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Troubled waters
More political than legal
T
HE Central Government had no other option but to seek a Presidential reference on the controversial Punjab Act. The Supreme Court will in due course give its verdict on the Act that abrogated all the river water agreements Punjab had entered into with its neighbouring states.

Welcome stay
Quota no answer to Muslims’ woes
T
HE Andhra Pradesh High Court has rightly suspended the state's order that provided for 5 per cent reservation for Muslims in educational institutions and for government jobs.


EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Decongest Shimla
Shift government offices first
G
RANDIOSE plans, launched with official fanfare, to decongest Shimla have often floundered at the implementation stage. The 1977-2000 development plan for Shimla has remained on paper.
ARTICLE

Managing water
Crisis both a challenge and an opportunity
by B.G. Verghese
P
UNJAB has rightly been rapped on the knuckles for unilaterally terminating the Ravi-Beas agreement with an assertion of untenable water doctrines that does injury to federal principles. However, it has a case, though poorly presented, and by forcing a crisis should compel the nation to review the lackadaisical manner in which the nation’s water resources have been squandered.

MIDDLE

Romance of handkerchief
by I.M. Soni
H
ANDKERCHIEF, according to the dictionary, is “ a cloth or paper for wiping the nose.” “Throw the handkerchief” is to summon, to pursue, to call upon to take one’s turn — as in children’s games, and royal harems.

OPED

Writing is a therapy for him
Mulk Raj Anand will turn 99 in December
by Humra Quraishi
O
N August 9 the Lalit Kala Akademi will honour Dr Mulk Raj Anand. Efforts are on to get Dr Anand all the way from Khandala, where he now lives, to Delhi. His companion, Dolly Sahiar, died in June and his wife, Shireen Vajifdar, prefers to live in Mumbai. 

Does Haryana need more water?
by G.S. Dhillon
A
N impression given most often is that due to the non-completion of the SYL canal, Haryana is being “starved” of water, which is instead allowed to flow to Pakistan. Though it is the duty of the Punjab Government to correct this impression, despite a long wait, nothing has been done so far. So based on the published data, an attempt is made to answer this question.

 REFLECTIONS

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Troubled waters
More political than legal

THE Central Government had no other option but to seek a Presidential reference on the controversial Punjab Act. The Supreme Court will in due course give its verdict on the Act that abrogated all the river water agreements Punjab had entered into with its neighbouring states. Nobody can say with certainty how much time the court will take to give its verdict. It will provide the states concerned and the Centre a breather. By going in for a Presidential reference, the Centre has got itself entangled in the dispute. Given a choice, it would have preferred one of the parties - Haryana or Rajasthan - to challenge the Act in the apex court. Since these states are ruled by the Opposition, they did not want to oblige the Centre forcing it to choose the Presidential route.

The importance of the case cannot be overemphasised. The Punjab Act raises questions of far reaching legal and political consequences. Is the State Assembly competent to abrogate unilaterally an agreement Punjab had entered into with other states? Can a state undo an agreement on the basis of which the apex court had pronounced its verdict? Does not the abrogation amount to subverting the justice system? What will be the sanctity of inter-state agreements if the states concerned are at liberty to abrogate them? These are some of the questions that the Punjab law, which was enacted in a cloak-and-dagger manner, has raised. The Punjab Government will have only itself to blame if its gamble fails to pay off and the apex court finds the Act legally untenable.

Given the peculiarities of the case, there is little hope that the Supreme Court will be able to give a verdict which is acceptable to all the states. In fact, the apex court had gone strictly by the agreement when it asked Punjab to hand over possession of the incomplete Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal to the CPWD before June 15. If anything, this shows that a purely legal decision will not help solve the dispute. What is required is a political initiative whereby the states concerned and the Centre use the time they have gained to reach an agreement that is acceptable to all of them. Though this is easier said than done, there is no other alternative to solve this vexed problem.

