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EDITORIALS

Goodbye Mrs Staines!
Her tragedy will remain on India's conscience
H
AD Gladys Stuart Staines left in January 1999 when her husband and two little sons were burnt to death in what President K.R. Narayanan described as mankind's blackest deed, it would have been painful but understandable. But she had decided to stay put and carry on the missionary work started by Graham Staines.

Values and heritage
IIAS to stay put at Viceregal Lodge
T
HE times are a changing. Our myths are no more made up of Ph.Ds. Scholarship is out of fashion. A seminal work on history or a provocative sociological insight is less attractive than a pamphlet for a slogan contest that promises the reward of a weekend in a five-star hotel.




EARLIER ARTICLES

Captain in a hurry
July 15, 2004
Off with the agreements
July 14, 2004
Badal all the way
July 13, 2004
Driven to suicide
July 12, 2004
Chidambaram’s budget lacks direction
July 11, 2004
Water! Water!
July 10, 2004
A commendable budget
July 9, 2004
On the right track
July 8, 2004
Politician’s Budget
July 7, 2004
Minority welfare
July 6, 2004
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
PTU’s job carnival
Only a few get placement
T
HE three-day “career carnival” organised by Punjab Technical University in Jalandhar was revealing in more than one way. This was the first attempt by the university to arrange jobs for its students and it left many disappointed.
ARTICLE

A House under scrutiny
The second chamber has its uses
by K. C. Sivaramakrishnan
T
HE Public Interest Litigation currently before the Supreme Court about the domicile requirements for the Rajya Sabha members provides the country with an opportunity to consider several issues that have so far been avoided. Are domicile and the voting process the only problems affecting the Rajya Sabha structure?

MIDDLE

Dame Democracy
by J.L. Gupta
T
HE archives have the portrait of the princess in the service of her people. The artist was Abraham Lincoln. He had a vision. The picture was perfect. But age changes the image. Today, the politicians as well as the parties are only offering excuses. Nothing else. The wise do not even exercise the right to elect. The multitude of people prefers the pliable to the able.

OPED

Punjab slowdown dismays World Bank
Key report criticises the state’s civil servants
by P.P.S. Gill
H
OLD your breath! Here is a warning: the World Bank has forecast a gloomy future for Punjab. And if its current growth slowdown persists for another decade, by the end of it Punjab would no longer be the most prosperous state in the country. At least four states — Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharahstra and Tamil Nadu — would have a higher per capita income than Punjab.

DELHI DURBAR
Young Congress MPs enthused
T
HE first-time Congress MPs are highly enthused by the party leadership’s decision to have a three-day orientation-cum-acclimatisation workshop about the functioning of Parliament. The workshop got underway on Tuesday and concluded on Thursday.

  • Water still flows to Haryana

  • Manmohan and Advani

  • Another side of PC

  • Sunil Dutt eyes BCCI funds


 REFLECTIONS

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Goodbye Mrs Staines!
Her tragedy will remain on India's conscience

HAD Gladys Stuart Staines left in January 1999 when her husband and two little sons were burnt to death in what President K.R. Narayanan described as mankind's blackest deed, it would have been painful but understandable. But she had decided to stay put and carry on the missionary work started by Graham Staines. Her leaving the country now makes the parting all the more heart-rending and poignant. Five and a half years down the line, killer Dara Singh, whose appeal against death penalty is pending in the Orissa High Court, is not only unrepentant but also nurses political ambitions. There is even a "Dara Sena" named after him. Nothing could make the contrast more stark. Mrs Staines says she has forgiven him. But the murder is very much on the conscience of India. She should go with the belief that the country does not subscribe to the religious bigotry that the Bajrang Dal activists represent and displayed on that dark night. For the majority of its citizens, ahimsa is still the creed. It is just that the peace-loving people do not speak out as forcefully as they should.

