Return of the prodigal
Lakhon mein ek
Post-liberalisation, workers lose jobs
Glaciers feeding rivers may be wiped out
THE Supreme Court has rightly taken cognizance of the petition challenging the dilution in the status of the Rajya Sabha as the House of the States. The dilution was brought about by the Representation of People (Amendment) Act, 2003. Under this, the domiciliary requirement for contesting the Rajya Sabha elections was waived by dropping the words "in that state or territory" and inserting the word "in India". In a letter to the apex court which converted it into a public interest litigation, veteran journalist and former Rajya Sabha member Kuldip Nayar has argued that the amendment should be declared null and void as it amounts to changing the basic structure of the Constitution which the apex court had declared as inviolable. In this regard, he cites the Constituent Assembly debates, the Sarkaria Commission report and the observations of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution and pleads for status quo ante.
The Rajya Sabha is known as the Council of States and its federal character can be protected only if a member is a resident of a State, unlike his counterpart in the Lok Sabha who is not bound by any domiciliary clause. The residential requirement was invariably flouted by political parties to bring in their chosen ones, through the backdoor, because of their inability to get elected to the Lok Sabha. Thus a former Prime Minister who never lived in Bihar got elected from that state while a former finance minister who never stayed in Assam became a member of the Rajya Sabha from that northeastern state. There are many ministers like Mr Arun Shourie, Mr O. Rajagopal and Mr Arun Jaitley who were elected from states where they are not ordinarily resident. Little surprise, most political parties found the domiciliary clause inconvenient and joined hands to do away with it.
The Supreme Court is the sentinel and final interpreter of the Constitution. As the amendment has raised serious questions of constitutional infraction, a full Constitution Bench should go into its constitutional validity. The issue also needs to be examined with a sense of urgency as about 75 members of the 250-member Rajya Sabha will retire this year, facilitating the entry of new faces with no domiciliary tag under the new amendment.
THOSE who have been closely observing General Pervez Musharraf’s style of functioning were expecting a formal announcement of the kind he made at the Field Commanders’ Conference at Rawalpindi on Tuesday, reducing the size of the five million-strong Pakistan Army by 50,000. He had argued for minimising defence expenditure in the second week of March during his address to the India Today conclave in New Delhi, saying that this was essential for allocating more funds for poverty alleviation programmes. But the General has not turned into a saint. He is still the chief of the Pakistan Army, and cannot be expected to ignore its interests. His plan is in accordance with the trend worldwide — maintaining a fine balance between the teeth and the tail of the armed forces without compromising their combat capability.
Yet, this is not the whole truth. Immediately after the General captured power in a bloodless military coup he had sought financial aid from international institutions on the condition that he would not increase his country’s defence budget beyond a certain limit. The troop reduction, however, appears to be aimed at not only satisfying the financial institutions but also seeking parity with India in terms of conventional weapons. Renewed efforts may be made to acquire the F-16 fighter planes from the US denied to Pakistan so far. There has been much uneasiness in Pakistan after India purchased the Falcons from Israel and the Sukhoi-32 warplanes from Russia.
The downsizing of the army may also be a part of General Musharraf’s strategy to bring international pressure on India to act on these lines. But the world community knows it well that the defence requirements of the two countries are not comparable despite the changing security climate in South Asia. Pakistan’s case is entirely different, where a major part of the country’s budget had always been going to the defence sector. The heavy allocation has been a subject of controversy in Pakistan itself. In fact, the reduction of the number of troops is no guarantee that there will be no increase in the defence budget in a country virtually run by the army.
THE decision of the BCCI to give a monthly pension of Rs 5,000 to 174 past and present Test players and umpires will be welcomed not only by the beneficiaries but also the sports lovers. While pin-up cricketers of today do not appear to be dependant on pension, there is life after handsome fees and advertisement contracts. In any case, not everyone can be as well heeled as, say, Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguli. There are many who can barely make both ends meet once their cricketing days are over. After all, the active life of a sportsperson is not very long. The BCCI platinum jubilee gesture is all the more laudatory considering that many of the past legends have been leading a financially insecure life. Former Indian captain Gulab Ramchand died nearly a pauper last year. The pension will act as a safety net for such former greats.
