SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped | Reflections

EDITORIALS

On the right track
Economic Survey lists bold initiatives
T
HE Economic Survey for 2004-05 makes two bold statements: one, it recognises that reservations for small-scale industries hinder industrial growth.

No stalling
This wasn’t the right form of protest
A
T last good sense has prevailed and the BJP has given up its strategy of stalling parliamentary proceedings on the issue of "tainted" ministers.

Laloo on trial
Focus on improving passenger amenities
F
OR a change, passenger amenities have received due attention in Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav's maiden Railway Budget.



EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
ARTICLE

Travails of hi-tech transfer
How US worked against India’s N-power plan
by Inder Malhotra
A
LL through the years since the then U.S. President Bill Clinton’s visit to this country, there has been much talk about India and the United States being “strategic partners”, if not “natural allies”.

MIDDLE

A heartbreaking affair
by Gitanjali Sharma
I
am shattered. He is now no more with me. We had known each other for barely over a year, but he had come to mean the world to me. It has become agonising to carry on without him. To say that my life has come to a standstill and he has left me lonely and alone would be no over-the-top melodrama.

OPED

HUMAN RIGHTS DIARY
Liberal Congress traditions at stake
POTA can be abolished by Ordinance
by Kuldip Nayar
W
HEN the preventive detention law was sought to be extended for the first time after Independence, Kerala was under the Communists. Chief Minister E.M.S. Namboodiripad opposed the measure at the conference of Chief Ministers that then Home Minister Govind Ballabh Pant had called to extend the preventive detention Act.

FROM PAKISTAN
Redefining culture

LAHORE:
A new cultural policy is being formulated to integrate diverse cultures of Pakistan, yet it conveniently ignores major languages as a medium of instruction.

  • No military operation

  • First kidney transplant

  • Qazi elected MMA chief

 REFLECTIONS

Top


 

 

 


 

On the right track
Economic Survey lists bold initiatives

THE Economic Survey for 2004-05 makes two bold statements: one, it recognises that reservations for small-scale industries hinder industrial growth. Large companies may be allowed to manufacture what SSIs produce. This is bound to be opposed by the SSIs, many of them already on the edge. Two, it says rigid labour laws are also a constraint on faster growth. This means a less secure environment for industrial labour. The employers may be empowered to hire and fire labour and close down an unviable unit at will. These constraints need to be removed to achieve 10 per cent industrial growth, says the survey. The Common Minimum Programme makes no mention of these. The Left will obviously protest.

The Survey outlines the government's economic roadmap. It may or may not be followed. Last year, the survey had promised action on the Kelkar report, but Finance Minister Jaswant Singh simply buried it. The survey estimates the fiscal deficit at 4.3 per cent and projects an 8.2 per cent GDP growth. That is a tough calling. The ground realities point to a different direction. Global crude prices may not come down. This would push up inflation. Loan takers, beware: interest rates may harden. The US interest rates are already on an uptrend. Currency imbalances may also add to the problems. The growth target, therefore, is hard to achieve despite the predictions of a normal monsoon, the thrust on agriculture and the forex reserves at $119.3 billion.

As is well known, state finances are handled recklessly. The survey aptly points to the fiscal deterioration at the state level and lists factors behind it: expenditure on salaries, burgeoning pensions, mounting interest payments, improperly targeted subsidies and deterioration in the tax-GDP ratio. Governments know what is wrong and where, and also how things can be improved. But lack of political will, electoral compulsions and well-entrenched vested interests tend to scuttle reforms. The Economic Survey is not followed up with determined action.

Top

 

No stalling
This wasn’t the right form of protest

AT last good sense has prevailed and the BJP has given up its strategy of stalling parliamentary proceedings on the issue of "tainted" ministers. The party has, perhaps, come to realise that the policy was proving to be counter-productive, since it had been criticised widely even by those who had sent its MPs to Parliament to represent them. Indeed, it had a point to make on the inclusion of tainted men in the Union Council of Ministers and it has done so. But the decision to hold Parliament to ransom was ill-advised. The Prime Minister was graceful enough to appeal to the party to let parliamentary proceedings go on. But that certainly was not the reason which made it do a rethink. Actually, there was a division within the BJP itself over the desirability of the boycott. Its allies were even more forthright in criticising the decision. Even the Shiv Sena pointed out that it should not lose the opportunity to participate in parliamentary proceedings in which it could take the government to task.

