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Minority welfare
It is politically paying too
P
RIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh's announcement about appointing two commissions for the uplift of minorities shows that their welfare will be the prime concern of the United Progressive Alliance government.

Cinderella story
For India, there is a lesson in Greece's victory
M
ANY in India burnt midnight oil during the past three weeks due to the Euro 2004 football championship. It was an exercise worth the effort, considering that the outcome was the most astonishing ever.

Powerless citizens
Electricity boards are the villains of piece
P
OWER consumers of all categories — agricultural, industrial and domestic — in both Punjab and Haryana are facing the heat due to frequent and unscheduled power cuts.




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ARTICLE

The trial of Saddam
Iraqi leader may get victor’s justice
by S. Nihal Singh
C
RIME and punishment is a theme as old as time, as is victor’s justice. You win a war, put the defeated enemy on trial, pronounce him guilty and hang him. The difference in Iraq’s case is that it was America’s war of choice and instead of taking Saddam Hussein to an international court in accordance with evolved norms of civilised conduct, the Bush administration wished to control all aspects of the trial.

MIDDLE

Kulhad chai at Ambala
by Amar Chandel
I
don’t take tea but the lure of having one in a kulhad was too strong to resist when I went to Ambala railways station to see somebody off the other day. Even otherwise, the train was to come more than an hour late and the customer-less chaiwallah was looking so morose that I had this impulse to converse with him.

OPED

Is Congress on revival path in UP?
The party’s performance doesn’t indicate so
by V. Krishna Ananth
M
ULAYAM Singh Yadav could not have bargained for a situation he is in now. And that too after his party won 36 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Yadav, not very long ago, was in the reckoning to head the Union Government. This was in 1997. After the fall of the Deve Gowda government, Mr. Yadav had almost made it as Prime Minister.

Delhi Durbar
Hindi, Chini bhai bhai
I
T’S not just the Indo-Pak detente that is in the air. Slowly but steadily, India’s relations are improving with China also. So when the 50th anniversary of Panchsheel fell on June 25, the Government of India as well as the Chinese Embassy in Delhi celebrated it with gusto.

  • Budget: sops unlikely
  • Nepal back on agenda
  • RJD and LJP at loggerheads

 REFLECTIONS

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Minority welfare
It is politically paying too

PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh's announcement about appointing two commissions for the uplift of minorities shows that their welfare will be the prime concern of the United Progressive Alliance government. One commission will work for the affiliation of minority-run professional institutions to the Central universities with a view to improving their teaching standards, while the other will devise a mechanism for reservation in educational institutions and employment. The entire effort appears to be directed towards the economic development of the minorities. This is a welcome idea if it succeeds in ensuring that the fruits of growth are shared by all, including the less privileged sections.

The country cannot become stronger if a large segment of the population remains weak. The minorities, particularly the Muslims, are far behind the other sections in most areas of human activity. Their educational and economic backwardness is too well known to need recapitulation. If the government is serious about helping them to come up in life, it will get support from all well-meaning people and groups. It must be pointed out here that the cause of women's empowerment within the minorities deserves special attention. The Muslims have been lagging behind other communities mainly because of the lack of education among their womenfolk.

However, the Prime Minister's announcement seems to be guided by the Congress party's drive to recapture its lost position in Uttar Pradesh. The ruling party is engaged in increasing its following among the Muslims, who have been distancing themselves from Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav ever since his liaison with the BJP came into the open in the run-up to the recent Lok Sabha elections. The Congress leadership, perhaps, believes that it can again be a force to be reckoned with in UP once it is able to recapture its Muslim vote bank. It will be interesting to watch how Mr Mulayam Singh responds to the challenge posed by the Congress.
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Cinderella story
For India, there is a lesson in Greece's victory

MANY in India burnt midnight oil during the past three weeks due to the Euro 2004 football championship. It was an exercise worth the effort, considering that the outcome was the most astonishing ever. Rank outsiders Greece lifted the Henry de Launay Trophy ousting hosts Portugal 1-0 in a dream final on Sunday. This was an impossible run by the Greeks which they began on the opening day of the tournament itself with a 2-1 humiliation of the Portuguese. Those who thought this was a flash-in-the-pan achievement were silenced by the new-found poster boys with similar victories over defending champions France and the fancied Czech Republic. Yet, nobody had given them a chance in the final, except perhaps the Greeks themselves. After all, lightning does not strike at the same place twice. But it did exactly that through Angelos Christias, who has already become the modern Greek god. The celebrations in Athens have a surreal touch to them.