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Welcome stay
Quota no answer to Muslims’ woes

THE Andhra Pradesh High Court has rightly suspended the state's order that provided for 5 per cent reservation for Muslims in educational institutions and for government jobs. It has also referred the matter to a larger bench to examine the constitutional validity of the order. On the face of it, the government's order is flawed. It has been challenged on four counts. First, it is contrary to the Supreme Court ruling that the total reservations in a state should not exceed 50 per cent. Secondly, the Constitution does not sanction religion-based reservation. Thirdly, the government has no authority to pass a decree classifying Muslims en bloc as a backward class. And finally, the questionable inclusion of Muslims in the backward classes list is on the basis of a recommendation by the Minorities Commission and not by the Backward Classes Commission.

While the High Court is expected to examine the legal and administrative lacunae in the government order in addition to its constitutional validity, what is surprising is the undue haste with which the government had passed the decree. Where was the need for it when the State Assembly was scheduled to debate the issue? Clearly, Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy was too eager to appease the minority community for narrow partisan ends. It was an attempt by the ruling Congress to consolidate the minority vote bank in the state which helped it to return to power after nine years.

True, Muslims in Andhra Pradesh, especially in the Telangana region, have been facing hardship due to poverty and illiteracy. But how would reservations help improve their socio-economic condition? Instead, the government should provide them free education, training in entrepreneurial skills and so on. The Chief Minister has hinted at bringing forward a Bill in the State Assembly to enforce its order on reservations. Needless to say, such a move would be legally untenable as the High Court is already seized of the matter and has listed it for hearing on July 27.

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Decongest Shimla
Shift government offices first

GRANDIOSE plans, launched with official fanfare, to decongest Shimla have often floundered at the implementation stage. The 1977-2000 development plan for Shimla has remained on paper. The once-beautiful hill town, now bulging with a population of 1.81 lakh, is still growing. The pressure on civic amenities is obvious. The town’s roads are choked with traffic, leading to frequent jams during the busy tourist season. Unauthorised buildings come up on the town’s landscape and are then regularised for short-term electoral gains. Shortly before the elections, the P.K. Dhumal government not only regularised encroachments, but also allowed the construction of residential buildings in the banned, ecologically fragile areas. The town’s green cover has shrunk to an alarming level.

In this backdrop, the new draft development plan for Shimla may evoke nothing but yawns. It is all very well for town planners to suggest tunnels, ropeways, bypasses and a circular rail line to restore order in Shimla, but turning these dream projects into reality is a formidable challenge for a near bankrupt state government that spends a large part of its revenue on the maintenance of the vast army of its employees. Where is the money for development works? Besides, does it make economic sense to spend so heavily on Shimla when smaller towns of the state do not have even the basic amenities like reliable medicare, drinking water and dependable roads?

If Shimla is to be saved from further degradation, there is an urgent need to shift government departments and offices from the capital. That requires political courage to face the powerful employees lobby and the bureaucracy. The Himachal government must step out of Shimla and spread itself evenly across the state so that people do not have to travel long distances for petty official work. The need to wean tourist traffic from Shimla has often been stressed, but perhaps lack of political will and funds has hindered the growth of other centres of tourist interests. Private corporate investment can be channelled into tourism, which offers huge employment opportunities.

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Thought for the day

If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves.

— Mary Astell

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Managing water
Crisis both a challenge and an opportunity
by B.G. Verghese

PUNJAB has rightly been rapped on the knuckles for unilaterally terminating the Ravi-Beas agreement with an assertion of untenable water doctrines that does injury to federal principles. However, it has a case, though poorly presented, and by forcing a crisis should compel the nation to review the lackadaisical manner in which the nation’s water resources have been squandered.