This is one scheme which needs to be extended to other games. In fact, the cricketers are the least in need of such a dole. The condition of those playing other games is far worse. They don't earn much even when they are representing the country. The nation conveniently forgets them once they hang their boots. Punjab has many such former stars living a life of penury. Their plight puts off many youngsters eager to take sports as a career.
One cricketer who has been barred from the list of beneficiaries is former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin. This is because he has been blacklisted for life for his alleged role in the match-fixing scandal. He is in dispute with the board and has gone to court. But then, how come the pension has been given to Ajay Jadeja, who was banned for five years for similar reasons, yet fought it out in the court and has now been rehabilitated? Does that mean that Azharuddin will also be given the pension once he is able to prove his innocence?
Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.
Return of the prodigal
MR SUKH RAM has returned to the fold of India’s faded grand old party less than eight years after he was unceremoniously expelled from the Congress for making it to the Guinness Book of World Records for all the wrong reasons. Opportunism being the flavour of the pre-election season, too many questions have not been raised ever since news trickled in that the colourful Panditji from Himachal Pradesh had rejoined the Congress.
For many decades, Mr Sukh Ram had loyally served the party he has come back to. The Congress too had rewarded him handsomely for his loyalty. He had served as Union Minister for Civil Supplies in Rajiv Gandhi’s government and then became the powerful Minister for Telecommunications in the P. V. Narasimha Rao government. As Civil Supplies Minister, he had been accused of favouring particular importers of sugar who had failed to adhere to their commitments. This had resulted in a shortfall in domestic supplies leading to the sugar prices suddenly flaring up before the 1989 elections.
At his office at Krishi Bhavan, I remember asking him what he would do if his government lost the elections and he was blamed for not having been able to check the sugar prices. “I will retire from politics,” Mr Sukh Ram said without batting an eyelid. As is common knowledge, Rajiv Gandhi’s government was voted out of power. But Mr Sukh Ram was hardly the sort who would take sanyas from political life.
In 1995, as Communications Minister, he initiated a contentious scheme of auctioning licences to private companies who were to operate telephone services to compete with the public sector. His move to auction licences to the highest bidder had the entire Opposition at that time, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, up in arms. For two weeks, the proceedings of the Lok Sabha were completely stalled on this issue. Few could have imagined then what would transpire just over two years later, that leaders of the BJP would be bending over backwards to express their gratitude to him.
In August 1996, during the United Front government, the Central Bureau of Investigation raided various residences of Mr Sukh Ram and came across a veritable treasure trove. The then CBI Director Joginder Singh gloated before the media that bundles of cash worth more than Rs 3.6 crore had been found in the bedrooms and the puja room of his official ministerial residence (which he was still occupying at that time) - that is how he made it to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Mr Sukh Ram’s fancy bungalow at Kaushambi near the Delhi-Ghaziabad border was also raided. Soon thereafter, properties owned by him and his family members — that included jewellery worth over Rs 10 lakh, bank deposits exceeding Rs 7 lakh, a house at Mandi and a farmhouse at Panarasa valued at Rs 50 lakh each, the Hotel Mayfair at Mandi and an apple orchard spread over nearly 12 acres — were attached by the CBI.
Soon after the raid, he went to the UK where he was reportedly “ill” for many weeks before returning home to ignominy. Meanwhile, the Congress high command (then headed by Sitaram Kesri) decided to expel him. Subsequently, Panditji went on to form his own political outfit, the Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC). His popularity among his constituents had clearly not diminished. To many people in Himachal Pradesh, he was the person who had ensured that a telephone was installed in every remote village or the other. It hardly mattered to them that others perceived him as being corrupt to the core.
In February 1998, assembly elections were conducted in Himachal Pradesh together with general election all over the country. In the 68-member state assembly, the Congress won 33 seats, the BJP 29, the Himachal Vikas Congress headed by Mr Sukh Ram four seats and one seat went to an independent candidate; elections did not take place in one assembly constituency.