What is remarkable is that the super stars like Beckham just did not come into their own. It was the turn of the young ones to steal the limelight. That shows that the aging legends have to make way for a new generation which is fitter, fiercer and more competitive.

There is a lesson in all that for the Indians who have been watching the proceedings avidly, especially in Bengal and Goa. Like any competitive sport, football does not depend on past reputations. What you do in the field today is what matters. There is no reason why India cannot do what the Greeks have just done. All that is required is a burning desire and one-point focus. It is time the country contributed more than footballs made in Jalandhar to international tournaments. Any takers?
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Powerless citizens
Electricity boards are the villains of piece

POWER consumers of all categories — agricultural, industrial and domestic — in both Punjab and Haryana are facing the heat due to frequent and unscheduled power cuts. Both states have been trying hard to meet the increased demand, but with limited success. Paddy sowing has been held up. Angry farmers have jammed traffic in several areas in Haryana. Industrial production has been badly affected. Households are denied not only electricity, but also piped water in some areas. This calls for a hard look at what has gone wrong with the power sector.

If the state power boards are in a mess, one of the main reasons for it is overstaffing. Punjab has 16.2 employees for 1,000 consumers, the highest in the country. Haryana has a smaller, but still the second highest, number of employees at 11.4. Low tariffs have financially crippled the boards. Households pay about 60 per cent of the cost of supply, while farmers pay only 10 per cent. Industry that mainly bears the burden is rendered non-competitive. Transmission and distribution losses range from 10 per cent in some states to 50 per cent in others. These are pretty high in both Punjab and Haryana. Supply is seldom disconnected even if the consumer does not pay the bills. While the boards provide subsidised power, the governments do not pay the full subsidy to the boards. The main problem in the power sector, according to a World Bank study, is lack of commercial discipline.

States are slow in implementing reforms. Orissa and Delhi have privatised their power utilities. Haryana, along with UP, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, has unbundled its board, but is yet to bring in competition and cut down the dependence on, and interference of, the government. Most people do not want free power. They are willing to pay a reasonable price provided they are assured of uninterrupted supply. The Punjab leadership is taking one step forward and then another step backward, and wants the Centre to bail it out of the crisis situation.
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Thought for the day

All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. — Leo Tolstoy
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The trial of Saddam
Iraqi leader may get victor’s justice
by S. Nihal Singh

CRIME and punishment is a theme as old as time, as is victor’s justice. You win a war, put the defeated enemy on trial, pronounce him guilty and hang him. The difference in Iraq’s case is that it was America’s war of choice and instead of taking Saddam Hussein to an international court in accordance with evolved norms of civilised conduct, the Bush administration wished to control all aspects of the trial.

Does anyone believe that the former President of Iraq will receive a fair trial, choreographed as it is by the United States to the tiniest detail? Saddam’s arraignment was timed with American breakfast television news. Saddam and 11 of his co-accused were living in isolation at secret locations guarded by US troops for months on end. They did not know what has been happening to their country in the meantime and were flown to their arraignment in a brand new room in the US Army Headquarters, manacled and disoriented.

Only American print reporters were allowed and Americans guided a young judge on the charges framed and the sound track was switched off as cameras rolled because Saddam had said something not to American liking. And this was billed as the Trial of the Century. The apparent message the US authorities wished to convey was to show how the once mighty Saddam could be humbled and made to answer before a novice Iraqi judge.

No Iraqi has any illusion about his country’s judicial system. Nor can any Iraqi have any illusion about the crash course Americans have been giving the Iraqi judiciary by sending an army of experts to set up the trial and prepare the charges in detail. Saddam did not perform according to the American script.

It is of a piece with American fumbling after winning the Iraq war that the premise on which the trial was planned is false. Americans should have learnt about Iraqi sensitivities from the outcry caused by how they treated Saddam after discovering him in a hole in the ground. For weeks on end, American television showed pictures of a disoriented Saddam wearing a scruffy beard being examined by an American medic in his mouth and hair. Iraqis and Arabs were deeply hurt, however much they might have disliked him as a ruler.

