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EDITORIALS

Resignations a charade
Settle water dispute through dialogue

P
olitical leaders in Haryana seem to be playing oneupmanship on the sensitive waters issue. The BJP called a Haryana bandh on Monday, which evoked a limited response. All the six MLAs of the party have resigned from the Assembly.

Transfers for what?
CMs must listen to PM’s advice

P
rime Minister Manmohan Singh’s letter to all Chief Ministers, reviving a tradition set by Jawaharlal Nehru, to help tackle the menace of transfers and postings of civil servants is timely. He has rightly urged them to ensure the stability of the tenure of officials in key positions for effective administration and proper delivery of public services.



EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Return of Raja Bhaiyya
UP politics shows its true face
T
hose campaigning against the criminalisation of politics, citing the example of Mohammad Taslimuddin in the Union Council of Ministers, must be shocked at UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision to make mafia don Raghurajpratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiyya, his 60th minister.

ARTICLE

The Voice of Arabs
Al-Jazeera speaks for a demoralised people
by S. Nihal Singh
A
T Doha, headquarters of the celebrated Al-Jazeera Arabic television channel, emotions are still raw over the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Qatar capital is a microcosm of the Arab world because of the multinational nature of the 750-strong predominantly Arab Al-Jazeera staff.

MIDDLE

Of receding hairlines and rubbing nails
by Sai R. Vaidyanathan
A
s I, his last patient, walked into the doctor's cabin, I saw him rubbing his nails together. This was not an unusual site in today's India but coming from an allopathic medical practitioner, it made me comment on it.

OPED

Need to modernise armed forces
Plan for single integrated operation

by K. Subrahmanyam
I
n this year’s budget, a large sum of money has been allocated for acquisition of modern equipment. The Defence Minister is confident that he would be able to spend the amount though the past record would not give grounds for optimism. The new government points out — justifiably — that the procurement of modern equipment has not been at an appropriate pace in the past and consequently the modernisation programme of the armed forces has suffered.

Delhi Durbar
Reservation for women
P
olitical parties may have sharp differences on the Women’s Reservation Bill, but they have been provided reservation of sorts in the Rajya Sabha. The move made by the Rajya Sabha Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat on his own got unanimous support from all sides. It sought for women MPs in the Upper House the privilege of priority to raise issues and debate for two days in a week.

  • Arjun Singh matters
  • Books on Prime Minister
  • Sonia Gandhi in Thailand
  • Elusive invite to Indradhanush

 REFLECTIONS

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EDITORIALS

Resignations a charade
Settle water dispute through dialogue

Political leaders in Haryana seem to be playing oneupmanship on the sensitive waters issue. The BJP called a Haryana bandh on Monday, which evoked a limited response. All the six MLAs of the party have resigned from the Assembly. As The Tribune photograph revealed, the MLAs celebrated their quittal by sharing sweets. What is there to be so happy about the resignations? Earlier, the Congress MLAs too had resigned, but they chose to submit their so-called resignation letters to their state party president. With only seven months left for the Vidhan Sabha to complete its term, the resignations are nothing more than a charade designed to extract political mileage out of a serious issue.

People generally pay a heavy price for the irresponsible actions or provocative statements of a few misguided leaders. A political action like calling a bandh can inflame passions and trigger violence. Already, the travelling public has been put to inconvenience. Punjab has curtailed its bus services in Haryana after the younger brigade of the BJP, comprising Yuva Morcha activists, damaged its buses. Can a bandh or the stoning of buses solve the SYL issue? Senior and saner leaders of political parties should prevail and control their fiery juniors and not arouse passions that sometimes cannot be controlled.

What has happened needs to be understood clearly and then an attempt be made to defuse the situation to the satisfaction of all concerned. That requires political wisdom and maturity. The Supreme Court has ordered the completion of the SYL canal only. The key dispute over sharing the river waters remains. What is the point in completing the canal without first solving the water problem? The passing of the Punjab Termination of the Agreements Bill, 2004, is a response to the Supreme Court order and in all probability will be struck down by the court. The Act does not mean Punjab has stopped or is going to stop the river waters already flowing to Haryana and Rajasthan. Punjab’s claim whether it has surplus water or not can be got examined by experts. The whole issue needs to be settled through dialogue in a give-and-take spirit under the aegis of the Centre, which needs to make all efforts to resolve the dispute.
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Transfers for what?
CMs must listen to PM’s advice

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s letter to all Chief Ministers, reviving a tradition set by Jawaharlal Nehru, to help tackle the menace of transfers and postings of civil servants is timely. He has rightly urged them to ensure the stability of the tenure of officials in key positions for effective administration and proper delivery of public services. Clearly, nothing demoralises the civil servants more than arbitrary and sudden transfers and postings. It is a well-understood practice that an official must stay in his post at least for two or three years to show results. However, mindless transfers dampen performance. The problem is that many officials are not mentally prepared to accept the posts that they may be offered. And it is precisely here that the minister intervenes. Consequently, the principle of a neutral bureaucracy gets eroded.