The BJP knows that this is a godsend issue which can be milked famously. In the coming days it is not going to miss any opportunity to embarrass the government. The man in the hairline will be Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav. It is another matter that the man from Chapra can give back as good as he gets.

While Mr L.K. Advani will have to be at his debating best to underline the distinction between the criminal deeds done during a mass agitation and criminal activities of a personal nature, Mr George Fernandes too may find himself cornered once again. The BJP has hardly strengthened its hands by rehabilitating Mr Dilip Singh Judeo as a Rajya Sabha member despite the cash-on-camera disgrace. If Mr Yadav is corrupt then the former Union Minister of State for Environment is no paragon of virtue either.

Top

 

Laloo on trial
Focus on improving passenger amenities

FOR a change, passenger amenities have received due attention in Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav's maiden Railway Budget. That he has allocated Rs 215 crore under this head, against Rs 178 crore last year, augurs well for 14 lakh passengers who commute by 14,000 trains daily on the world's largest railway network. The minister intends to focus on specially identified services such as provision of safe and good quality drinking water, clean toilets, adequate booking windows, extension of platforms to accommodate full-length trains and so on. However, mere allocation of funds is no guarantee that the amenities would be improved. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

One of the projects announced in the Railway Budget is the development of environment-friendly toilets in the train compartments like the ones used in aircraft. As part of the Railway Design and Standard Organisation's Technology Mission on Railway Safety, this project is aimed at eliminating open defecation all over the country by 2012. It is not clear how this system will work on such a gigantic network, given the financial implications. However, this merits a trial as an alternative to the present system of waste disposal. Today, most stations stink because of the trails of human waste on the track. This has, in fact, become a health hazard

Those travelling by long distance trains especially deserve good food, clean bedrolls, adequate water supply and tidy toilets. There should be no compromise on this. The new line of thinking in Rail Bhavan is that it would not distinguish between common village passengers and those travelling by the Rajdhanis and the Shatabdis. This is indeed a refreshing change.

Top

 

Thought for the day

I have nothing to declare except my genius.

— Oscar Wilde


Top

 

Travails of hi-tech transfer
How US worked against India’s N-power plan
by Inder Malhotra

ALL through the years since the then U.S. President Bill Clinton’s visit to this country, there has been much talk about India and the United States being “strategic partners”, if not “natural allies”. Both officials and analysts have spoken also about a “qualitative change” in the relationship between the two democracies that had remained estranged for more than four decades.

It would, of course, be wrong and unfair to dismiss this talk as mere rhetoric without reality. But despite undoubted desire on both sides to befriend each other, nagging problems have persisted. There was, for instance, what the former Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, used to call America’s “double standards” on terrorism. This inevitably attracted greater attention though the real focus always was on the painfully slow progress on the key issue of transfer of high technology to India that had been denied this country for long.

To begin the story from the beginning, it was way back in the eighties that Indira Gandhi and President Ronald Reagan decided to make technology transfer the main driving force behind an improvement in the relations between the world’s most populous and most powerful democracies.

Shortly after her assassination, a comprehensive and highly promising agreement on cooperation in the area of science and technology was signed. Hi-tech savvy. Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister by then, was enthusiastic about making the accord work. But, thanks to America’s geo-strategic priorities, nothing came of the much-acclaimed agreement. On the contrary, the US denied this country even a super computer. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for Pune-based Indian scientists were able to build a supercomputer even better than the one sought from Washington. Almost exactly 20 years and climatic changes in the global situation later, the story is no longer so bleak but it is disappointing nonetheless.

During the remaining two years of the Clinton tenure nothing could be done because his policy on nuclear nonproliferation, even after the 1998 nuclear tests by this country as well as Pakistan, remained one of “capping”, “rolling back” and eventually “eliminating” this country’s nuclear weapons programme. President George W. Bush was not so hidebound. He had no use for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Mr Clinton’s sheet anchor that the U.S. Senate had refused to ratify. Mr Bush also valued Indian democracy and economic potential much more than his predecessor did.

Even so, it is a measure of the obstructive power of the nonproliferation fundamentalists still entrenched in the U.S. establishment, especially in the State Department, that things moved at an excruciatingly slow pace, if they moved at all. It took more than two years of strenuous negotiations at very high levels even to get a firm American commitment to letting India have the technologies it was seeking.