They took off his manacles before bringing him inside the makeshift courtroom. He sat in a chair uncertainly until he regained his composure and confidence and turned the tables on the judge by pointing to the illegality of the trial and the American invasion. America might have its own agenda in bringing Saddam to trial in Iraq, but what prompted the new Iraqi government, supposedly independent, to commit this folly even as the fallen leader remains in US custody? Although there is a UN Security Council resolution to show for it and Lakhdar Brahimi gave a patina of UN legitimacy, everyone knows that the present government is a creature of American desires, placed in office after the US viceroy, Paul Bremer, put in place more than a hundred edicts defining Iraq’s future in economy in particular. These can be altered only after elections in January, if then.

Didn’t Prime Minister Allawi and his team realise that their urgent task was to try to reconcile divisions in the country, not to exacerbate them by bringing Saddam to trial? True, the tribunal to try Saddam was approved by the handpicked Iraqi Governing Council, with Saleem Chalabi, nephew of the now disgraced Pentagon favouriteAhmed Chalabi, as its executive director. And scores of US experts were combing documents to frame specific charges. Was Mr Allawi and his men presented with a fait accompli or were they willing accomplices?

Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic was also, in a sense, at the receiving end of victor’s justice, but he was taken to an international court and has been employing his considerable skills to hijack the trial. How he was handed over to The Hague was in itself a lesson in coercive diplomacy. A country partly destroyed by an 11-week NATO air war and sanctioned against was told to produce Milosevic or else forgo the crumbs from the American table. At any rate, the advocates of The Hague court can say that they are giving Milosevic adequate time to defend himself.

Saddam’s arraignment and promised trial, expected to take many months to start, raise disturbing questions. In the post-World War II world, Nuremberg was supposed to define international justice. There must be international oversight of some kinds of crimes classed as crimes against humanity. The concept of a permanent International Criminal Court took final shape after events in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Much of the world approved it but the United States frowned on it because it was scandalised that any other country could sit in judgment on American policies and actions.

The US has already defined its doctrine of pre-emptive and preventive wars against any country it chooses. In fighting the Afghan and Iraq wars, it refined this doctrine and its penchant for undertaking unilateral action by evolving the concept of “coalitions of the willing”. Essentially, it meant that the US would not be bound by rigid alliance or multilateral structures but would pick and choose its allies for specific wars. Although the mess of the Iraqi occupation and the men and treasure the US has had to sacrifice have been a sobering experience, President George W. Bush has not repudiated his doctrine while seeking international help. And now comes a further refinement of this doctrine.

After fighting a war of choice, America will help set up trials of the enemy leaders in the defeated country, ostensibly by new hand-picked leaders of that country. This should not cause much surprise after the Bush administration’s efforts to overturn accepted norms of justice after 9/11, the terrorist attacks on America. First came the Patriot Act to restrict civil liberties at home in the name of fighting terrorism. And for more than two years, hundreds of prisoners have been confined to the US Cuban base at Guantanamo without any legal redress, the Supreme Court providing the first ray of hope. Then came the shocking reports of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Is it now to be capped by a special brand of American victor’s justice?
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Kulhad chai at Ambala
by Amar Chandel

I don’t take tea but the lure of having one in a kulhad was too strong to resist when I went to Ambala railways station to see somebody off the other day. Even otherwise, the train was to come more than an hour late and the customer-less chaiwallah was looking so morose that I had this impulse to converse with him.

He washed the kulhad thoroughly to get rid of the grime and poured tea in it. It broke. Another kulhad. History repeated itself. He was third time lucky.

“Must be troublesome, no?” I sympathised.

Something broke. It wasn’t a kulhad but his patience. He invited me into the shop. It was littered with remnants of hundreds of them. “This is the day’s start,” the chaiwallah rued, “you can well imagine the heap I will be left with by the evening”. I could not.

“Then there are those which break while being brought to the stall. If the order is not reversed, this station may be supplanted with broken Kulhads,” he predicted. Exaggerated prophesy no doubt but perhaps less off the mark than what astrologers and psephologists make.

“But at least the potters are happy,” I interjected.

“Not really. Actually, those selling liquor in their neighbourhood are. In any case, the kulhad-makers have started having more airs than politicians. Now they demand advance before starting to make these compulsory containers. Once you pay up, they trot off a million excuses for delay in supplying the kulhads”.

“That’s a pity”.