Mrs Staines says she is going back to Australia because her 91-year-old father needs her and her daughter, who is now 18, has to start her medical education. She does not display any trace of anger at all but her remark that "I feel totally exhausted" is the key to her disillusionment over the way bureaucracy put hurdles in the way of the construction of the Graham Staines Memorial Hospital at Baripada, which is finally complete. The only way the country can atone for the brutal murder is by shedding the traces of religious intolerance which very much run in the veins of some misguided people. Such men may not kill but make everyone belonging to another religion feel unwelcome.

Jonathan Swift had said nearly 300 years ago that "we have just enough religion to make us hate each other, and not enough religion to make us love each other". It seems that despite the passage of these centuries, man has not evolved much. Secularism is only a slogan for some. Till this gruesome and macabre streak goes away, the word "humanity" will also remain just that: a label.

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Values and heritage
IIAS to stay put at Viceregal Lodge

THE times are a changing. Our myths are no more made up of Ph.Ds. Scholarship is out of fashion. A seminal work on history or a provocative sociological insight is less attractive than a pamphlet for a slogan contest that promises the reward of a weekend in a five-star hotel. Heritage be damned. It is the here and now of hedonism that thrives. So, although it caused much concern, it is hardly surprising that someone should have seriously mooted the freakish idea of converting the Viceregal Lodge in Shimla —abode of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study — into a five-star hotel. Mercifully that has been put paid to. Better still is the news that the IIAS will not be moved out of the Viceregal Lodge, thanks to a Supreme Court order. The continuation of the IIAS in the Lodge renamed Rashtrapati Nivas, shrouded in uncertainty since the late1970s, should now be treated as settled and not raked up in any form whatsoever.

Ever since the Janata Party government in 1979 announced that the Institute would be closed down, the IIAS has been haunted by uncertainties: of whether the institution would be wound up or moved out; whether the Rashtrapati Nivas would be museumised as a heritage site or vulgarised as a five-star hotel. But thanks to Mr Rajeev Mankotia's public interest litigation which has been appreciated on record by the Supreme Court, the IIAS can now turn its attention to priorities that ought to be more central for its survival as an institution of academic excellence.

The protection of the magnificent building as a heritage site need not be at odds with the IIAS functioning as an institution of eminence. Instances abound of architectural splendours and academic-creative endeavours complementing each other. The Salzburg Seminar in Austria functions out of an ancient castle and Brecht's house in Berlin is more alive as heritage because it is still home to theatre activity. There are many such inspiring examples to be drawn from for making the most of the building and the Institute.

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PTU’s job carnival
Only a few get placement

THE three-day “career carnival” organised by Punjab Technical University in Jalandhar was revealing in more than one way. This was the first attempt by the university to arrange jobs for its students and it left many disappointed. The function was successful only in terms of response of jobless students. Some 4,000 former students of the university from all over the northern states turned up. They possessed high-sounding degrees like B. Tech, B.E., M. Tech and MBA, which are supposed to be highly in demand. But only 47 students could secure appointment letters.

The number of companies which came for head-hunting was much below everyone’s expectations. Newspaper reports put their number at 20 or so. This may be partly due to the improper handling of the recruitment process. Poor arrangements made by the university would not have pained the participants so much had they been successful in getting employment. Many of the students got jobs, like those appointed for call centres, which were below their qualifications and at salaries lower than they deserved. It was a shocking experience for jobless youth. The dismal placement show reflects on the performance and image of Punjab Technical University.

Right from its start, the university has been in controversy for one or the other reason. The reckless manner in which the university appointed study centres has been widely criticised. Many of them neither had the required infrastructure nor the qualified staff, while they charged hefty fee from the students. The quality and fate of “technocrats” turned out by such teaching shops can be well imagined. All those associated with technical education should ask themselves: is this the way to train engineers? Given the recent mushrooming of engineering institutions in the state, is there enough demand for them?

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Thought for the day

In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, clarity.

— Richard Baxter

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A House under scrutiny
The second chamber has its uses
by K. C. Sivaramakrishnan

THE Public Interest Litigation currently before the Supreme Court about the domicile requirements for the Rajya Sabha members provides the country with an opportunity to consider several issues that have so far been avoided. Are domicile and the voting process the only problems affecting the Rajya Sabha structure?