Punjab’s case is that the 1981 Agreement, the 1985 Punjab settlement and subsequent 1986 accord assumed a Ravi-Beas “surplus” of 17.17 million acre feet based on the pre-1981 flow data. This was distributed in the following proportions (in MAF): Punjab 4.22, Haryana 3.5, Rajasthan 8.6, J&K 0.65, and Delhi 0.20. (Haryana also has a share in Sutlej waters and was additionally allocated 4.65 MAF from the Yamuna in 1994). However, actual availability since (1981-2002 flow series) has been only14.37 MAF. Thus, with the agreement specifying allocations in absolute numbers, and not proportions, Punjab only gets a residual share of Ravi-Beas flows and would be greatly water-stressed were Haryana’s full allocation delivered through the yet incomplete Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal.

Had Punjab called for a freeze on SYL deliveries pending a re-negotiated Ravi-Beas flow series, it might have had an arguable case. Rajasthan got its share of waters not from Punjab (which then included Haryana) but from Pakistan under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. India argued the case for due allocations to Rajasthan and what is now Haryana and paid a price for this larger allocation through contributions towards the construction of transfer works in Pakistan.

The whole country is becoming increasingly water-stressed, temporally and spatially, with growing needs on account of development, demographic and ecological considerations. Hence controversies over SYL, Cauvery and other water sharing arrangements. Tribunals and awards obviously provide useful legal and administrative mechanisms. But the long-term answer lies in better demand and supply water management and greater conservation. South Asians are notoriously wasteful users of water and can do more with less. This applies to Punjab and Haryana as much as to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Punjab and Haryana’s relentless paddy-wheat cycle plus sugarcane cultivation is highly water-intensive and soil exhausting. The notion that the country needs ever more cereals to feed itself ignores actual consumption patterns. People seek more balanced diets even as hunger lurks for lack of purchasing power and distributive shortcomings. Over 20 years ago, the Johl Committee recommended that Punjab should diversify its cropping pattern to the extent of 20 per cent of the total acreage for a start. However, the paddy-wheat price support system that underpinned the first Green Revolution has been abused to a point by political and vested interests where it has become counterproductive. Free power (for groundwater lift) in the name of the “small farmer” has only aggravated the situation. Other crops are not widely cultivated because the paddy-wheat package remains the most profitable — at the cost of the exchequer and the small man.

This is a mistake. Diversification and extension of acreage under vegetables, oilseeds, fruit, fodder and other crops would result in far greater production, income and employment per unit of land and water. Even small and tiny plot holders could flourish, as the examples of the former Soviet Union and China well illustrate. Technologically supported homestead plots and contract farming could support millions of livelihoods at higher levels of agricultural productivity and water-use efficiency than that which prevails today. The same logic applies to the Cauvery basin, where cropping patterns, irrigation systems and pricing policies need to be reviewed, modernised and reordered. In permanently settled regions like eastern UP, Bihar, Assam and Orissa and elsewhere in the “naxalite” belts, agrarian reform — accurate recording of tenurial rights, consolidation, fair rents — could similarly transform the scene.

Water regulation is crucial for agricultural stability, which provides the surest basis for farm investment. The current situation of severe flood and drought simultaneously over large parts of the country underlines the obvious need prudently to harness the surplus to offset the deficit. All forms and levels of water conservation are necessary and mutually compatible from rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge to major storages and inter-basin transfers to ensure national water security with regional equity to the largest possible extent. Drainage is more important than irrigation in places like North Bihar while the upgradation of dry land farming merits high priority.

The present crisis must be seen both as a warning and an opportunity. Punjab has promised to honour the current levels of water utilisation through the existing systems. The principles underlying the concept of “inter-linking rivers” is sound and should be pursued subject to techno-economic feasibility, environmental sustainability and consultation and compassion in poverty alleviating R&R programmes.

