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EDITORIALS

A severe indictment
Captain needs to read World Bank report

A
s the World Bank’s report has confirmed it, Punjab has been a victim of poor governance. Its decline started in the nineties and still continues. The successive Congress and Akali governments are to blame. In the absence of a visionary leadership, the state misplaced its priorities.

Kohli in custody
Hannah’s killer deserves severest punishment

T
he nation is bound to heave a sigh of relief following Thursday’s arrest of Maninderpal Singh Kohli, accused of rape and murder of 17-year-old British schoolgirl, Hannah Foster, along the Indo-Nepal border in North Bengal. Hannah’s death stirred the conscience of millions of people of both India and the United Kingdom.




 

EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Neglected sportspersons
When will the mindset change?

A
PEEP into the living conditions of sportspersons at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium will reveal a lot about the status of sports in India. They are all members of the athletic team, who have qualified for the Athens Olympics. Among them are K.M. Beenamol, who was conferred Padma Shri a fortnight ago, and Neelam Jaswant Singh, who won the Asian Games Gold in Discus in 2002.
ARTICLE

Small ministries are better
Constitutional Amendment inadequate
by Mohan Guruswamy

O
n July 7, the 91st Amendment to the Constitution came into effect. From this day on, the size of the Councils of Ministers at the Centre and in the states must not exceed 15 per cent of the members in the Lok Sabha or state legislatures. The logic underlying this Amendment is quite obvious. Cost is not the central issue, for in relation to the overall cost of government, the expenditure on ministers is miniscule.

MIDDLE

So keen Shaukeen !
by K. Rajbir Deswal
H
e was dark, small statured and bow-legged. He flaunted moustache a la Confucius and as if to complete the enigma on his countenance, he sported an imperial chin with almost no hair on it.

OPED

Right to work for AIDS patients
Draft Bill proposed to help victims of the disease
by Aditi Tandon

T
here is positive news about HIV/AIDS. The National AIDS Control Organisation has recommended free medical treatment to persons living with HIV/AIDS in six states — Maharsahtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur.

SYL: time to rectify past mistakes
by Maj-Gen. Himmat Singh Gill (retd)

I
n view of the ongoing water war in which some of the northern states have been drawn into, consequent to Punjab passing the Bill terminating the water sharing accords, let’s all very honestly have another look at the merits and demerits of this issue.

 REFLECTIONS



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EDITORIALS

A severe indictment
Captain needs to read World Bank report

As the World Bank’s report has confirmed it, Punjab has been a victim of poor governance. Its decline started in the nineties and still continues. The successive Congress and Akali governments are to blame. In the absence of a visionary leadership, the state misplaced its priorities. It mismanaged its finances — expenditure kept overshooting revenue. Surprisingly, during the turbulent eighties, militancy did not hinder Punjab’s upward march. Growth, no doubt, could have been faster had peace prevailed.

Even after peace returned, the state continued to overspend on a top-heavy police. It is yet to wind up the police districts. But it was the fifth Pay Commission Report which financially unsettled the state. Its employees are the highest paid in the country. The number of IAS officers is much more than the sanctioned strength. Worse, the bureaucracy is highly politicised and, as the World Bank report indicates, has displayed a weak policy-making capacity. The state survives on borrowed money and is heading for a debt-trap. Salaries, pensions and interest payments swallow most of the state revenue. The fund squeeze has resulted in the deterioration of public services. Poor infrastructure has hampered the growth of industry and agriculture.

When the Amarinder Singh government took over in 2002, it raised hopes. It restored power and water charges for the farm sector and promised power reforms. Its crackdown on corruption was widely applauded. But soon the vested interests prevailed. Intra-party squabbles have cost the state heavily. MLAs have been appointed chairpersons of sick and ailing state enterprises. The 2004-05 budget reflects a lack of will to govern. The replacement of ministers with parliamentary secretaries shows the state government’s total disregard for the law that aims to limit the size of ministries. Reports like this one can be helpful when a government does not know what is wrong and what should be done to set it right. Here, it is a case of lack of passion and will to govern. Nevertheless, the World Bank report comes as a deserved slap on the face of a lazy administration.
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Kohli in custody
Hannah’s killer deserves severest punishment

The nation is bound to heave a sigh of relief following Thursday’s arrest of Maninderpal Singh Kohli, accused of rape and murder of 17-year-old British schoolgirl, Hannah Foster, along the Indo-Nepal border in North Bengal. Hannah’s death stirred the conscience of millions of people of both India and the United Kingdom. In the past 16 months, the British Police and the Crown Prosecution Service had launched one of their biggest manhunts for Kohli. It was only three days ago that her parents had issued a heart-rending appeal for information about Kohli in Chandigarh. The media did its duty. Following an appeal by Hannah’s parents, Kohli’s picture was flashed in all the newspapers in the country and widely telecast by all channels. The West Bengal police deserve appreciation for having followed all the leads carefully and nabbed Kohli.