Transfers and postings are no longer treated as the functions of the government designed as a tool for career development. Instead, they have become devices in the hands of politicians to “domesticate” the civil servants. This is adversely affecting the administration in all states. Notwithstanding the Administrative Reforms Commission’s recommendation for a three-year tenure, the District Collectors are shuffled at the whim of local politicians. Orissa’s Phulbani district, for instance, had the dubious distinction of having three District Collectors in a month. The situation in other states is only slightly better.

Often, honest civil servants are eased out and posted on the periphery while the pliable ones get prominent positions. The result is poor administration. Dr Manmohan Singh must insist on depoliticisation of the civil services. This is, of course, easier said than done. There is need for an institutional remedy to handle the postings and transfers. In this context, the suggestion for an independent civil services board — one at the Centre headed by the Cabinet Secretary and the other in the states headed by the Chief Secretaries — merits attention.
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Return of Raja Bhaiyya
UP politics shows its true face

Those campaigning against the criminalisation of politics, citing the example of Mohammad Taslimuddin in the Union Council of Ministers, must be shocked at UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision to make mafia don Raghurajpratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiyya, his 60th minister. The controversial Independent MLA from Kunda, who has at 32 criminal cases filed against him, was released on bail by the Kanpur POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) court on May 17. In fact, the first thing that Mr Yadav did after coming back to power in Lucknow was to get the POTA charges registered against Raja Bhaiyya withdrawn. This clearly reflects his attitude towards the issue of keeping criminals out of politics.

Very few will buy the Chief Minister's argument that his new minister is an "innocent person" because no court has found him guilty of being involved in criminal activities so far. Men like Raja Bhaiyya are well known for what they have been doing in the areas of their operation. There is no need for their conviction by a court of law to prove this point. Former Chief Minister Mayawati, who got the Kunda legislator booked under POTA, might have proceeded against him with a view to settling political scores, but Mr Yadav's intentions are also not pious. His latest decision shows that he can go to any extent to strengthen his political base. Who can forget the way Mr Mulayam Singh provided the cloak of respectability to the late bandit queen Phoolan Devi?

Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav is a ruthless practitioner of vote politics. His Raja Bhaiyya card is aimed at wooing the powerful Thakurs in UP, who were upset after Ms Mayawati's action against a criminal-politician belonging to their community. The presence of a large number of Thakur MLAs, irrespective of their party affiliations, during the swearing-in ceremony of the new minister, was not without reason. Mr Yadav is trying to mix up two separate issues by describing the Kunda legislator's induction into his Council of Ministers as a "vindication of the Samajwadi Party's stand against a draconian law like POTA." Essentially, he is just helping his friend.
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Thought for the day

In married life three is company and two none.

— Oscar Wilde
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ARTICLE

The Voice of Arabs
Al-Jazeera speaks for a demoralised people
by S. Nihal Singh

AT Doha, headquarters of the celebrated Al-Jazeera Arabic television channel, emotions are still raw over the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Qatar capital is a microcosm of the Arab world because of the multinational nature of the 750-strong predominantly Arab Al-Jazeera staff. It signifies the Arab angst, the streak of defiance in a world seemingly tilted against the Arab world and a sense of near hopelessness over the plight of many peoples living in a resource-rich area colonised in the past and now at the mercy of America's "war on terror".

The Al-Jazeera channel is, in a sense, a flag of defiance. It revels in its success in beating the behemoths of Western television media at their own game of scooping world news. If CNN and BBC World have the resources, Al-Jazeera has teams of dedicated reporters who are fulfilling a mission in reporting the other side of the story: the plight of Iraqi civilians caught in a war not of their choice, of militants fighting a foreign occupier and of countless victims of a grim tragedy.

When Al-Jazeera first blazed its trail, it attracted, among others, ideologues who saw the television channel as a means of fighting America and the West through other means. But as the channel gained fame and stature by giving Arab dissidents and the "enemy" alike their say on the channel, the ideologues drifted away. An estimated 40 million viewers in the Arab world and in the Arab diaspora remain avid fans of Al-Jazeera, often hanging on every word telecast, hungry for news that Western media do not carry. And Arab governments routinely ban the channel's staff for shorter or longer durations for breaking the taboos by exposing their warts.