As further shortages in the Indus basin are envisaged in India as much as in Pakistan, the time has come to build an Indus Treaty-II on the foundations of the 1960 Indus Accord. The latter divided the waters of the Indus but did not attempt to optimise the full basin potential in terms of storage, flood moderation or hydro-generation. This is particularly true of the three Western rivers, the upper courses of which lie in the Indian part of J&K and Himachal. Some lower Ravi basin waters could also be more effectively utilised given cooperation with Pakistan. So too drainage to the sea from Rajasthan.

Pakistan too would have much to gain from cooperation with India. Therefore, instead of trading somewhat barren political arguments over the Wular Barrage and Baglihar projects, minor technical issues in regard to which will hopefully be resolved in the current round of negotiations, the two sides should plan to initiate talks on joint exploitation of the remaining potential of the Indus system to mutual benefit.

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Romance of handkerchief
by I.M. Soni 

HANDKERCHIEF, according to the dictionary, is “ a cloth or paper for wiping the nose.” “Throw the handkerchief” is to summon, to pursue, to call upon to take one’s turn — as in children’s games, and royal harems.

However, there is nothing hanky-panky which is jugglery or underhand trickery. But there is some hanky-panky when it is handy-dandy which is a game of guessing in.

If it’s just “handy” without being “dandy”, it is ready to the hand, convenient which a handkerchief has always been.

This delicate and decorative piece of linen is also associated with a superstition: lovers should not exchange hankies. It means the love is doomed to tragedy, or break.

Hanki made its appearance among the English as a “sweat cloth” worn at the belt. It was a sort of towel with which to wipe the face or hands. International cricketers follow this practice now.

This handy piece started as “coverchief” or veil worn by medieval women to cover the head. This original word was corrupted into “kerchief”. Kerchief then lost its meaning and came to be known merely as a cloth.

The handkerchief was once “handcoverchief”. Edward IV of England once asked for “five dozen handcoverchiefs”.

As late as the 1700s in certain parts of Europe, people of low birth were not allowed to blow their nose on handkerchiefs. In France, it was considered the height of vulgarity even to mention the word “handkerchief.” It meant becoming a social outcast.

This, however, made no impression on Empress Josephine who used lace-bordered handkerchiefs to hide her bad teeth when she smiled. Her example and dainty gestures with the handkerchief were quickly copied by her subjects.

Women even today impulsively cover their mouth with hanky or palm when they laugh. Surprisingly, even those who have pearly teeth follow the practice.

Romance has been a close kin of kerchief. In the medieval ages, knights displayed dainty handkerchiefs given to them by their lady-love. If the kerchief carried the lady’s initials or name, it was purposely exhibited before the rival lover.

Amorous ladies, eager or desirous to be wooed and pursued, dropped their delicate piece of linen on to the ground, sending a signal to the lover to pick it up, hand it over to them and break the love-ice! Are any ladies reading?

Today, of course, all romantic qualities have been lost to the handkerchief, but it has gained a new place in our interest — that of an important accessory in the costume. Often the handkerchief is used to supply just a bit of colour or design to complete the costume.

Some bold women tuck it on the upper fringe of the blouse justifying Oscar Wilde’s quip: Women’s fashions may change but their designs remain the same.

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Writing is a therapy for him
Mulk Raj Anand will turn 99 in December
by Humra Quraishi

ON August 9 the Lalit Kala Akademi will honour Dr Mulk Raj Anand. Efforts are on to get Dr Anand all the way from Khandala, where he now lives, to Delhi. His companion, Dolly Sahiar, died in June and his wife, Shireen Vajifdar, prefers to live in Mumbai. Though he hasn’t visited New Delhi for almost five years, his especially designed home “Lokayata” is still there in New Delhi’s Hauz Khas. It’s simply designed and simply furnished. And it was here that he had on earlier occasions spoken candidly about himself. Getting to the absolute basics, to his troubled childhood and then the turmoil-ridden, emotionally troubled adulthood, which took him towards the addiction called writing.