Now that Kohli is in custody, the law should take its own course. He should be given the severest punishment for one of the worst crimes he has committed on an innocent girl. It is not only the prestige of the nation but also the reputation of Punjab that is involved in this case. Kohli’s modus operandi to hoodwink the police provides a glimpse of his flawed character. After he fled from the UK, he moved from one place to another in India and seemed to have tried to open a new chapter in Kalimpong where people knew him as Mike Davis. He was a sandwich delivery driver in Britain’s Southampton, Hampshire, but he popularised himself in Kalimpong as a “friendly neighbour”, a “doting husband” and a “dedicated doctor”. Most people knew him there as the “doctor” associated with the Indian Red Cross Society in spreading awareness about Hepatitis B. He even got married to the daughter of IRCS’ local secretary.

As the crime has been committed in Britain, the UK government will initiate extradition proceedings against Kohli for trial. Hopefully, legal formalities will not stand in the way of speedy dispensation of justice. It is only by punishing Kohli expeditiously that the humanity can avenge the murder of Hannah who could not fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor to serve society.
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Neglected sportspersons
When will the mindset change?

A PEEP into the living conditions of sportspersons at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium will reveal a lot about the status of sports in India. They are all members of the athletic team, who have qualified for the Athens Olympics. Among them are K.M. Beenamol, who was conferred Padma Shri a fortnight ago, and Neelam Jaswant Singh, who won the Asian Games Gold in Discus in 2002. According to a report, they are accommodated in 12x12 windowless dormitory rooms, each shared by six persons. Whether they are able to keep themselves fit for the mega event is at best a conjecture. In sharp contrast, the coaches and officials have been accommodated in VIP, air-conditioned suites.

For those who are familiar with the way sportspersons are treated in this country, all this will not come as a surprise. There have been cases when officials outnumbered athletes in the Indian contingents taking part in international sport events. Little surprise, few people take up sports as a career. Unlike in the West where successful sportspersons are assured of good money through sponsorship and endowments and in countries like China where the state takes care of their needs, sportspersons in India do not have any support systems to fall back upon. The exceptions are the cricketers, who are among the richest sportspersons in the world.

Things have started looking up after the creation of a Sports Ministry headed by Mr Sunil Dutt. However, a large portion of the money earmarked for sports is spent on salaries of the officials. State governments have come forward with generous cash awards for those from their states winning prizes in international sports meets. All the same, there has been little change in the mindset as is reflected in the differential treatment meted out to sportspersons and officials at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Is it then any surprise that a country of 1,000 million does not figure anywhere in the comity of sporting nations?
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Thought for the day

I’m not young enough to know everything. — J.M. Barrie
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Small ministries are better
Constitutional Amendment inadequate
by Mohan Guruswamy

On July 7, the 91st Amendment to the Constitution came into effect. From this day on, the size of the Councils of Ministers at the Centre and in the states must not exceed 15 per cent of the members in the Lok Sabha or state legislatures. The logic underlying this Amendment is quite obvious. Cost is not the central issue, for in relation to the overall cost of government, the expenditure on ministers is miniscule.

Even after the Amendment, the number of ministers in the Central Cabinet and the big states will still be too big to make for good governance. The problem is that with unlimited ministerial berths on offer, the destabilisation of governments is made easier. Unfortunately, there seems to be little realisation that too many cooks spoil the broth.

Even the National Committee to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), which recommended that the number of ministers "be fixed at a maximum of 10 per cent of the total strength of the popular House of the legislature", does not seem to have thought this matter through. Even its recommendation was tweaked a bit to fix the ceiling at 15 per cent, as we seem to have too many of the overly keen who want to be of greater service to the public by becoming ministers.

It would seem that the only reason why the Amendment was whisked through — and whisked through is the only description, for it for it was hardly discussed in Parliament or in the media — was to offer political managers some protection against the clamour for berths in the government. Like all good politicians, they naturally expect to come out reeking of roses at the same time.

There could also be an unstated reason, which might have to do with the distribution of wealth. Too many thieves could reduce the individual take and making ministerships too commonplace only devalued the worth of these jobs.