Does the Rajya Sabha adequately reflect the socio-economic conditions and polity of the country? More importantly, is it truly a Council of States as intended by our Constitution makers or even a chamber of elders as expected by the people or is it in danger of becoming a poor imitation of the Lok Sabha?

While the issue of domicile is "sub judice", the other questions merit attention. The Constitution makers determined the present composition of the Rajya Sabha after considering several models and alternatives. Apart from the 12 members to be nominated by the President, the remaining 238 members were to be elected from the states and Union Territories.

As in the case of the Lok Sabha, the major and more populous states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have a total of 150 seats, which is about 60 per cent of the seats in this House.

Smaller states like Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland and the Union Territory of Pondicherry have one seat each. Uttaranchal, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi have three seats each. The remaining Rajya Sabha seats are allocated to other states.

If population is to be applied as a criterion at all, the present allocation makes little sense. In six states, there is only one Rajya Sabha seat for every 50 lakh or more of population, and in seven the ratio is between 40 and 50 lakh. In another 12, it is between 20 and 40 lakh, and in the rest it is much less.

It is also odd that for a large state like Tamil Nadu, the member-population ratio is 35 lakh, which is only a little more than Tripura's figure of 32. Pondicherry and Nagaland have one Rajya Sabha seat each, but the ratio is 10 to one and 20 to one in another.

Obviously population cannot be the sole criterion. The Rajya Sabha's composition has to reflect India's wide-ranging disparity in its size and character. The needs of small states have to be given sufficient attention.

As per the 2001 Census, the number of states with nearly 60 lakh population is now 15. The remaining 20 states have population ranging from 84 lakh in Uttaranchal to nearly 17 crore in Uttar Pradesh.

Soon, there will be some more small states. Telengana, Vidharba and the demand for carving another state in western UP are clear signs of the future trend. The country has to be prepared for a situation when there will be as many small states as large ones.

The case for adequate representation of the small states in the Rajya Sabha is straightforward. The aspirations of North Eastern states like Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya or a state like Goa should be felt and expressed better in Parliament than what is presently possible.

Delhi, which already has seven MPs in the Lok Sabha, does not need an additional three members in the Rajya Sabha. Chhattisgarh has 11 seats in the Lok Sabha and five in the Rajya Sabha; for Jharkhand these numbers are 14 and 6, whereas, for Punjab these numbers are 13 and 7. There is little logic in this configuration. It can be considered if each of the small states has a minimum of two members in the Rajya Sabha on a uniform basis and the balance is allocated to the others on population basis.

Apprehensions arise from time to time about the so-called "north-south divide" and the feeling that population-based allocation of seats in the Lok Sabha will only serve the continued domination of the northern states. In our multi-state polity, fears about a group of states seeking control of Parliament will persist.

It is the Rajya Sabha that can help to some extent in preserving the balance and the federal character of the country. Obviously, changing the composition of the Rajya Sabha will call for a Constitution amendment, but it is high time serious thought was given to the subject.

Besides, there is also a strong case for bicameral legislatures, at least in the larger states. While framing the Constitution, there was some debate on the need for a second chamber in the state legislatures. Eventually the Constitution kept a provision in Article 168 for Legislative Councils in the States of Madras, Bombay, Bengal, UP, Bihar and Punjab.

A Legislative Council for Jammu and Kashmir came later on. There was also a provision under Article 169 that upon the Legislative Assembly of the State passing a resolution with two-third majority for creating or abolishing the Legislative Council, Parliament may by law provide for the same.

In 1969, the Legislative Councils of Punjab and West Bengal were abolished. The abolition of the Councils in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu followed in 1985 and 1986, respectively. Later, the resolutions in the Bihar and UP Assemblies for abolition of the respective Legislative Councils and for reviving the Council in Punjab were not pursued.

The Sarkaria Commission has drawn attention to this lack of uniform approach. Today, there are Legislative Councils only in Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, UP and Jammu and Kashmir.

The 73rd and the 74th Amendments have brought more than 30 lakh elected representatives into the political stream. These also contain enabling provisions whereby state governments can provide for Members of Parliament and Members of State Legislatures to be ex-officio members of municipal corporations, municipalities, district and intermediate panchayats. Most state governments have provided for such dual membership.