Running away from home in his late teens because his parents wanted him to get married, Mulk Raj Anand reached the UK in 1924. A chance meeting with Ananda Kumaraswamy there made him change his entire outlook. As he recalls: “Kumaraswamy brought me in touch with our culture, not as it was portrayed by the British, but as seen by an Indian.

Enrolling himself at Cambridge soon after, he was influenced by his philosopher teacher, Lord Russell, and also by well-known sculptor Eric Gill. He became an active member of the MARS (Modern Architects Research Society). And it’s around this time that he came out with his first book titled “Hindu View of Art”.

Before he could complete his second book on Persian paintings, he fell in love. “I fell in love with Irene, an Irish girl who was heavily involved in the Irish national struggle. In 1927 she died. On hearing of her death I suffered a severe breakdown and it took me almost five years to recover from it. My meeting with Sigmund Freud just after the first nervous breakdown in 1927 helped me to some extent. I happened to go to Vienna to meet a German professor of philosophy who was working in Freud’s laboratory and through him I managed to meet Freud. He told me that I was suffering from the mother fixation syndrome and his exact words were: ‘Like most Indians you love your mother more than your father and to you every woman is a mother image.’ He noted the role of my father and also took note of the tensions between my parents .I felt all right to a great extent after about five sittings with him but then had two subsequent nervous breakdowns.”

He had his second nervous breakdown whilst he had come to visit Mahatma Gandhi at the Sabarmati Ashram. “That was the time I had finished writing ‘The Untouchable and when 19 publishers turned it down I fell ill”. Gandhi helped cure him by giving him a talisman which Mulk cherishes. “Gandhi told me I will give you this talisman. Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much for you, try the following that is recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man who you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he able to gain anything by it? Will it restore him control over his own life and destiny? Then you will find your doubts and self melting away.”

Together with this talisman, what did wonders for his nerves was the fact that ‘The Untouchable” was accepted by the 20th publisher he’d approached. Then came his third breakdown when he went back to the UK and befriended another woman. She was Gertrude Mitchell, an activist working in a colony of leprosy patients. As Mulk Raj says: “When Gertrude was killed by the Nazis in 1936, I suffered my third nervous breakdown. I was so ill that this time I decided that I had to take revenge for her killing and so decided to go to Spain and fight in the World War. I did go as a volunteer but on the first day itself I fainted on the battlefield. There was so much blood and flesh pieces lying around that I couldn’t take it at all. Mulk recovered this time by writing his rather offbeat novel Across the Backwaters”.

He says he got cured after each nervous breakdown only through his writings. Little wonder that he has written numerous short stories, about 20 novels and edited 135 issues of Marg, besides an unfinished autobiography.

“At times I question myself whether we are the same people who created the Ellora caves in the second century. See what has become of us — today most of us wouldn’t even know the significance of the Ajanta Ellora caves. We have no time to think and read, because we are busy watching bosomy heroines on the small screen. Today parents themselves put matrimonial advertisements in newspapers to ‘sell off’ their daughters in the marriage bazaar. Today marriages are nothing but mere traps where the half man (I call the Indian man as half man) reduces the wife to not only a domestic but also a prey to his lust. In most marriages there is no tender love-making but sheer rape or no sex at all. Today people are ready to pay two lakh rupees for a Husain painting but can’t buy a book on art.”

Women did play a significant role in his life. When asked whether he had been over the years distracted by them, he’d quipped: “I have suffered not only in relationships, but also on the marriage front. My first marriage with actress Kathleen Van Gelder failed. The second marriage to Anel D’Silva also couldn’t take place because she changed her mind at the last minute. I then married dancer Shireen and this marriage is just going on. Of course I’m attracted to women, but for God’s sake don’t mix up love with sex. I believe in love and love is a very tender relationship which comes after much devotion.” And it is on account of one of these ‘devotions’ to artist designer Dolly Sahiar that he’d evolved a relationship, which had been on for over four decades.