Yet a television channel funded by the ruler of Qatar who gave Americans the main air base to conduct the Iraq invasion and hosts the biggest US army base for prepositioning war material in the world flies the flag of Arab nationalism. If the gas-rich Qatar state is small in size, it more than makes up for it by managing contradictions with an insouciance unmatched in the Arab world. After Egypt's Nasser failed in promoting his version of pan-Arab nationalism, Al-Jazeera is the first effective instrument of spreading pan-Arab feelings among an often demoralised, divided and defiant people. The contest is between Al-Jazeera and the fundamentalist streak of Islam in seeking the allegiance of the Arab masses.

The Israeli-Palestinian confrontation lies at the heart of this struggle because it defines the sorry state of the Arab world, with the Bush administration piling up Palestinians' misery by giving total support to the hardliner Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in depriving them of a viable state even as more occupied land is swallowed up by a new Berlin Wall. This is happening behind the façade of the so-called Quartet, including the United Nations, Russia and the European Union. The Quartet is the proverbial fig-leaf for the United States to build a Greater Israel. The Arab states are weak and helpless in fighting the Palestinians' war and the European Union, Russia and the UN do not have the stomach to challenge America in a venture that is certain to lead the region into the abyss.

Al-Jazeera gives the Arabs a voice that is otherwise muted, if not silenced. It proclaims in the virtual world of television reality the dignity of the Arab world, trampled as it is in the real world by Israel and the United States and Arab rulers who make up in rhetoric what they cannot do in action. In the real world, Al-Jazeera reporter Teyseer Allouni is fighting his own battle against the Spanish authorities who have charged him with links with Al-Qaeda.

Among some Arabs in Doha, there is an air of hopelessness over their future. The Palestinians are being condemned to chaos and slavery and Israelis seem quite content with triggering a civil war in the Gaza Strip by declaring their decision to withdraw by the end of next year. Chaos best serves Israeli interests because they can thus retain the bulk of the occupied West Bank even as the world's attention is focused on the Palestinians' civil war and an incipient revolt against the leadership of Mr Yasser Arafat, declared a non-person by Israel and the United States.

Al-Jazeera has gained the allegiance of the Arab masses by exposing the ugly face of war and giving expression to the views of the people, often muffled in their own countries, and the hypocrisy of regimes quick to take shelter behind the façade of national interest. Many Arab regimes have not served their people well, for the better part remaining content with pleasing the American hegemon while keeping up a flow of nationalist rhetoric. What is the room for Egypt's manoeuvre, for instance, when it receives an annual American subvention of $ 2 billion?

Indeed, the end of one phase of Arab nationalism was Sadat's decision to make a separate peace with Israel on essentially American terms. The natural leader of the Arab world chose to give primacy to its own interests, rather than fight the Arab world's larger battles. Nasser's pan-Arab nationalism was buried because, for the Arab masses, it was a God that failed. Arabs' search for salvation led them to seek solace in religion and a revolt against the supposed evils of the West. It was thus an easy step to take up arms against the retrograde West, including Russia in this context, and fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, aided and abetted by the United States engaging in a proxy war against its Cold War enemy.

The fact that Osama bin Laden went on to fight other battles against the West, in particular the United States, is now history. America's help to the mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan came to haunt the Bush administration yearning to claim world hegemony. And the spectacular terrorist attacks on American soil on 9/11 provided Washington the perfect excuse to invade Iraq — never mind the facts.

How long will Al-Jazeera continue to fly the flag of Arab nationalism? No one knows because the American desire to silence the popular Arabic channel runs counter to the hospitality afforded the US in Qatar, which is expecting the arrival of 5,000 American military families. For the present, the US is trying another track by getting the BBC to start an Arabic language channel to counter the appeal of Al-Jazeera.

If Al-Jazeera is living dangerously, so is the Arab world. Neither has an option.
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Of receding hairlines and rubbing nails
by Sai R. Vaidyanathan

As I, his last patient, walked into the doctor's cabin, I saw him rubbing his nails together. This was not an unusual site in today's India but coming from an allopathic medical practitioner, it made me comment on it.

He was a young doctor and with a receding hairline. "It doesn't cost anything and even many people outside the television have claimed that it works. So why not?" he explained as he checked my pulse.

Reasons for this nail rubbing regimen include holding on to what you have got, growing back your erstwhile crop and also endeavoring them to recolor them black naturally.

The television that made ladies leave their hair flowing claiming it was in vogue and then losing them by their mutual entangling, now has a yogi telling them the easiest way to keep them in plenty.