The question is, if it is important for an MP or an MLA to be heard in a local authority, is it not equally important for the local authorities to be heard in the State Legislature? Providing for the representation of the local bodies in the State Legislature through the mechanism of a second chamber as envisaged in the Constitution is feasible and can also help develop organic links between the two-tiers of representative bodies.

Bicameralism in the legislative structure should, therefore, be taken in the true sense of the term and it should prevail both in the States and at the Centre. It will also help in maintaining the balance between the strength derived by one part of the legislature, through adult franchise, and the other, whose value lies in its sensitivity to the local needs and opportunities.

For a highly varied polity and society like India, the representative system should be inclusive rather than exclusive. It cannot rely on the power and wisdom of one single House, either at the Centre or in the larger states. Since the country has adopted a democratic, participative and multi-level system of governance, bicameral legislatures will provide the needed under-pinning.

The writer is a former Secretary to the Government of India.

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Dame Democracy
by J.L. Gupta

THE archives have the portrait of the princess in the service of her people. The artist was Abraham Lincoln. He had a vision. The picture was perfect. But age changes the image. Today, the politicians as well as the parties are only offering excuses. Nothing else. The wise do not even exercise the right to elect. The multitude of people prefers the pliable to the able. They prescribe prejudices and proscribe principles. Ultimately, the pliable become powerful. Then they punish the very people who have given them the position. The experience proves it.

But for democracy, nobody could have inflicted Bush on the people. Today, the President of America thinks that he is the President of the world. He is the Ruler. He is entitled to dictate terms to the world. Everyone is bound to bend and bow before him. Anyone who dares to defy has to be decimated. It appears that he has a good appetite for excitement and excess. To prove himself right, he is waging war on the slightest pretext. Iraq provides the latest instance. Ironically, untold misery is being inflicted on the innocent and unarmed people. That too, in the name of democracy, freedom and human rights.

Like their President, some of the Americans believe that they are a century ahead of India. Actually many of us can take pride in the fact they are a few hours behind us. Even in the art of buying votes. In our country, the babus invariably lose. The Laloos usually win. More than that, it happens very often that the vanquished is the winner. The ministerial berth is given to the person who had lost at the hustings. The disapproved are brought in via the back door. Through the States they may not have ever represented. The peoples’ mandate is made meaningless.

Nearer home, the position is still more interesting. Only a while back, the ‘City Beautiful’ was the residents’ pride and the visitors’ delight. It was neat and clean. Spick and span. The garbage was regularly removed by the Public Health Department. There were no flies. No mosquitoes. The parking places were free and open. The roads were well maintained. Life was smooth and comfortable. And then suddenly some wise man had a brain wave. He thought that “dame democracy” must be brought to the town. She came. And in a short while, the results are visible. The garbage is not removed despite payment to the contractors appointed by the Council. We have to pay for parking. Also for the Councillors calling each other corrupt. And this is not enough. They are busy finding more ways to subsist and sustain themselves. By taxing the electors. Even their property.

Why find faults? Watch the elected representatives on the television. Is it not an interesting diversion from the day’s drudgery? Yes! It does give you a chance to smile. Also to cry. Going by the IQ, it appears that many of them missed being another species by a chromosome. Often, the leaders have nothing to say. But they never hesitate to prove it. Some appear to be a monumental embarrassment to their constituencies and countrymen.

The optimist should never lose hope. I am sure that a gentleman like Mr Bush will soon be elected as the ex-president by the largest majority. The wise shall begin to exercise their right to elect. Ultimately, aristocracy of merit shall replace the rule of mediocrity. And then alone we shall see the true charm of dame democracy.

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Punjab slowdown dismays World Bank
Key report criticises the state’s civil servants
by P.P.S. Gill

Will the heady days of the Green Revolution ever return?
Will the heady days of the “Green Revolution” ever return? 