I’m not sure how this setback must have affected him, but pained he must be to be without that constant companion (Dolly was constantly with him with a positive outlook she would be ‘mothering’ him in the most affectionate way). His adopted son, Kewal, says “He is at ease with himself in Khandala and happy to be there, living amidst nature. And though he doesn’t move out, people keep coming over..”

No, I’m not sure whether he still writes but knowing him it is almost sure that that urge would be there. So much of the happenings of the years he’d seen. This December, he turns 99 and is on way to becoming 100!

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Does Haryana need more water?
by G.S. Dhillon

AN impression given most often is that due to the non-completion of the SYL canal, Haryana is being “starved” of water, which is instead allowed to flow to Pakistan. Though it is the duty of the Punjab Government to correct this impression, despite a long wait, nothing has been done so far. So based on the published data, an attempt is made to answer this question.

Most of the country’s impressive irrigation system, built during British rule, went over to Pakistan. East Punjab inherited some 40 lakh acres of irrigated area, which constituted about 26.8 per cent of the total irrigated area of undivided Punjab, but it received barely 14 per cent of the total flows of the pre-partitioned Punjab as on 15.8.1947.

The major task before East Punjab irrigation engineers was to create additional irrigation potential so as to make the state food surplus. Consequently, the Bhakra-Nangal project was taken up.

The system built comprised a lined main canal and branch canals, with a well-designed tertiary system. This was one of the finest systems then built. This system was inherited by Haryana on reorganisation of Punjab, on Ist November, 1966.

Through this system Haryana was able to utilise 5.4 MAF of the Sutlej waters, allocated in the December 1966 agreement, which constituted 32.31 per cent of the total annual average flow of the Sutlej of 16.7 MAF.

As per the agreement, Haryana received over two-third of flows available at Tajewalla Headworks. The state received some 5.58 MAF of water from the Yamuna, as the average annual flow of this river stood at 8.37 MAF (it does not include the water drawn by Haryana through the Gurgaon canal from Okhla Headworks).

So from the two rivers, Sutlej and Yamuna, Haryana got 10.98 MAF water.

Haryana is traversed by the Ghaggar and its tributaries of Markanda, Tangri etc. and it inherited a fully operational inundation canal system. The state also made considerable efforts to tap the available run-off of the river.

No other state questioned the right of Haryana over the Ghaggar flows. So currently Haryana is utilising fully the available flow of the Ghaggar system.

The flows in the Ghaggar system were carefully measured and monitored when a UNDP aided project entitled Ground-Water studies in the Ghaggar river basin, in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.” The data is available for the period 1970 to 1977.

It indicates that the total annual average flow from the system amounts to 1.2 MAF.

Considering the contribution of all the three rivers — Ghaggar, Yamuna and Sutlej — the water availability to Haryana amounts to 12.18 MAF.

In spite of the ongoing dispute, Haryana is also being delivered supplies to the tune of 2.2 MAF through the Narwana branch, which is being operated as a “feeder canal” instead of an irrigation canal subjected to usual reduction factors like reservoir factor and crop factor.

Considering this, Haryana's water availability amounts to some 14.38 MAF as compared to Punjab’s allocation of 14.4 MAF. The land irrigated in Punjab is 84 lakh acres and that of Haryana is only 45 lakh acres (figures as per the report of the Irrigation Commission, 1972).

This shows that the hue and cry raised by Haryana is not in any way justified. Haryana needs to utilise its water resources more efficiently.
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I shall fill with joy all the beings whose limbs languish; I shall give happiness to those who are dying from distress; I shall extend to them succour and deliverance.

— The Buddha

God’s servants are they who serve Him with the offerings of good deeds.

— Guru Nanak

Those who sit idly in the expectation for God’s help are great fools. A man disobeys the order of God to do one’s best, will never be happy.

— Swami Dayanand Saraswati

I do not disbelieve in idol worship.

— Mahatma Gandhi

When firmness is sufficient, rashness is unnecessary.

— Napolean

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