In January this year, President Bush and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made separate statements spelling out that the U.S. was willing to transfer to India technologies in the areas of civilian nuclear programme and space. Another encouraging part of the American statement was a promise to be more forthcoming in the supply of “dual use” technologies. To this “trinity” that had been under discussion since November 2001, the American side added the arena of missile defence as another area of cooperation but almost immediately there was some backtracking on this. The “quartet” reverted to “trinity” once again. The Bush declaration was described as the “Next Step in Strategic Partnership (NSSP)”. It was also given the alias “glide path”.

Surprisingly, within hours of Mr Bush’s declaration, welcomed by Mr Vajpayee, the U.S. Under Secretary of State, Mr Marc Grossman, held a briefing for the world Press during which he poured buckets of very cold water on what his President had said. What had been announced, Mr Grossman said, was a declaration of intent that might take “months, if not years, to implement.” The subsequent dragging of feet by the American side underscored that he was right. The glide path was turning into a slide path.

After months of jousting and nit-picking some movement towards translating words into deeds has taken place but regrettably is limited and confined only to “cooperation and commerce” in relation to space only.

Only the other day, the U. S. Under Secretary for Commerce and the principal American interlocutor with India on technology issues, Mr Ken Juster, was in Delhi while on the way to a huge and week-long conference on space in Bangalore. He let it be known that next year the U.S. corporation Boeing and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) would collaborate in the first launch from Indian soil of a satellite belonging to a third country. But the vision statement issued by the Bangalore Indo-U.S. Space Conference was long on platitudinous sentiment and short on a concrete plan of action.

It is in relation to the critically important area of nuclear power generation, however, that the U.S. performance has been most unhelpful and depressing. Citing its laws and other difficulties, the Bush administration has virtually declined to transfer civilian nuclear technology at a time when India’s need for speedy augmentation of its nuclear power generation is acute.

This, unfortunately, is not all. Several European countries, with France and Russia in the lead, are keen to join this country’s nuclear power programme. To do this, however, they require the American nod to a waiver to India from some of the conditions imposed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which is not forthcoming. For, there is no way India can either accept full-scope safeguards or sign the NPT or the additional protocol on enhanced IAEA supervision. New Delhi is prepared to accept facility-specific safeguards, as in the past, but is getting nowhere. Its plea is falling on deaf ears.

There are several ironies in the situation. One of these is that China has become a member of the NSG notwithstanding its prolonged proliferation of both nuclear and missile technologies to Pakistan. But in India’s case even the mildest exception to the NSG rules is not contemplated, never mind this country’s inclusion in the NSG. China, incidentally, has demanded, in a recent statement, that India should fully implement the UN’s resolution 1172 that requires this country to give up nuclear weapons and sign the NPT as a non-nuclear country.

With Beijing the matter can be taken up separately. The pertinent point is that strategic partners have to do more than the U.S. seems prepared to do so far. Mr Juster was told this during his stay in Delhi.

Top

 

A heartbreaking affair
by Gitanjali Sharma

I am shattered. He is now no more with me. We had known each other for barely over a year, but he had come to mean the world to me. It has become agonising to carry on without him. To say that my life has come to a standstill and he has left me lonely and alone would be no over-the-top melodrama. That his comforting presence came to mean so much to me is, however, a wee unsettling. To depend on somebody for your smiles and survival is a folly, I gather, but it was tough not to succumb to the temptation of trusting him and adoring him for all that he was.

It was hard not to get charmed by his winning ways. As steady as the tick of time, he was always there for me. Without a moan, he put up with my it’s-now-or-never demands and gave me all that he possessed.

With each passing day, my attachment and fondness for him grew more and more. I could pour my heart out to him at any hour. If I wanted an instant suggestion, he offered it to me; if I required information related to work, he immediately came to my rescue. With no trace of irritation or frown of frustration, he would settle my dilemmas about inane matters like choosing red or purple for evening wear. He was equally handy with more pressing problems. He readily parted with information: setting the computer right was no impossible task with him around and there was nothing more easy than finding a new address if he was close by.