“You bet. But you can never imagine what I have gone through. I paid an advance of several thousands to a particular potter with specific understanding that the goods would be delivered within a week but when I went to collect them, I found that he had simply vanished leaving an empty hut.

“As if that is not enough, there are very few people who are willing to take tea in the kulhad. Maybe there is a lot of demand for it in some States like Bihar but why force it on our head?

“You mean to say that there is nothing laudable in the kulhad brainwave at all?”

“No, there is a silver-lining. The demand for free cups of tea from Saheb-log has come down greatly. So things even out”.

I marvelled at the never-say-die spirit of the poor chaiwallah. I was engaged in this conversation while I waited for the tea to cool down a bit. I brought the kulhad to my lips, only to find that almost all the beverage had seeped out.

Thank you, Lalooji, for keeping my resolve of not taking tea intact.
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Is Congress on revival path in UP?
The party’s performance doesn’t indicate so
by V. Krishna Ananth


Mulayam Singh Yadav
Mulayam Singh Yadav: Chief Minister for how long?

MULAYAM Singh Yadav could not have bargained for a situation he is in now. And that too after his party won 36 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Yadav, not very long ago, was in the reckoning to head the Union Government. This was in 1997. After the fall of the Deve Gowda government, Mr. Yadav had almost made it as Prime Minister. At that time he was heading a small group of 17 MPs in the Lok Sabha. With 36 MPs, the Samajwadi Party leader is now having to put all his energies to remain Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

This at least is the impression that media reports in the past couple of weeks convey. The Congress party, according to inspired reports, is on a revival course across the country and is on the verge of regaining its glory in Uttar Pradesh too. The arrival of Rahul Gandhi in Amethi (even while Parliament was ``debating’’ the motion of thanks to the President’s Address) turned out to be a media event.

The young Gandhi simply said something about the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh. Shivraj Patil, whose political life began before Rahul was even born, hastened to endorse Rahul. Patil did that in his capacity as Union Home Minister. And Arjun Singh, yet another loyalist of the family, is out talking of elections to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly sooner than they are due. Recall the 18 months after June 26, 1975 when elders in the Congress party would simply utter whatever was music to the then Congress President’s son!

Be that as it may, the burden of the story now is that the Congress, as we are told, is on the revival course. Now let us look at the facts.

The Congress party is in no better position than it was in the 1996-97 period. After having fought the poll all alone and without Sonia Gandhi or her children contesting the poll or campaigning, the Congress won 140 seats in the 11th Lok Sabha. And in 2004 as Sonia and the Congress party celebrated when Rahul decided to contest from Amethi (and ``independent’’ TV channels doing all that was possible to make this a national event) and with Priyanka Gandhi leading the campaign from the Munshiganj guest house and addressing the nation day after day (thanks to the TV channels, once again), the party strength went up from 140 to 145.

Even this tally of 145, one can argue, was possible after the Congress entered into alliances with the NCP in Maharashtra, the DMK (and a whole lot of others) in Tamil Nadu and with Laloo Prasad’s RJD in Bihar. It also makes sense to recall here that this strength of 145 is at least a dozen MPs less than the 157 seats that the party won in 1977, when the Congress was swept aside in the poll.

If this is the reality across the country, a look at the Congress party’s performance in Uttar Pradesh reflects a reality that is quite harsh. The party won in nine Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh in 2004. And its voteshare stood at 12.6 per cent. In 1999, the Congress won 9 seats from UP and its voteshare was just about the same.

Interestingly, the Congress lost in two of its citadels - Rampur and Pratapgarh - from where the party had been winning even when its nominees were not seen as serious contenders in the past. It is another matter that Begum Noor Banu and Rajkumari Ratna Singh were winning from their ``kingdoms’’ because they commanded loyalty in these regions even 50 years after Independence.

All this signify that the Congress did not do as well as those loyal to its ``cause’’ expected it to do. This was more than clear from Uttar Pradesh. And it is for this reason that it becomes difficult to attribute any sense of political maturity to the words and acts indulged in by Rahul Gandhi and his loyal retainers in the Congress party and much worse by responsible members of the Union Cabinet. In other words, it requires a lot more than provocative remarks and bold posturing on the part of the Congress leaders to weaken Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh.