Whatever be the reasons for the ceiling, good governance or management principles seem to have little to do with it. We have 543 MPs in the Lok Sabha, which means that we can have up to 81 ministers in New Delhi. With 787 MPs in all, that means almost one in nine MPs can expect to be a minister. The states have in all 4,020 MLAs; opening up possibilities for about 600 ministerial berths for 4,487 MLAs and MLCs. Uttar Pradesh has the biggest Legislative Assembly with 403 MLAs, while Sikkim at the other end has to make do with just 32 MLAs or five ministers.

Quite clearly the persons who have applied their minds to this Amendment do not see government as a responsibility that has to be sensibly shared. No organisation meant to function can be designed on such a basis. Analogies are seldom entirely appropriate, but you will see what one has in mind when you consider the absurdity of limiting the number of functional responsibilities in a company to a function of the number of workers on the payroll.

Management structures and hierarchies are based on assignment of responsibilities based on division of work according to the technical and managerial specialisations. Thus, a company might have heads for production, marketing, finance, HRD, legal and secretarial, and research functions. In small companies, just one or two persons may perform all these functions, while in a large and professionally managed corporation, there would be separate or even more heads of functional areas. However, you just cannot link this to the number of workers. The important thing is that management structures apportion tasks and responsibilities according to specialisation.

Obviously, the management of government is a much more complex, with an infinitely larger set of tasks than the biggest of the corporations, but to divide the management of the state into 39 functional responsibilities, as is the case now, is to exaggerate that magnitude and complexity.

It is as if in an automobile company, a person responsible for making gearboxes is at the same level as a person looking after the paint shop or procuring accessories. As if this was not enough, they would then rise to the same level as head of production, marketing or finance. Yet, this is how a Cabinet is organised. There is a minister for Rural Development and a Minister for Panchayati Raj Institutions, as there are Ministers for Irrigation and Fertilizers, sharing the same work desk as the Minister for Agriculture.

Everything in the rural world revolves around agriculture and agriculture is compositely about water, fertilizer, food distribution, food processing, agro and rural industries. Who has ever heard of forests in the urban areas?

Instead of assigning the task of improving the lot of our farmers to just one person, we have nine departments headed by nine ministers, who often work at cross-purposes. Even if the ministers are willing, it will be almost impossible to make the bureaucrats march to the same beat. Therefore, if the rural sector continues to languish, no one is responsible.

This was not the case 50 years ago. In the first Cabinet led by Jawaharlal Nehru, there was only one minister for Food and Agriculture. The only agriculture related function not with this minister was irrigation. Gulzari Lal Nanda held the portfolio of Planning, Irrigation and Power, but in those days, additional power was intended primarily from hydel projects and it possibly made sense to have irrigation outside the Food and Agriculture Ministry.

Likewise, transport and railway was one ministry, while it has been broken up into five areas now, some of these quite ridiculously small. Take the Ministry for Civil Aviation. Apart from Air India, Indian Airlines, Airports Authority of India and the DGCA, there is little to it. The first three are companies with full-time managers, supposedly managing. Since the ministry has little policy to make, it busies itself micromanaging the companies. Don't the ministers love that, particularly now when over Rs 20,000 crore worth of aircraft purchases are planned?

What is the need for a Ministry of Information and Broadcasting when that means little more than just Akashvani and Doordarshan? Mercifully, there is little by way of purchases in I&B, even though the previous incumbent seemed to want to make CAS incumbent on us for reasons other than apparent.

The 91st Amendment is not good enough, as it just does not address the problem. We now need a 92nd Amendment that will marginally change Article 74 (1) of the Constitution to read: "There will be a Council of Ministers consisting of the Ministers for Home Affairs, Defence, Foreign Relations, Agriculture…" Article 75 (1), which makes it incumbent for the President to appoint ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister, remaining as it is then makes the choice of the ministers entirely his or her.

While we are at it, we might want to look at Article 75 (5) afresh and consider the merit of eliminating the stipulation of getting elected to either Houses of Parliament or legislatures. In this manner, we could encourage Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers to induct professional and competent persons rather than be limited to professional leaders.

The new Prime Minister in his first address to the nation said: "I am convinced that the government, at every level, is today not adequately equipped and attuned to meeting this challenge and meeting the aspirations of the people. To be able to do so, we require the reform of government and political institutions." The Chairperson of the UPA is putting together some sort of an extra-governmental, possibly even an extra-Constitutional think-tank. Maybe the subject of a smaller and more functional government will merit his attention?
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So keen Shaukeen !
by K. Rajbir Deswal

He was dark, small statured and bow-legged. He flaunted moustache a la Confucius and as if to complete the enigma on his countenance, he sported an imperial chin with almost no hair on it.