Coming from the swami who wants to elevate the status of yoga from "an alternative therapy" to "the therapy", he definitely had got his audience convinced-about the cures for chronic and incurable diseases. The crowds that gather when he is in town even when he asks for fees is proof enough of his popularity.

This comes on the heels of the acupressure boom, which brought on acupressure chappals. In place of nail rubbing, followers rubbed palms and soles and put pressure on various key points. Many amateur practitioners claimed success in detection and cure of many members in their peer group. Small gadgets with protruding points made their way into rings and key chains which could be put to use in any free time even in the office.

If any or all of this works out well, then it would put the health and careers of many into jeopardy. The beauty surgeons who weave hair on many an actor's scalp would be the first to lose a lot from their pocket.

With no need for medicine, what will the pharmaceutical companies manufacture and their reps sell? Patients would repair themselves with this "body cures all body ills" principle with no cost incurred.

All hardcore medicine men and surgeons would have few takers. To protect the interests of their ilk, the intelligent ones in the "traditional" medical community could master a few naturo skills and offer a choice between naturo treatment and medicinal treatment. These doctors could also divide days of their workweek into naturo treatment days and medicinal treatment days.

Pharmaceutical companies may have to scale down operations and start manufacturing these naturo gadgets and their reps doing its door-to-door sale.

After a few months, I went to my doctor I noticed a great crop on his head. "Then it works!" I exclaimed. He smiled. Failing to follow the prescribed routine, he had got weaved a lot of hair on his scalp.
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OPED

Need to modernise armed forces
Plan for single integrated operation

by K. Subrahmanyam

Illustration by Gaurav Sood
Illustration by Gaurav Sood

In this year’s budget, a large sum of money has been allocated for acquisition of modern equipment. The Defence Minister is confident that he would be able to spend the amount though the past record would not give grounds for optimism. The new government points out — justifiably — that the procurement of modern equipment has not been at an appropriate pace in the past and consequently the modernisation programme of the armed forces has suffered.

That is indisputable. But what is modernisation of the armed forces? Is it only acquisition of modern hardware? The Kargil Committee pointed out that the decision-making system in the Ministry of Defence and the intelligence system had not been updated since 1947 when the organisational set-up and procedures were prescribed by General Lord Ismay. The NDA government took some action to modernise the procedures and set up a group of ministers and four task forces. Finally, the GOM came up with a set of recommendations to update the procedures. That related to the Ministry of Defence and intelligence agencies.

What about modernisation of our Army, Navy and Air Force in respect of their combat organisations, tactics, strategy and fighting doctrines? By and large the organisation of our Army for combat remains what it was during the Second World War - the Army, the corps, the division, the brigade etc. All over the world in the last 50 years other forces have undergone major changes in their structure, composition, equipment etc. To a lesser extent the same is true of the Air Force and the Navy.

The trend is towards increasing the firepower of the individual soldier, his survivability, his ability to communicate with his fellow soldiers and other formations, including the aircraft operating in the area. In other countries, increasingly it is recognised that when armed forces are deployed in military operation, irrespective of the service to which they belong they are fighting to achieve a war aim. During the Second World War the Army, the Navy and the Air Force coordinated their activities to achieve the common goal. Today technology has made it possible for the three services to fight a single integrated operation in many, not necessarily all cases.

The accuracy of weapons launched from air has improved so much that the target destruction that needed several scores of aircraft can be achieved by a single aircraft. In that sense aerial combat support today has a totally different meaning than what it had during the Second World War or even the Bangladesh war and the Vietnam war. Similarly the Navy deployed hundreds of miles away from the land targets can aim its missiles accurately. Its carrier-based aircraft can play the kind of role that land-based aircraft do in aerial combat support.

It will no doubt be pointed out that these technologies are still under development and various claims about accuracy made have not been realised on the ground. While that may be true, the trend in regard to technology of war is unmistakable. The US is the foremost military power and it attempts to ensure that it leads the rest of the world not only in military equipment but also in military doctrines tactics and strategy. The US aims at being the sole super power. It has plans for intervention against scores of countries all over the world. Though it may deny it has assumed the role of a global cop. It spends more on military expenditure than the rest of the world put together. Therefore, the US cannot be a military role model for India. However, it should be possible to derive what are called the best practices from the US armed forces and adapt them for the Indian armed forces. India has already started having military exercises of different kinds with the US forces and senior Indian officers of the three services should be deriving their own conclusions on the pluses and minuses in respect of their tactics and tactical doctrines vis-a-vis the US forces.

The idea of fighting a single war integrated with other three services is instilled in US services and officers from the early stage. They are trained to conceptualise, plan and execute such integrated operations at all levels. The various officer training institutions of different services are coordinated by a National Defence University where the philosophy of fighting an integrated war is instilled. The university has such prestige when the President has a major policy pronouncement to make - such as the missile defence or the national security doctrine, he uses the university for the purpose.