HOLD your breath! Here is a warning: the World Bank has forecast a gloomy future for Punjab. And if its current growth slowdown persists for another decade, by the end of it Punjab would no longer be the most prosperous state in the country. At least four states — Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharahstra and Tamil Nadu — would have a higher per capita income than Punjab.

It also says that Punjab has had a successful past but faces an uncertain future. After discussing Punjab’s successes and failures, it raises some questions that tug at very Punjabi’s heart.

Sample this: There is a sense of uneasiness regarding what the future holds for Punjab. Concerned citizens wonder whether the younger generation will grow up in the most affluent and developed state, like their parents and grandparents once did. Will the heady days of the “Green Revolution” ever return to Punjab? Will the state be able to hold on to the impressive gains made on the socio-economic fronts?

Such anxieties are not without reason: the state’s public finances are under sever stress, the economy is stagnating, employment opportunities are shrinking, the quality of public service delivery is deteriorating, interest groups are growing in influence and human development indicators are beginning to languish or even deteriorate.

The World Bank has also identified areas of concern: growth slowdown, fiscal crisis and deteriorating public services. It has put Punjab’s past, present and future development in proper perspective, mirroring both performance and prospects. The ‘grand old’ Punjab ceased to exist at the end of the 90s. Till then it had done well in education, health care, social and economic spheres. Punjab had ranked second only to Kerala in overall human development among major states. This is no longer true. Everything has slowed down, faltered or failed, from politics to governance to economy to tax administration to diversification to industrial growth to implementing reforms to right-sizing government and to not implementing its own Acts.

All this and much more is reflected in the 80-page World Bank Punjab Development Report submitted to the state government on June 26. This is being kept under wraps. This is understandable given the strong indictment of the present government that came to power in 2002. Nevertheless, it also praises the government for its initial initiatives, making a good start on implementing reforms and bringing about fiscal discipline.

The report says Punjab is a paradox. If it still has an oasis of prosperity, as in its private sector, its government is impoverished; it has virtually eliminated the gender gap in primary education, yet suffers form the problem of widespread sex-selective abortions and female infanticide (gender ratio is only 874); although it has a large and growing middle class, the quality of public services remains stubbornly poor.

The World Bank team of over 20 experts from diverse fields, agriculture to administration, political economy to poverty, power and productivity and gender to governance, has profiled Punjab in its true colours. It has taken into account its elements of uniqueness to its problems — turbulent history, twice redrawn borders, three wars, a hostile border, a long spell of President’s Rule as well as terrorism and geographical disadvantages as a front-line, land-locked state.

According to World Bank calculations, output losses, both agricultural and industrial, suffered by Punjab on account of militancy activities could be as large as Rs 13,000 crore in today’s prices; equivalent to 29 per cent of today’s gross state domestic product. This loss is for the period 1987-88 to 1992-93. Some scars of that period left on Punjab’s body-politic, psyche, growth and finances are yet to heal.

The World Bank has come down rather harshly on the burgeoning bureaucracy and highly paid babus, who are non-performing as well. This segment of the civil services had expanded at 3 per cent each year between 1987-88 and 1992-93. This had taken a heavy toll of revenue expenditure. No wonder, as on date, about Rs 8,000 crore is still on the accounts of Punjab, which it had borrowed to fight militancy.

Interestingly, on the one hand Punjab carries the cross of debt burden. On the other, it doles out subsidies worth Rs 2,000 crore annually, that go to farmers as the minimum support price for paddy and wheat production. Such problems can be solved only by New Delhi, while Punjab will have to walk an extra mile to improve its own house-keeping through better political economy, administration, curbing expenditure, shoring up revenues and cost-cutting measures like reducing unproductive expenditure.

What really worries the World Bank is that despite the availability of a plethora of reports and Acts, recommendations of its own advisory committees and commissions, the Punjab Government was unable or unwilling to implement its own decisions, including ones of its own Cabinet sub-committee on fiscal reforms and financial reconstruction and resource mobilisation. The recommendations of this committee have not been made public.

Commenting on the 2004-05 budget, presented to the Vidhan Sabha on June 21, the World Bank report refers to ‘’positive’’ intentions on the reform front but says the budget is eloquently silent on several key reform issues, namely, action to reduce the size of the government, unbundling of the power board and reintroduction of exim forms for tax purposes, among others.