Sita Ram had come to stay in our village probably 60 years back from eastern U.P. and that was why they called him Purbia. By no standards did he resemble other locals in height, gait and dialect.

He took up the profession of a shepherd and huddled the village herd each morning for grazing. He had about half a dozen boys to assist him. There was no dearth of milk for the entire band of shepherds. But Sita Ram ate his stuff with an extra helping of some special chutney and a heavy punch of lassi. This was in addition to bread and onion, which his underdogs filled their belly with.

The shepherd’s monkey brigade had a word spread in the village that Sita was a gourmet — chatora in Haryanavi — who was fond of different food. His “weakness” for the palate came to be gossiped. “After all what is so special that he eats?”— was the question Sita had to explain to the Panchayat one day.

Rising a little early than others every morning, Sita made a paste of garlic pods, added lot of red chillies and salt to it, put the stuff in a small container and deposited it safely in the folds of his attire. It was this “extra” helping that made him an object of envy and people started contemptuously calling him a shaukeen — one who was given to ‘weaknesses’ in the villagers’ perception.

There was yet another shaukeen, an old punk by the name of Maakad, who became notorious for his ‘disgraceful and flamboyant style that did not behove men of his age’.

Maakad regularly visited a hair-cutting saloon in the nearby town for getting his eyebrows plucked — something ‘really objectionable and despicable’. Umpteen times Maakad explained to his critics that it was for some undesirable hair that curled and touched his pupils irritably, every now and then, that he needed a dressing very often; but to no avail.

Yet another shaukeen was Munshi, a middle aged ladies-tailor whose fondness for attar (perfume) applied on his temples kept the villagers in perpetual annoyance of him. He was accused of throwing aromatic hints at his unsuspecting female clients and had to give up his profession and take up masonry work of brick laying almost as a punishment.

I wonder if someone belonging to those times could do a time-travel and have a look at the metrosexual men of today. Whoever said only macho men were historically in great demand!
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OPED

Right to work for AIDS patients
Draft Bill proposed to help victims of the disease
by Aditi Tandon

There is positive news about HIV/AIDS. The National AIDS Control Organisation has recommended free medical treatment to persons living with HIV/AIDS in six states — Maharsahtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur.

The recommendation to cover one lakh patients under the public health system was made following a petition in the Supreme Court by the Voluntary Health Association of Punjab, which seeks free antiretroviral treatment for all HIV/AIDS patients.

The latest heartening news is the preparation of HIV/AIDS Draft Bill, 2004, which is being hailed for its measures to control the disease and protect rights of those infected by it.

Prepared by Lawyers Collective, the Bill, for the first time, talks about the rights of the “protected” (those suffering or perceived to be suffering from HIV/AIDS) persons.

It spells out measures to secure the following rights for them – right to equality, right to privacy, right to safe working environment, right to information, right to marry and start a family, right to autonomy, and most importantly the right to work.

The right to work is being considered the most effective measure in securing the dignity of HIV/AIDS patients, who tend to lose jobs. Dr A.S. Saroha, Deputy Director, State AIDS Control Society, Chandigarh, says, “The disease carries a stigma. Recently four HIV/AIDS infected BSF jawans were issued termination orders. They have one last opportunity of being heard. If they are terminated, we would pursue their cases in court. Meanwhile, the HIV/AIDS Draft Bill has done well to secure the right to work of infected individuals.”

The Draft Bill also, for the first time, defines the role of the State in providing affordable/ accessible healthcare to the infected, besides providing voluntary counselling and testing facilities in every district. It prohibits quackery and proposes legal measures to make those indulging in quackery accountable for violation of laws.

There is also focus on strategies for the reduction of HIV risk and on social security provisions for the infected. Further, the Draft Bill provides for the establishment of a national HIV/AIDS commission, in place of the existing National AIDS Control Organisation.

Though the Bill seeks to address the gravity of HIV incidence in India, many NGOs feel it has holes which need to be plugged. Over 40 health experts and NGO representatives from the North recently met in Panchkula to debate on the Bill which, they felt, had overlooked the issue of rehabilitation of commercial sex workers. Apprehensions were also raised about making the Draft Bill for “consultation only” and “not for circulation.”

Mr Manmohan Sharma of the VHAP, which advocates the need to protect the most vulnerable (also the most productive) age group, 15 to 49 years, says the Draft Bill should be open to debate, and it should also assign a greater role to NGOs, which don’t figure prominently in the current Bill.

Dr B.S. Dahiya, Project Director, AIDS Control Society, Haryana, when contacted, said, “There were estimated 4.38 million cases of HIV/AIDS in India in 2002. The magnitude of the problem is multifold. The social stigma persists. Stringent measures are needed to protect the affected people’s dignity.”