The Samajwadi Party’s present position of strength in Uttar Pradesh comes from a strong party organisation built on an ideological foundation that internalises the long-term dynamics of a socio-economic change in the cow-belt. Mulayam Singh Yadav represents the outcome of a long drawn campaign against the Brahmanical and semi-feudal socio-economic set-up and historically the old order was represented by the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. The same is true of Bihar, yet another State where the Congress does not exist as an independent political platform. In other words, the Samajwadi Party is not an outfit that depends on the ``personality’’ and charisma of one leader. For this very reason, the Congress cannot supplant it through its own charismatic leader.

This leads us to the other option that could be in the minds of the Congress leaders. To forge ties with the BSP. And this will depend on how fast and how much intensely the Congress government at the Centre is willing to hurt Mulayam and his government in Uttar Pradesh. True an alliance with the BSP could help the Congress ``enlarge’’ its strength from Uttar Pradesh in the same way it managed to do in Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Maharashtra. But then, the BSP is clear about what it will demand in return: to have a free run in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP chose this option on a couple of occasions in the past and ended up with just 11 Lok Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh in 2004!

These are facts that the Congress leaders seem to be glossing over simply because it is not in the party’s tradition to convey the reality to the high command. More so when the slanging match is conducted by none other than the Congress President’s son. This was how the Congress party’s political base began to shrink when Rajiv Gandhi was leading the party and when the party’s top consisted of men and women who prided themselves in remaining ignorant about the socio-economic realities that guide life and the political discourse in the hundreds of villages in India.
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Delhi Durbar
Hindi, Chini bhai bhai

IT’S not just the Indo-Pak detente that is in the air.

Slowly but steadily, India’s relations are improving with China also. So when the 50th anniversary of Panchsheel fell on June 25, the Government of India as well as the Chinese Embassy in Delhi celebrated it with gusto. Chinese Ambassador Hua Jundo hosted a reception for External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh. A special postage stamp was also released.

Natwar Singh, who had just then returned from Qingdao (China) where he had gone to attend the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue, paid rich tributes to the two nations’ leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru and Zhou En-Lai, and said India and China held similar positions on many issues of regional and global significance. This is reflected in bilateral trade too as China is emerging as a big trading partner.

The India-China trade is all set to surpass a whopping $ 10 billion by next year.

Budget: sops unlikely

The positive public posturing notwithstanding, not many in the domestic industry expect the Finance Minister to announce any major sops in the Budget. Many believe that in the given political environment and the fact that the Budget will draw from the CMP, Chidambaram’s first budget of the UPA government will predominantly be rural centric. Barring perhaps a package for the small scale sector, no concessions or exemptions can be expected, says a leading industrialist.

Nepal back on agenda

Nepal tourism has finally come out of the shock and depression caused by the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 from Kathmandu and the mountain kingdom has again become popular with Indians. The total tourist arrivals from India to Nepal by air from January to May this year has reached 39,253, an increase of 28 per cent over last year’s figures.

Indians account for one-third of the total visitors to Nepal. Leisure tourism in Nepal has received a filip with the introduction of a daily Jet Airways daylight flight. Nepal will organise road shows in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Chandigarh. Besides workshops will be organised for film and television producers in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata to provide information on Nepal and facilities available for filming.

RJD and LJP at loggerheads

The blow hot, blow cold relationship between Laloo Prasad Yadav’s RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP is taking some queer twists and turns. Serious cracks are evident with Paswan lashing out at the RJD leadership impressing upon its supporters to gear up their loins for contesting the Assembly elections in Bihar on their own. In a volte-face, Paswan denied that his LJP and the RJD are on a collision course.

Treading the path with abundant caution, Paswan is now insisting that he will not do anything to weaken the Congress-led UPA. He maintains that his contribution and sacrifice in seeing the back of the BJP is second to none.

The question doing the rounds in political circles is why has Paswan found it necessary to reiterate his political credentials afresh. The loss of the Railways portfolio to Laloo Prasad Yadav continues to hurt Paswan.

Contributed by Rajeev Sharma, Gaurav Choudhury and S Satyanarayanan.
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That alone is good which pleases God.

— Guru Nanak

It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others.

— Saint John of the Cross

Progress in meditation comes swiftly for those who try their hardest.

— Patanjali

God loveth a cheerful giver.

— II Corinthians

Christ saw much in this world to weep over, and much to pray over; but he saw nothing in it to look upon with contempt.

— E.H. Chapin
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