The report makes blunt references to steps required to put Punjab on the right track for its own survival. It castigates the civil services that are plagued by many problems, including over staffing, fragmentation, frequent and politicised transfers and a weak-policy making capacity.

It refers to the need for having an “overarching vision’’ to implement reforms, so necessary to transform Punjab, build public support for change, get political leaders to publically demonstrate their support for reforms and motivate change agents in the bureaucracy giving them clear signals and supporting them in crisis. It emphasises on the role New Delhi can play.

Conclusion: Action now will be less costly than action later. Until reforms are put on the top of the agenda by all political parties, with the support of key elements of civil society, Punjab is likely to continue its downward journey regardless of which party governs the state.

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DELHI DURBAR
Young Congress MPs enthused

THE first-time Congress MPs are highly enthused by the party leadership’s decision to have a three-day orientation-cum-acclimatisation workshop about the functioning of Parliament. The workshop got underway on Tuesday and concluded on Thursday.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi is believed to have been on the forefront of organising such a workshop so that these young and energetic politicians along with other party MPs did not feel handicapped or overawed by the atmosphere. Among those who spoke to the “freshers” and other Congress MPs were Pranab Mukherjee, a seasoned parliamentarian, former Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj Patil and Chandigarh’s Pawan Kumar Bansal.

Water still flows to Haryana

Despite critical media reports about Punjab going back on the SYL agreement, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appeared confident while narrating his side of the story to mediapersons. Contrary to what has been reported, he maintained that Punjab is not going to deny water to either Haryana, Delhi or Rajasthan as these three states will continue to get their present share of water.

What is at stake is the future share of water as Punjab cannot afford to part with more. Punjab is only asking for a fresh commission to decide on the issue as Haryana is getting water from the Yamuna, being a basin state.

Manmohan and Advani

Leader of the Opposition and former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani was hoping for a quid pro quo when he had a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for ending the boycott of Parliament over the issue of tainted ministers. That did not happen. First, Advani sought the ouster of all the six ministers against whom there are serious charges. Finally, the BJP leader came down to seeking the back of just one minister — Mohammad Taslimuddin, whom former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda had dropped from his Council of Ministers in 1997. Manmohan Singh did not relent.

Another side of PC

The other side of Finance Minister P Chidambaram is full of jest, wit and humour. The customary post-budget dinner of the Finance Minister with journalists on Tuesday is strictly off-the-record. Some TV reporters, however, arrived armed with cameras only to be politely turned away. Dressed in a shirt and matching trousers and shoes, PC was certainly not the self that the public sees of him. He was full all life and humour.

One journalist asked him about VDIS II, to which PC asked whether he had some money parked somewhere.

A lady journalist wanted to know something about the turnover tax. The minister’s reply:”No sweetheart, everybody has accepted the turnover tax”.

Sunil Dutt eyes BCCI funds

Sports Minister Sunil Dutt had one of India’s most well recognised sports administrators as his visitor. BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya called on Dutt. Insiders say that Sunil Dutt threw up a rather innovative idea to Dalmiya to address the funds crunch faced by many sports associations in the country. Why couldn’t the BCCI, which is flush with funds, set aside a fixed proportion (say 5 per cent) for other associations? Needless to say, Dalmiya’s response was a characteristic wry smile.

Contributed by Satish Misra and Gaurav Choudhury

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The sage awakes to light in the night of

all creatures. That which the world calls day

is the night of ignorance to the wise.

— Sri Krishna

Of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Indra; and all the seers, sages, ascetics and mendicants, whoever obey the command of God are honoured in His court. But they who ever disobey Him, are surely destroyed by Him.

— Guru Nanak

Prophets preach, but the Incarnations like Jesus, Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna can give religion: one glance, one touch is enough.

— Swami Vivekananda

We call him a Brahmin who remains unaffected by objects of sensual pleasures even while surrounded by them like a lotus which remains unaffected by water though living in it.

— Lord Mahavir

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