Interactions with Dr Vijay Kumar, a WHO consultant, Dr Avnish Jolly of the Servants of People’s Society and Ms Veena Kumari of the Human Rights Law Network led to the exposure of other loopholes in the Draft Bill. It talks about provisions of counselling and testing centres in districts, but not at the grassroots level where the risk is higher. Many NGOs feel blood transfusion, though a significant contributor to the epidemic (about 20 % cases) in India, has not been elaborately handled in the Bill.

“There is no clear emphasis on the improvement of blood bank standards, removal of unauthorised blood banks and HIV testing of professional blood donors,” says Ms Veena Kumari. She insists that rights of women living with the HIV/AIDS infected should also be better protected. Recently in two cases at Bathinda and Khanna, the wives of HIV patients were thrown out of the family after their husband’s death. They were not given any share in the husband’s property.

Ms Veena Kumari adds, “The Bill must specify property rights of such women. Further though it talks about the registration of marriages and pre-marriage counselling to prevent HIV incidence, it doesn’t suggest measures to simplify procedures. Likewise, the Bill offers priority in legal proceedings to HIV patients but doesn’t make the administration of justice time bound. This is important in view of their short life span. The Juvenile Justice Act has such a provision.”

Another concern stems from the “right to marry and found a family” which the Draft Bill talks about. Dr Vijay Kumar says, “Though this is a heartening step, we must devise social security measures for children born out of the wedlock. Likewise, the Bill must include a special law for Army men, truck drivers, migrant labourers, who remain away from homes for long and are hence under high risk.”
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SYL: time to rectify past mistakes
by Maj-Gen. Himmat Singh Gill (retd)

In view of the ongoing water war in which some of the northern states have been drawn into, consequent to Punjab passing the Bill terminating the water sharing accords, let’s all very honestly have another look at the merits and demerits of this issue.

Some of the queries that the Haryana and Rajasthan CMs and others need to answer very truthfully are: Are their states riperian? Do they even lie in a river basin? Does the water availability worked out earlier from the 1920-1948 figures hold good today? Have you all worked out how much water is really surplus after meeting the needs of Punjab?

Is Haryana morally right in taking away water from Punjab, the 'mother' state, when it is already benefiting from the Ganga-Yamuna river network. Is Rajasthan justified for all these years in enjoying the maximum water allocation in the Indira Gandhi Canal when it is not a riperian state? How does Delhi even figure in the water allocations?

Does it make sense to complete the SYL canal when there is no surplus water to spare? Punjab was first split in 1947 and again in 1966. Then came the senseless Rajiv Gandhi-Longowal accord and the Eradi Commission, which have all made an honest and nationalist border state like Punjab a beggar to its own water resouces. A callous and uncaring Centre and a virtually anti-Punjab Press in the country have complicated the issue. So what if Darbara Singh had erred and bartered away Punjab’s waters! Is it not time now to rectify this infirmity with an action that the Punjab Government has taken very smartly and sensibly?

Punjab is being accused in some circles of defying the law and going against the Supreme Court verdict. Are not the states part of a federal system where all have equal rights? Punjab has taken a legal and civilised route through its legislature and left it to the Supreme Court to finally adjudicate on the rights of the lawmakers of a state to govern on a matter of water which is a state subject.

Yes, the Centre can move in when there is a dispute with other states, but is not Punjab's voice to be heard? In any case, today the SYL canal issue is just a part of the whole debate, and what the country has to very fairly examine is the question of starving Punjab for decades.

People for their own selfish reasons have been conveniently missing the wood for trees for all these years, and it is time we relied more on our sense of morality rather than a pure legal interpretation. With the new government's stress on the CMP and agriculture, it’s time that Punjab got its rightful share of water.

And it is also time that our Press highlighted the real issues involved in the present wrangling, rather than play up a so-called standoff between a Chief Minister and a Prime Minister. Punjab's whole economy rests on agriculture, unlike many other states which have had the best of agriculture and industry. Let us now not force the Punjabi farmer to change this pattern.
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Temperance is love surrendering itself wholly to Him who is its object; courage is love bearing all things gladly for the sake of Him who is its object; justice is love serving only Him who is its object, and therefore rightly ruling; prudence is love making wise distinctions between what hinders and what helps itself.

— Saint Augustine

The Buddhas do that tell the way,

it is for you to swelter at the task.

— The Buddha

Do not pick up a quarrel by calling anyone bad.

— Guru Nanak

Not a single one of Krishna’s deeds was done for Himself. Every one of them was for the good of others.

— Swami Vivekananda

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God.

— I. John
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