The concept of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or that of Chief of Defence Staff is related to the doctrine of different services fighting an integral campaign. Unfortunately, in India the demand for CDS has been viewed as one for a five-star post for the services. The philosophy of integrated functioning of three services is still to make adequate headway. That in turn will need some revolutionary thinking in the structure and composition of our three services. A modern armed force for India would need an expanded Air Force and Navy and somewhat reduced Army, all equipped with the state- of-art equipment. It would, no doubt, take a long period to carry out such transition. The proposal to set up a National Defence University has been gathering dust for over two years. Modernisation of the armed forces will be an appropriate subject for the National Security Council, if and when it starts functioning. The council will have to take a long-term view about the future evolution of the three services in the light of the global security environment, the kind of wars likely to be fought and challenges this country will face. If such tasks have to be undertaken, the very first step will have to be for our Chiefs of Staff to shed their roles as force commanders and become national security planners. Without this step, there can be no modernisation of our armed forces since the Chiefs of Staff will have no time to devote to a long-term, future-oriented modernisation programme.
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Delhi Durbar
Reservation for women

Political parties may have sharp differences on the Women’s Reservation Bill, but they have been provided reservation of sorts in the Rajya Sabha. The move made by the Rajya Sabha Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat on his own got unanimous support from all sides. It sought for women MPs in the Upper House the privilege of priority to raise issues and debate for two days in a week.

Clarifying the contents of the ‘bill’, Shekhawat said for two days in a week women MPs would be given preference to raise issues but that does not mean that they would be debarred from speaking on other days. Perhaps, Shekhawat’s move has given a fresh lease of hope for the Women’s Reservation Bill.

Arjun Singh matters

The hushed talk in the corridors of power is that HRD Minister Arjun Singh’s importance in the Congress-led UPA government is on the rise. He is being consulted on key decisions, be it the appointment of secretaries to key posts or the reorganisation of the AICC. Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmad Patel held discussions with Arjun Singh prior to the revamp of the AICC. The Prime Minister also had one of his top officials discuss the administrative changes with the old war horse. Well, every effort is being made to keep Arjun Singh on the right side to avoid any unsavoury situation.

Books on Prime Minister

The market has been flooded with books about the new Prime Minister as people at large know very little about him. Clearly, these have been done in a hurry to cash in on his elevation as the Head of Government, the first Sikh to do so.

Dubbed the father of Indian reforms, Manmohan Singh was the Finance Minister when the liberalisation of the economy was set in motion in 1991 under the then Prime Minister, P V Narasimha Rao. Efforts by the authors and publishers to persuade Manmohan Singh to release some of the books came to nought as the PMO insisted that the Prime Minister has no time to release books.

Sonia Gandhi in Thailand

Congress President Sonia Gandhi has received more than two dozen invitations from leaders of various countries, including Pakistan. However, she made her first foray abroad to Thailand after the Congress came to power at the Centre. She chose Bangkok where she delivered the valedictory address at an international conference on the issue of combating AIDS.

Thailand has also requested Sonia Gandhi to be present at the BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sir Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation) Summit on July 30 and 31. Tackling AIDS is one of the issues close to Sonia Gandhi’s heart. She had earlier represented India at the UN General Assembly Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will attend the BIMSTEC summit, which was rescheduled after then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had expressed his inability to attend the meeting in February because of the general election.

Elusive invite to Indradhanush

There are quite a few waiting for that elusive invite to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Since the advent of AP J Abdul Kalam at Rashtrapati Bhavan as the Head of State, a cultural programme called Indradhanush has been institutionalised. A bimonthly affair, Indradhanush was started in December 2002. An idea of the President himself, the programme has become a runaway success with classical music buffs.

Kalaam, an accomplished veena player himself, is highly appreciative of Hindustani music.

Contributed by Satish Misra, Gaurav Choudhury and R Suryamurthy
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I call myself a Sanatani Hindu, because, I believe in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and all that goes by the name of Hindu scriptures, and therefore in avataras and rebirth.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Ignorance is either the absence of knowledge or the presence of false knowledge. In both cases, ignorance is an attribute and therefore, it must be inseparably subsistent in some substratum. In that case, ignorance cannot be non-eternal, (being inseparably related to the eternal Brahma).

— Swami Dayanand Saraswati

Good conduct, according to the (Master’s) teaching, is in itself the praise of God.

— Guru Nanak

It is your own conduct which will lead you to reward or punishment, as if you had been destined therefore.

— Prophet Muhammad
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