I had begun to spend a sizeable part of my day with him, and sure enough it wasn’t long before he went out of favour with my long-time friends. Soon they began to verbalise their dislike for him. “He takes most of your time”, “you can’t give him up”, “you are obsessed with him” were some of their disparaging remarks. They would grumble that I preferred his company to theirs. And, probably, they were right because one call from him and I would rush to his side and not leave him for long. I couldn’t help sneaking side-glances at him in public and didn’t think twice about excusing myself to snatch a minute or two with him. Surely and steadily, he had become the pivot of my existence.

On hearing that somebody stole him from me, my once-unfeeling friends suddenly adopted a sympathetic tune. Some said “don’t lose heart;” others embalmed me with, “time heals, maybe a better situation awaits you.”

Though it would never be the same without him, may be, finding him in a new avatar — with hot features like camera, wap and polyphonic tones — would again ring in cheer and mobility in my life.

Top

 

HUMAN RIGHTS DIARY
Liberal Congress traditions at stake
POTA can be abolished by Ordinance
by Kuldip Nayar

At the receiving end
At the receiving end

WHEN the preventive detention law was sought to be extended for the first time after Independence, Kerala was under the Communists. Chief Minister E.M.S. Namboodiripad opposed the measure at the conference of Chief Ministers that then Home Minister Govind Ballabh Pant had called to extend the preventive detention Act. Namboodiripad had his dissenting vote recorded despite the chiding by the tall B.C. Roy, the then West Bengal Chief Minister. Namboodiripad stuck to his guns and even when the measure was enacted, Kerala never made use of it.

The ruling United Progressive Alliance’s announcement to do away with POTA sent a wave of jubilation among human rights activists. It was a matter for celebration because the preventive detention Act had remained part of governance in one form or the other since freedom. Even the enlightened Jawaharlal Nehru had continued the detention law of British rule to detain people without open trial. He too had thought that “subversive elements” could not be controlled through a normal law.

For the Congress-led UPA to declare that it would drop POTA was a long step to take. The country remembered how the party had misused MISA with a vengeance during the Emergency.

However, what surprises me is why the Manmohan Singh government did not abolish POTA straightaway. It could have issued an Ordinance to do so. The current session of Parliament would have given it necessary legislative support. When the Maharashtra Chief Minister used POTA a few days ago to detain some people, it created doubts about its abolition. They have been, however, allayed by the announcement that the government would introduce legislation during the current session of Parliament to abolish POTA.

The Congress needs to prove its liberal traditions of the days of Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri because the Emergency gave it a bad name. The party should try to efface the memory of those bad days by making the government more open and society more liberal.

Practically, everything in India has come to be politicised, even human rights violations. It all depends where the incident takes place. The Congress-ruled states target BJP members and the BJP-ruled Congressmen. It really does not matter who is to blame.

The problem that human rights activists face is: how to stop an incident from taking a political colouring. Their agitation succeeds or fails depending on the response of the civil society. Unfortunately, it has come to develop, over the years, a hide-bound attitude. People seldom go into the rights or wrongs of an incident. They react only superficially, and their interest lasts as long as the media plays it up.

Left to society, its inclination is to believe the police version because the force is generally associated with safety and security. Fear, not fact, tends to dictate the response. And if the police introduces to its account the threat by “terrorists”, the public verdict is that the law and order machinery is not firm enough.

Had society its way, it would hang “terrorists” by a nearby pole, without any trial. The government’s story is believed straightway, although people should have learnt from their experience that the conviction rate in the cases relating to terrorists is low. In contrast, the number of cold-blood murders given out as “encounters” is going up.

I was at a TV programme the other day. The topic was: encounters. The other two persons on the panel were retired top police officers. They were not willing even to entertain the argument that there could be a false encounter and that there could be an effort on the part of the police to eliminate the criminal, who could not be proved guilty in the court of law. Both of them had a closed mind. Their either-black-or-white attitude was, indeed, irritating. According to them, there could not be a false encounter. One of panelists went to the extent of saying let society do away with the police if “encounters” were suspect.

I was taken aback by their aggressive attitude as if there could not be a viewpoint which did not tally with theirs. I have nothing against the police, except its illegal acts. Whatever the situation, it has to stay within the limits of the law. Otherwise, what is the difference between them and those who violate the law. If the police feels that it has not enough powers despite the armoury of laws, it can ask for more power. But it cannot violate human rights to go amuck. There are several examples to indicate how the police has acted irresponsibly. Its operation knows no bounds in the countryside where people are unsophisticated and where there is no gaze of the media.