The BJP realised that the only way it could form a government in the state was by aligning itself with the HVC. Fortuitously for the BJP, the HVC split down the middle with two of its MLAs joining the BJP in what was curiously described by Mr Sukh Ram as his “master stroke”. Everybody was surprised that a political leader was actually welcoming a split in his own party? But there was a good reason for his unusual reaction.
Given the provisions of the anti-defection law at that juncture, it might not have been that difficult for the Congress to split the four-member HVC and form the state government. This was on account of the fact that if at least one-third of a legislative party’s members had left the party, it would have qualified as a split and not a defection. Thus, by making two former HVC MLAs join the BJP, Mr Sukh Ram ensured that they would not defect — thereby getting themselves disqualified from the legislature - since they would now be part of a larger political formation in the assembly, in this case, the BJP. The BJP had to pay a “small price” for its partnership with the HVC: Mr Sukh Ram became the number two in the Dhumal Cabinet with power and PWD portfolios while his son was sent to the Rajya Sabha. It is a separate matter altogether that five years later the Congress returned to power in the Himachal Pradesh assembly.
Nearly five years after his residential premises were raided by the CBI, in July 2001 a special CBI court in New Delhi framed charges against the former minister for possessing assets worth more than Rs 6 crore that were considered “disproportionate” to his known sources of income. Special Judge R. L. Chugh told Mr Sukh Ram in his order: “You have committed an offence punishable under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1998, and within the cognizance of this court for possessing total assets — movable, immovable and cash — worth Rs 6,00,90,365 at Delhi, Mandi in Himachal Pradesh and other places as on August 16, 1996.” During the period between June 20, 1991, and August 16, 1996, Mr Sukh Ram’s legally declared assets were worth only Rs 26.13 lakh and his total income a little under Rs 85 lakh.
A year later, in July 2002, he was convicted and sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment by another court for allegedly favouring a Hyderabad-based firm, Advanced Radio Masts, while serving as Union Communications Minister. A former official of the Department of Telecommunications was also indicted in this case together with the owner of the private firm. Mr Sukh Ram has appealed against this sentence. And not surprisingly, he has described all the criminal cases pending against him as “politically motivated”.
Lakhon mein ek
AFFAIRS — more particularly love affairs — begin in many strange ways and span all the years of one’s life. Some begin with the matrimonial column, some with the business page and some with news of breathtaking contests and close finishes. Mine began with the sports columns of The Tribune and hopefully will last for as long as I live. It was this love which led me to discover that this newspaper had offered its helping hand in our search for Lakhon Mein Ek life partner.
In good old days it was the Bicholaas, who were matchmakers. Clad in dhoti-kurta with a bag containing detailed biodata of eligible partners on their shoulders, they would paddle their way on cycles to the houses of the clients. Their selections were respected, seriously considered and the entire process would be a guarded secret. Though marriages are made in heaven yet it was these Bicholaas who would fix a match.
There were also a few colourful fairs in some remote areas for finding a soul mate. Even strict parents of girls would allow their daughters to dress in their finest finery and look around for eyes that will look after them for ever. Many matrimonial alliances were struck amidst the burst of colour. These were exciting and had old rustic charms as the hopes were young. All these are perhaps history for the new generation.
The memory of an attractive young lady of marriageable age, who was not only fond of dresses but was also out shining in intellectual competence, is still fresh. She would acclaim that we should not be surprised if told that a housewife next door had become the Executive Director of a company or she had launched a magazine.
She could describe each of her dresses with interesting and colourful presentations. She would explain that the cool cotton shirt had passed her comfort test with full marks and the mother of pearl button had been added for distinction and so on. Each of her embroidered silken saree had hidden history. Men would gravitate towards her and propose but these would be politely turned down.
One fine morning we were surprised to learn about her marriage to a Non-Resident Indian. She confided in me that it was an advertisement in a matrimonial column of a newspaper which assisted her in finding the Lakhon Mein Ek life partner. It is said God enters by a private door into every individual but here He had entered through the columns of The
Post-liberalisation, workers lose jobs
GR Dhakas was working in the Voltas Switchgear Plant in nearby Thane as a fabricator fitter, earning Rs 6,500 per month. He arrived at work one day in August, 2002, to find that his factory had been shut down. The workers employed there had received no notice. Nor had any of his 280 colleagues.
The reason: local production had become unviable in the face of cheap imports in the light engineering and other white good
sectors, thanks to reduced tariffs
Soaring imports of colour TV sets and other white good products from Korean companies, including Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, have edged out several Indian brands including BPL, Videocon and Onida (Mirc Electronics). One by one, 700 industrial units belonging to such prestigious Mumbai companies as Crompton Greaves, Glaxo Pharma and Voltas, employing 1.5 lakh skilled workers, have closed shop.
CITU President MK Pandhe concurred, “Post-liberalisation has seen workers lose jobs on a daily basis in the textiles, coal, manufacturing and steel industry. No safety nets have been put in place, and there is a sense of desperation and fear in the homes of all the workers we visit today. There was no regular salaried jobs available in these sectors anymore.”
The inflow of goods from foreign markets and increasing competition have decimated local manufacturing units. Premier Automobiles alone had 400 ancillary units providing inputs for their cars. Now that foreign cars dominate the Indian market, all these units have closed down.
Mohan Gurnani, President of the Federation of 750 Maharashtra-based trade, transport and small-scale industries associations, pointed out some of the malpractices. “Land in and around Mumbai has become a prised commodity, he observed. “most of the industrialist groups have sold their units at whopping profits to land sharks. They pocket all that money without giving workers any compensation. They then borrow crores of rupees from institutional lending groups at concessional rates to set up alternative industries in places like Gujarat etc, where workers are being hired at Rs 2,000 per month. They are akin to slaves toiling in sweatshops. The government has just turned a blind eye to all these goings on.”
Gurnani also pointed out that, thanks to a combination of demographics and economics, unemployment was at its highest now in four decades. Leading economists agree. They include Kirit Debroy, Director, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, and Bibek Debroy, Director Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies.
As India shifted gears to compete in the global economy, the need to benchmark competitiveness had reduced labour intensity and jobs. Very simply, business employed more capital and less labour to deliver goods. So even as population growth dipped, and the economy grew faster from 5.32 per cent to 6.7 per cent, job creation halved from 2.7 per cent per annum in 1983-94 to 1.07 per cent between 1994 and 2000.
In order to achieve high growth, industrialists point out, industry had to become increasingly capital-intensive. The private sector shed a million jobs every year. A large number of these jobs were in the organised sector that forms only 8 per cent of the work force.
Figures released by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) reveal there was an increasing number of casual workers, and that the share of regular salaried employees in the number of workers had slumped to less than 40 per cent.
The 57th round of NSSO data paints a scary picture: only 43 per cent of the rural and 36 per cent of the urban people are gainfully employed. Predictably, the Planning Commission task force report warned that unless steps were taken urgently, unemployment in 2007 would cross the 40 million figure with severe socio-economic impact.
Glaciers feeding rivers may be wiped out
GLACIERS feeding the Ganga, Yamuna, Indus and the Brahmaputra rivers may be wiped out in 40 years, impacting the economic, cultural and spiritual life of India, warn scientists.
The warning bells were sounded in the first report on melting glaciers and their impact by Sagarmatha — the Snow and Glacier Aspects of Water Resources Management in the Himalaya — presented in Delhi on Tuesday.
Sagarmatha, commissioned by Britain's Department for International Development (DFID), gives a decade-by-decade analysis for Indian rivers over the next 100 years. The study warns that global warming will result in increased glacial waters in the next 40 years — and then the shortfall of the precious resource will begin.
It also urges timely water management activities.
Syed Iqbal Hasnain, Vice-Chancellor of Calicut University, told IANS: "In today's times, the rivers have shown 3 to 4 per cent surplus due to the 10 per cent increase in the melting of the glaciers of the western Himalayas, and the 30 per cent increase in the eastern Himalayan glaciers.
"But after 40 years, most of these glaciers will be wiped out and then we will have severe water problems.
"In order to lighten our fall, we should start taking water management steps, like water harvesting, water recharging."
According to the study, the upper Indus over the first few decades will have plus 14 per cent to plus 90 per cent increase, after which there will be a drastic fall to as low as 30-90 per cent below the baseline level by decade 10.
The Kaligandaki basin in the East, however, contrasts in behaviour. The decadal mean flow shows an increase throughout the next 100 years; the most extreme temperature scenario attaining a peak mean flow of between plus 30 per cent and plus 90 per cent.
For the Ganga, near its headwaters in Uttarkashi, the flow is predicted to peak at plus 25 to plus 33 per cent of baseline level within the first two decades and then recede to as low as minus 50 per cent of the baseline by the sixth decade.
Further downstream, de-glaciation impacts are barely noticeable. David Collins, Professor of Salford University, is quoted as saying: "I had been studying the effect of de-glaciation in Switzerland for the past 30 years. The rivers there today have double the expected water amount due to melted snow.
"But in another half century, these rivers will be reduced to half their expected quantity.
"In the subcontinent too, while the Indus basin spreading over Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan will be terribly affected by glacial activity, the Brahmaputra delta in West Bengal and Bangladesh will have increased water flow due to heavy rainfalls caused by the melting of glaciers.
"The level of sea water is expected to rise by 35 cm. Imagine the highest of tides and the biggest of floods to be taller by 35 cm. The issue is very serious.
"This could in fact submerge the whole of India's gradually sloping eastern coastal region."
PRIME Minister Vajpayee is taking the opinion and exit polls with a huge pinch of salt with the projected arithmetic of the BJP-led NDA showing a downward trend with the first three phases of polling on April 20, 22 and 26. The enthusiasm displayed by the saffron brigade in the first instance on April 20 has mellowed considerably even though the BJP-led NDA enjoys a decided edge. Vajpayee has questioned the veracity of the exit polls at public meetings primarily to ensure that complacency does not set in among the BJP workers and behind-the-scenes activists of the Sangh Parivar. In an interview to a southern TV channel, Vajpayee said he had no doubt that the BJP and its alliance partners had a tough fight ahead. Besides, the electorate sets its own parametres in exercising the franchise.
The enthusiasm displayed by the saffron brigade in the first instance on April 20 has mellowed considerably even though the BJP-led NDA enjoys a decided edge.
Vajpayee has questioned the veracity of the exit polls at public meetings primarily to ensure that complacency does not set in among the BJP workers and behind-the-scenes activists of the Sangh Parivar. In an interview to a southern TV channel, Vajpayee said he had no doubt that the BJP and its alliance partners had a tough fight ahead. Besides, the electorate sets its own parametres in exercising the franchise.
Young and new leaders This is perhaps for the first time that so many new generation leaders are contesting the elections. They are young, articulate, with new ideas and most of them have had their education in top-notch Western universities. Despite the sweltering heat, they have not shied away from making padayatras and the more conventional form of door-to-door campaign. In one such padayatra, one of the young aspirants — Sandeep Dikshit of the Congress — was asked about the business of government by a voter. “If the government cannot give power, water, roads, what business does it have to hang on”. “Let me be in the government first”, quipped the son of Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit. Needless to say, even seasoned politicians would not have been comfortable answering such a blunt question. At the same time an independent candidate Shiv Khera, who is contesting from South Delhi, insists he is in the race for winning. Founder of the Qualifed Learning Systems in the USA, Khera as an educator believes that his research and understanding over the last 25 years has helped people on the path of personal growth and fulfilment. Author of the international best seller “You Can Win”, Khera’s trademark is “Winners don’t do different things. They do things differently.”
This is perhaps for the first time that so many new generation leaders are contesting the elections. They are young, articulate, with new ideas and most of them have had their education in top-notch Western universities. Despite the sweltering heat, they have not shied away from making padayatras and the more conventional form of door-to-door campaign. In one such padayatra, one of the young aspirants — Sandeep Dikshit of the Congress — was asked about the business of government by a voter. “If the government cannot give power, water, roads, what business does it have to hang on”.
“Let me be in the government first”, quipped the son of Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit. Needless to say, even seasoned politicians would not have been comfortable answering such a blunt question.
At the same time an independent candidate Shiv Khera, who is contesting from South Delhi, insists he is in the race for winning. Founder of the Qualifed Learning Systems in the USA, Khera as an educator believes that his research and understanding over the last 25 years has helped people on the path of personal growth and fulfilment. Author of the international best seller “You Can Win”, Khera’s trademark is “Winners don’t do different things. They do things differently.”
Religion and superstition Candidates of all hues and shades have their own religious and superstitious beliefs. Delhi Assembly Speaker Ajay Maken, who is contesting the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat, is trying to woo the LIG voters during his padayatras and does not miss going to gurdwaras and temples in the areas where he campaigns. In Kolkata Northwest, Mayor Subrata Mukherjee explains that supersitution is as important as votes to win an election. Mukherjee starts his day by sighting two common mynahs because they bring luck or joy. As Mayor, Mukherjee travels in a white Ambassador but after filing his nomination papers and once on the campaign trail, he always uses a black Ambassador. He claims this has brought him luck.
Candidates of all hues and shades have their own religious and superstitious beliefs. Delhi Assembly Speaker Ajay Maken, who is contesting the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat, is trying to woo the LIG voters during his padayatras and does not miss going to gurdwaras and temples in the areas where he campaigns. In Kolkata Northwest, Mayor Subrata Mukherjee explains that supersitution is as important as votes to win an election. Mukherjee starts his day by sighting two common mynahs because they bring luck or joy. As Mayor, Mukherjee travels in a white Ambassador but after filing his nomination papers and once on the campaign trail, he always uses a black Ambassador. He claims this has brought him luck.
Naidu’s poll gambit Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu made a frantic call to Vajpayee on Tuesday rubbishing the opinion and exit polls that the Telugu Desam party will be sent packing in the state. He insisted that the TDP-BJP combine would win a comfortable majority in the 294-member Andhra assembly. The Chief Minister wants to brush aside the strong anti-incumbency factor sweeping semi-urban and rural Andhra Pradesh coupled with the widespread discontent among farmers. Naidu’s gambit of riding on a sympathy wave in the wake of an assassination attempt on his life in October, pitting development against Naxalite violence along with espousing the cause of a united Andhra has failed to enthuse the voters in the southern state. The TDP has also been plagued by dissidence and rebels in the electoral fray. Being an ally of the TDP, strategists in the BJP are beginning to think Naidu might have cooked his own goose by advancing and combining the assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh. Contributed by S Satyanarayanan, R Suryamurthy and Gaurav Choudhury.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu made a frantic call to Vajpayee on Tuesday rubbishing the opinion and exit polls that the Telugu Desam party will be sent packing in the state. He insisted that the TDP-BJP combine would win a comfortable majority in the 294-member Andhra assembly.
The Chief Minister wants to brush aside the strong anti-incumbency factor sweeping semi-urban and rural Andhra Pradesh coupled with the widespread discontent among farmers. Naidu’s gambit of riding on a sympathy wave in the wake of an assassination attempt on his life in October, pitting development against Naxalite violence along with espousing the cause of a united Andhra has failed to enthuse the voters in the southern state. The TDP has also been plagued by dissidence and rebels in the electoral fray. Being an ally of the TDP, strategists in the BJP are beginning to think Naidu might have cooked his own goose by advancing and combining the assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh.
Contributed by S Satyanarayanan, R Suryamurthy and Gaurav Choudhury.
On the tree of the Absolute Truth there hang innumerable bunches of Ramas, Krishnas, Buddhas, Christs etc. Out of these, one or two, now and then, come down into this world and produce mighty changes and evolutions.
— Sri Ramakrishna
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
— Jesus Christ
The desert is not satiated with rain, the fire with wood, and the king with his existing dominions. The thirst of the seas for more water, similarly, remains unquenched. So is the hunger for the True Name which, likewise, is never appeased.
— Guru Nanak
Strength is the medicine for the world’s disease. And nothing gives such strength as the idea of Monism.
— Swami Vivekananda
Let your thought be inspired by Ahura Mazda; your words dictated by Him; and your deeds guided by Him.