Barbhuyan, who is contesting the Muslim majority Dhubri Lok Sabha
seat. Waking up before dawn, Jebin offers namaz and after a quick
breakfast leaves with her small band of supporters to meet voters in
the riverine settlements along the Brahmaputra. She commends the
Vajpayee government for providing Haj pilgrims facilities which were
lacking during Congress rule for more than four decades. A mother of
two, Jebin is an outsider which has not found favour with BJP
activists in Dhubri. An unfazed Jebin promises the electorate building
Masjids in Dhubri, which is akin to the BJP’s temple card.
In Assam the BJP’s lone woman candidate is Jebin Barbhuyan, who is contesting the Muslim majority Dhubri Lok Sabha seat. Waking up before dawn, Jebin offers namaz and after a quick breakfast leaves with her small band of supporters to meet voters in the riverine settlements along the Brahmaputra.
She commends the Vajpayee government for providing Haj pilgrims facilities which were lacking during Congress rule for more than four decades. A mother of two, Jebin is an outsider which has not found favour with BJP activists in Dhubri. An unfazed Jebin promises the electorate building Masjids in Dhubri, which is akin to the BJP’s temple card.
Politicians are becoming wary about hiring the
ageing helicopters and small fixed-wing aircraft of private companies
for their whistle-stop election campaigns in the wake of some crashes.
The election campaign in Chhattisgarh has not touched the fervour of
the assembly poll. It was not as much paucity of campaigners as the
shortage of helicopters that prevented senior leaders of political
parties from landing in the newly formed state. While the BJP fell
quite short of the 54 rallies it had planned to organise in the last
10 days, the Congress could manage only a handful of public meetings.
Party insiders said unavailability of helicopters prevented Congress
Working Committee members from coming to the state for campaigning.
Contributed by S Satyanarayanan, Prashant Sood and R Suryamurthy.
Politicians are becoming wary about hiring the ageing helicopters and small fixed-wing aircraft of private companies for their whistle-stop election campaigns in the wake of some crashes. The election campaign in Chhattisgarh has not touched the fervour of the assembly poll. It was not as much paucity of campaigners as the shortage of helicopters that prevented senior leaders of political parties from landing in the newly formed state.
While the BJP fell quite short of the 54 rallies it had planned to organise in the last 10 days, the Congress could manage only a handful of public meetings. Party insiders said unavailability of helicopters prevented Congress Working Committee members from coming to the state for campaigning.
Contributed by S Satyanarayanan, Prashant Sood and R Suryamurthy.
Salutations to the
Prophets (Arhats) Salutations to the liberated souls (Siddhas) Salutations
to the preceptors (Acharyas) Salutations to the religious instructors (Upadhyayas) Salutations
to all the saints of the world (Sahus) This sublime five-fold
salutation (Namaskar mantra) destroys all sins and is supremely
auspicious. — Lord Mahavir A perfect Muslim is he from whose
tongue and hands mankind is safe, and a Mujahir is he who flees from
what god has forbidden. — Prophet Muhammad I abide in the Name, and
the Name abides in me. — Guru Nanak
Salutations to the liberated souls (Siddhas)
Salutations to the preceptors (Acharyas)
Salutations to the religious instructors (Upadhyayas)
Salutations to all the saints of the world (Sahus)
This sublime five-fold salutation (Namaskar mantra) destroys all sins and is supremely
— Lord Mahavir
A perfect Muslim is he from whose tongue and hands mankind is safe, and a Mujahir is he who flees from what god has forbidden.
— Prophet Muhammad
I abide in the Name, and the Name abides in me.
— Guru Nanak