It is not the lack of follow-up by human rights activists which is to blame, it is the nonchalant attitude of civil society which is irritating. Strange, when it finds predators among the protectors it prefers to keep quiet. If people do not voice their protest when they see the police in the wrong, they would ultimately lose the right to speak. The force is getting larger and larger and more and more unaccountable. Very few people in the government or the Opposition are considering the consequences if the police is not reined now. In a democratic structure, the lesser the number of security forces, the better it is.

The government must seriously consider the feasibility and the desirability of insulating the police from the policies of the country and employing it scrupulously on duties for which alone it is by law intended. The policemen must also be made to realise that politicking by them was outside the sphere of their domain and the government would take a very serious view of it.

Top

 

FROM PAKISTAN
Redefining culture

LAHORE: A new cultural policy is being formulated to integrate diverse cultures of Pakistan, yet it conveniently ignores major languages as a medium of instruction.

A new culture of Pakistan is being evolved in the backdrop of a situation that the national tourism policy and the 1975 Antiquities Act do not represent a holistic approach to the issues of culture, cultural heritage and cultural tourism.

This requires a workable combination of provincial and local operational management and policy guideline to integrate diverse cultural currents and cross current and all its actors.

The basic policy document, still in the form of a draft, however does not talk of promoting major languages like Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Seraiki and Brahvi which stand relegated to a situation where they ‘may be’ used as medium of instruction up to the primary level.

This notion is part of the “plan of action” which is meant to work out a strategy and other details for cultural development. The Dawn

No military operation

QUETTA: Balochistan Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani on Tuesday ruled out the launching of a military operation in any area of the province, including Kohlu and Dera Bugti. “Till today no military operation has been launched in the province,” he told newsmen after attending a local bodies’ convention.

He said the government had no plan to conduct a military operation in the province. He termed reports about such an operation as rumours. Replying to a question, he said the meeting held here recently had discussed the overall law and order situation in the province and not taken any special decision.

The chiefs of the law-enforcement agencies presented their reports at the meeting. “The meeting did not take any decision of launching an operation in any area,” he said. The Dawn

First kidney transplant

QUETTA: Doctors at a local hospital carried out two kidney transplants for the first time in Balochistan.

Dr Karim Zarkoon, Nephrologist at Sandeman Provincial Headquarters Hospital, Quetta, and his team successfully transplanted kidneys in two patients, Nadir Ali, 30, and Asmat Ali, 25. Both patients, hailing from poor families, were on dialysis for several years.

The operations were done free of charge. Nadir Ali was donated the kidney by his father while Asmat Ali got a kidney from his mother. Dr Karim Zarkoon was very much pleased at his success.

He said it was his dream to carry out kidney transplants in Quetta, as it was never done before here. The News

Qazi elected MMA chief

ISLAMABAD: The MMA Supreme Council on Tuesday elected Qazi Hussain Ahmed president of the religious alliance.

A late night Council meeting also appointed Opposition Leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman as secretary-general, having two deputies, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed and Liaquat Baloch.

The office of MMA president had been lying vacant since the death of Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani.

Prof Sajid Mir, Allama Sajid Naqvi, Maulana Samiul Haq and Shah Faridul Haq have been elected the MMA’s vice-presidents.

The MMA meeting that continued till midnight also decided to field its candidate for NA-59 against Prime Minister-in-waiting Shaukat Aziz. The Nation

Top

 

Boast not of youth or friends or wealth;

Swifter than eyes can wink, by Time

Each one of these is stolen away.

Abjure the illusion of the world And join yourself to timeless Truth.

— Sri Adi Sankaracharya

Those who are false from within and honourable from without and flaunt themselves before the world, will never get their dirt washed even if they bathe at the sixty-eight holies.

— Guru Nanak

Sing with Bhakti the hallowed ‘name’ of the Lord, and the mountain of your sins will vanish, just as a mountain of cotton will burn to ashes and disappear if but a spark of fire 
falls in it.

— Sri Ramakrishna

Lord grant that I may not so much seek

to be loved as to love.

— Saint Francis of Assisi

Courage in danger is half the battle.

— Plautus

Top

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |