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PERSPECTIVE

On Record
Left provides life support to Manmohan
govt, says Raja

by Tripti Nath
D.
Raja, National Secretary of the Communist Party of India perhaps knew that he was a cut above the rest in his student days when he earned the distinction of being the first graduate in his village, Chiththoor in Tamil Nadu.

Continuing the Indo-Pak peace process
by Swarnjit Singh Sidhu
C
lose
on the heels of the exercise of confidence building measures between experts and foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan, the talks between External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri at the SAARC Council of Ministers Conference in Islamabad last week assume special significance in the Indo-Pak ties.






EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
OPED

Punjab’s decision on SYL sticks in Centre’s throat
President used as a postman to refer the dispute to Supreme Court
by Rajinder Puri

P
unjab
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh protected his political interests by rushing through the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act (2004), abrogating water-sharing agreements with neighbouring states. The Act has stopped the final phase of work on the SYL canal carrying the Beas-Sutlej river waters to Haryana.

Profile
Shibu Soren: A turbulent career
by Harihar Swarup
C
ontroversies have always chased Shibu Soren, architect of the Jharkhand state. Soren’s supporters call him "Guruji". Now implicated in a 30-year-old murder case in Jharkhand, the 60-year-old Union Minister for Coal had to resign on Saturday on the advice of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Diversities — Delhi Letter
Amitabh Bachchan steals the show
by Humra Quraishi

O
ne 
of the best book releases I have ever attended was Rahul Singh’s “Khushwant Singh: In the name of the father” (Roli). Held at Le Meridien last Tuesday, Amitabh Bachchan was the chief guest. He clearly stole the show, admitted by Khushwant Singh himself.

  • People-to-people contact
  • A film with a difference
  • Scholar, diplomat rolled into one

 REFLECTIONS

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PERSPECTIVE

On Record
Left provides life support to Manmohan govt, says Raja
by Tripti Nath

 D. Raja D. Raja, National Secretary of the Communist Party of India perhaps knew that he was a cut above the rest in his student days when he earned the distinction of being the first graduate in his village, Chiththoor in Tamil Nadu. After completing his B.Sc from the Government College in Gudayattan, he took to teaching for a while. But he soon found that he was inclined towards politics. He was a member of the All-India Students’ Federation in his college days. He then became the Tamil Nadu secretary of the Federation and the General Secretary of the All India Youth Federation. In an exclusive interview to The Sunday Tribune, he stressed that the Left is nothing short of life support for the UPA government. He feels that the UPA should change with the times and keep in mind the balance of political forces.

Excerpts:

Q: Were the Left parties taken by surprise by the Union Budget’s proposal to raise FDI limit in insurance, telecom and aviation?

A: Nothing surprises or shocks us. That is why we are not a part of the government. We made it clear that we have differences with the government on economic and fiscal policies. It is not as if we are raising the issue suddenly. Even the day the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) was released, the Left parties came out with an open statement saying we had differences on the aforesaid policies.

Q: A section of political opinion believes that it takes a single utterance of a Communist leader for the Sensex to drop.

A: What is the percentage of people involved in the stock market? It is a very tiny section. All your stock market, Sensex can be one of the factors on the periphery to indicate the health of the economy. It is not the only factor. Markets cannot purport to be the master of democracy. The stock markets wanted the NDA to return to power. This wayward behaviour of markets should be understood properly. People have tremendous expectations from this government. It should first undo the misdeeds of the BJP-led NDA government. Mr Chidambaram is aware of our differences on FDI. Then why did he propose to raise it in critical sectors? We wanted the government to adhere to the CMP and the Budget to be guided by it. These are our concerns. The CMP says profit-making PSUs will not be privatised. Then why did he touch NTPC?

Q: CPI (M) General Secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet has expressed the Left’s desire to constitute a coordination committee comprising members of the UPA and the Left. Any progress on this proposal?

A: We said that the government cannot take unilateral decisions on matters like FDI. We have proposed some apex level coordination between the UPA and the Left. Now, it is for the UPA to name its representatives. We are waiting for their response.

Q: Some Communist leaders’ statements have led to apprehensions among the ruling coalition about the Left’s outside support. Your comments.

A: The UPA government is there with our support. The Left is supporting the government from outside. The UPA government cannot go back to the policies of 1990s. It cannot pursue the NDA’s policies. It will have to address the concerns and requirements of the present situation keeping in mind the balance of political forces. That is where the UPA should be more realistic. Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Chidambaram cannot be the same people of the 1990s. This is 2004. The government should not take the Left for granted. We want it to be stable but they cannot take decisions unilaterally. The NDA rule was disastrous for the country. Now Dr Manmohan Singh talks of economic reforms with a human face. Why did he not talk about this earlier? It is an admission of the fact that earlier economic reforms did not have a human face when he was the Finance Minister and Mr Chidambaram the Commerce Minister. But that human face cannot be the face represented by FICCI, CII or ASSOCHAM. It has to be the face of the agriculture worker, an unemployed youth or a woman.

Q: During the NDA regime, the Congress-led Opposition demanded the resignation of three Unions Ministers for their alleged complicity in the Babri Masjid demolition. So what is wrong if they demand the resignation of tainted ministers in the UPA government?

A: The CPI and the Left are concerned about problems of this nature. It is not that we support criminals to enter politics. We are fighting against the criminalisation of politics. Even when we were in the Opposition, it was never our intention to disrupt the work of Parliament. But what the BJP is doing now is totally irresponsible behaviour. It is refusing to accept the people’s verdict. It has no moral right to raise the issue as Mr L.K. Advani has been charge-sheeted for a grave crime. Demolishing a place of worship is a crime against the Constitution. The electoral laws don’t prevent people facing serious charges from contesting elections for Parliament and state legislatures. Why is the judiciary not dispensing cases at a fast pace? Unless a case is disposed of, you cannot establish a person’s guilt. Why are cases pending for such a long time?

Q: Suicides by farmers have been reported from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Punjab. Is your party taking up the cause of the farmers?

A: Debts were the root cause of suicides by farmers. During the BJP regime, agriculture was totally neglected, in fact, ruined. The BJP government was doing whatever multinational companies, IMF, World Bank and WTO were dictating to them. The prices of agriculture inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, electricity went up and farmers were not getting remunerative prices. So, they got into a debt trap. Now, the UPA government should address these issues with positive measures. They have agreed in principle to step up investments in agriculture and double the rural credit policy. The All-India Kisan Sabha and our party have been raising the demands of the farmers.

Q: Do the Left parties regret their decision of not being partners in power with the UPA government?

A: The whole country knows the Left’s consistent policy. For us, power is an instrument to serve the people. We have a commitment to the people. We have no regrets that we are not part of the government. It was a conscious political decision not to join the government. The Left parties will move unitedly.
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Continuing the Indo-Pak peace process
by Swarnjit Singh Sidhu

Close on the heels of the exercise of confidence building measures between experts and foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan, the talks between External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri at the SAARC Council of Ministers Conference in Islamabad last week assume special significance in the Indo-Pak ties. Mr Singh’s meeting with Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf was the icing on the cake.

Both countries agreed that the bilateral dialogue would have to be a "sustained process" and that there could be no quick fix to the problems between the two countries. Implied in it was the suggestion that it would be unrealistic to set any deadlines on the concerns of each other. The two Foreign Ministers will again meet in New Delhi on September 5 and 6. This will be preceded by a one-day conference between the Foreign Secretaries on Sept 4.

Doubts are often raised by political and military watchers in South Asia about the success of the peace efforts. Would the two nations be able to build trust and confidence in each other? Will the Pakistani Army be able to mend its anti-India mindset? And how long will the US continue to maintain pressure on both countries for establishing durable peace in the region?

During the nuclear CBM talks in New Delhi on June 19 and 20, both countries demonstrated a positive attitude to improve bilateral relations. This is a step in the right direction. Talks on narcotics control between the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers were held in a cordial atmosphere. The brief interaction between Mr Singh and Mr Kasuri on the sidelines of the Asian Cooperative Dialogue Conference in the Eastern China city of Qingdao on June 21 was also encouraging.

Having claimed a win-win situation over the construction of the 450-MW Baglihar hydro project in Doda district in Jammu and Kashmir, both sides stated: "We are very close to a solution". After the two-day foreign secretary level talks in New Delhi on June 27 and 28, both countries issued a joint statement.

For sustainable development of the region, both countries should build a bridge of understanding and appreciation for long-term gains. Success is guaranteed, if the talks are based on "reciprocity and realism". In fact, we have a long line of failures because of the unstable and unaccountable system of governance in Pakistan. Though the results of the earlier peace talks were not encouraging, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel this time.

From day one, Pakistan has been in a perpetual conflict with India. It launched four aggressive wars against India in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 with the interregnum marked by proxy war and low-intensity conflict. Despite adverse results in each war that it launched, Pakistan continued with its anti-India posture. However, the ice started melting after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan in January, 2004.

Subsequently, both countries met in Islamabad on February 18, 2004, and prepared a timetable to talk on Kashmir and other peace and security issues including CBS. It was also planned that discussion on other subjects, such as Siachen, Wullar Barrage, Sir Creek, terrorism, drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation as well as promotion of friendly exchanges in other fields, will be held in Islamabad this month.

Owing to people-to-people contact, the current mood in Pakistan is quite favourable. The younger generation does not want enmity with India. They are worried about their future. They wish to see their country to be economically sound instead of dissipating their energies on negative goals. The common people in Pakistani are genuinely worried about the slow growth of their country in various spheres of activity.

More important, they do not want to support the Jihadis. Apparently, they are fed up with the pro-Jihadi and anti-developmental policies of their successive governments. There is the fear of in security everywhere following the assassination attempts on the life of General Pervez Musharraf. Both the rulers and the people have started realising the importance of peace. General Musharraf and his team of advisers, which appears to be ossified into a set mould, have started modifying their hardened attitude towards India. This is a positive indicator for the first time in the history of Pakistan.

Pakistan will derive immense benefit from the Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status accorded to it by the US. It has helped the US in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and, more recently, the Al Qaeda in Waziristan. General Musharraf has also initiated measures to give a secular look to his country's education system. Some positive steps taken by him including his war against the Jihadis are considered a blessing in disguise for India.

There is a whiff of fresh air. However, how long will this continue is the question. The Pakistani Army has a fixed mindset. It considers Pakistan not only as a real estate but also having its exclusive ownership rights. Its anti-India attitude might create obstacles in the peace efforts. It believes that Indians are "devious" and cannot be trusted. Normalised and cooperative relationships in the sub-continent give a sweet feeling. However, the whole peace process will depend upon the goodwill of the Pakistani Army.

Kashmir is on the agenda of the composite dialogue. But progress on this issue will remain slow. This is, in fact, a major road block in promoting good neighbourly relations between the countries. Most Pakistanis sincerely believe in the two-nation theory, whereas India believes in secularism. There is no meeting point between the two. There is no question of India giving up Kashmir. Pakistan too cannot give up its claim on Kashmir because that will strike at the very root of its existence. Consequently, both countries should demonstrate political will to resolve this complex question.

The road to peace is bumpy, but is not difficult to cross. New Delhi and Islamabad will have to forget the bitter past, which is the main determinant of their perceptual distortions for a better and prosperous future. It is rightly said: "the past must no longer be used as an anvil for beating out the present and future". 

The writer is Head, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Government College for Boys, Sector 11 D, Chandigarh
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OPED

Punjab’s decision on SYL sticks in Centre’s throat
President used as a postman to refer the dispute to Supreme Court
by Rajinder Puri

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh protected his political interests by rushing through the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act (2004), abrogating water-sharing agreements with neighbouring states. The Act has stopped the final phase of work on the SYL canal carrying the Beas-Sutlej river waters to Haryana. The CM by his action aroused silent fury within his own party and violent tongue-lashing outside it. Congress political fortunes have plummeted in Haryana and Rajasthan. The Congress central leadership is left to wrestle with an intractable problem that could affect its fortunes all over the country. Like a fishbone the CM’s decision sticks in the Centre’s throat — the Prime Minister can neither swallow it nor spit it out.

There are two aspects that arise from the CM’s action. The first deals with the legality of the CM’s decision. Critics complain that the Act unilaterally abrogates past trilateral agreements that the Punjab government signed with other states. It also negates a Supreme Court ruling ordering completion of the SYL canal within a prescribed period. Punjab’s short answer to this is that the Supreme Court had not decided how the river waters ought to be shared but only that the SYL canal should be completed. The Act makes infructuous the Supreme Court’s ruling that ordered completion of the canal. Punjab will continue the present arrangements for sharing water with Haryana and Rajasthan. It wants a decision about how the water should be shared before the canal that will facilitate its distribution is completed. Punjab relies on the state government’s constitutional right to safeguard the interests of its people through legislation to justify the Act. The Supreme Court can determine whether or not it is legally valid.

The second aspect relates to the political implications of the CM’s action. The CM’s critics point out that both Haryana and Rajasthan deserve a share of the water, that the unity of the nation is threatened, that the CM was duplicitous in rushing through the bill, that the Act violates the federal spirit of the Constitution, and that it negates the previous agreement reached with Haryana and Rajasthan. It is needless to speculate on whether or not the CM consulted Sonia Gandhi before the bill was tabled; whether or not in her naiveté she missed the bill’s far-reaching political implications; and whether or not the dangers of having two centres of political power – Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – have been exposed.

What needs to be focused on is how the central leadership responds to the crisis. As yet the issue has not become communal. The Sikh farmers of Haryana oppose the bill as vehemently as the Hindu farmers of Punjab support it. It is an issue affecting entire states. As a national party ruling at the Centre, it is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to take a political decision, however tough that might be, and then squarely face its consequences. Had he done this, the Congress would have gained in the long run. Instead the cabinet sought the easier route. It wants, as in many other things these days, the courts to decide what actually politicians should. The opposition chief ministers exploited the political discomfiture of the Congress. They reversed their first impulse to approach the Supreme Court. That forced the central government to make a Presidential reference to the Supreme Court.

By abdicating its political responsibility the central cabinet seeks the Supreme Court’s intervention to resolve the dispute. The Supreme Court can only advance a legal opinion. It cannot take a political view. The Supreme Court’s decision will not defuse the crisis. It will compound it. Perhaps the PM and his cabinet considered themselves to be incapable of taking a credible political decision because of their deep involvement in the dispute and the enormous vested interest of the Congress in how it gets resolved. Given past history, opposition parties will simply not accept any decision emanating from the Congress government as being just.

Therefore the Presidential reference to the Supreme Court! What an irony! The one person who could conceivably evolve a credible and acceptable political solution is being ignored. Instead, he is being used as a postman by the cabinet to refer the matter to the Supreme Court. What prevents the PM from requesting President Kalam to engage his mind on the problem and share his views about a just solution with the three chief ministers concerned? Where the PM and central cabinet may not succeed, the President might. He is not perceived as being partial. All chief ministers respect him. They consider him to be above political party considerations. He has been voted to office as an independent by both Houses of Parliament and by all the state legislatures in the country.

A crisis that can tear apart the nation confronts us. Can we not even now give the President a role that conforms to his mandate and is well within his competence? If this were done, it might set a precedent. So what? That is how constitutions and political systems evolve. That is how the system would in the natural course keep pace with the profound change in the political reality that has occurred in the nation.

Virtual one party rule throughout the nation has been transplanted by multi-party coalition rule. But the manner of interpreting the Constitution and its accepted political conventions has remained unchanged. Indeed, one might well speculate on what the political establishment would do if President Kalam were to invite the three chief ministers for tea at Rashtrapati Bhavan and discuss the issue with them informally. As a devotee of rectitude President Kalam might not even think of this. But it might serve the nation well if he did. And there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent him from entertaining guests and influencing them through informal discussion.

The very genesis of the crisis created by the SYL canal can be traced to the partisan role of the central government. In the pursuit of its party interests the Congress government at the Centre trampled on democratic procedure and ignored the national interest. The following facts should be noted.

The Akali Dal government led by Parkash Singh Badal ruled Punjab from 1977 to 1980. The Punjab government filed a suit in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of Sections 78-80 of the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966 because they violated the Constitution. Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980. She promptly dismissed the Punjab government. Central rule was imposed. Subsequently, elections were held in Punjab and Congress came to power. Darbara Singh became the Chief Minister. The central government prevailed on the Punjab government and made it withdraw the case pending in the Supreme Court.

Thereafter a farmers’ organisation in Punjab filed a writ in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the same grounds challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 78-80 of the Punjab Act, 1966. After preliminary arguments, Chief Justice S.S. Sandhanwalia constituted a full bench with himself as Presiding Judge to hear the case. He announced this order on the last working day of the week and fixed the date of hearing on the following Monday, November 25, 1983. In the intervening two days, two dramatic events occurred. Chief Justice Sandhanwalia was transferred to the Patna High Court. Simultaneously, the Attorney-General made an oral application to the Supreme Court pleading that since the case was important it should be transferred from the Punjab and Haryana High Court to the Supreme Court. The request was granted. The case was swiftly transferred to the Supreme Court. For the last 21 years it has languished there, gathering dust in some obscure corner of the registry. So much for constitutional niceties and justice!

Much later the Punjab and Haryana High Court on January 15, 2002, responding to a suit under Article 131 of the Constitution, ordered the completion of the SYL Canal within one year of its order. It is that order that has become the mantra sanctimoniously repeated by politicians and media alike. The events preceding it are conveniently forgotten. But people do not forget. By toying with this crisis the politicians are playing with fire. They may unwittingly unleash events that could destroy the system. In the last analysis, however, that might not be bad. It may become nature’s way of forcing reform on politicians refusing to learn.

Courtesy: National Review which is publishing this article in its August, 2004, issue

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Profile
Shibu Sor
en: A turbulent career
by Harihar Swarup

Controversies have always chased Shibu Soren, architect of the Jharkhand state. Soren’s supporters call him "Guruji". Now implicated in a 30-year-old murder case in Jharkhand, the 60-year-old Union Minister for Coal had to resign on Saturday on the advice of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

As a politician and MP (Lok Sabha), he hit the headlines in 1993 when his party, the Jharkhand MuktiMorcha (JMM), voted in favour of the Narasimha Rao government. Soren was accused of taking bribe for the vote. In what came to be known as the JMM bribery case, four MPs of the party, including Soren, were sent to jail. Soren was later acquitted but a disproportionate assets case is still pending against him. His real test has come now.

Trouble brewed afresh for Soren, when a fast track court in Jamtara district issued an arrest warrant against him for his alleged involvement in the killing of 10 people in Chirudih village in 1975. Sixty-nine people, including Soren, were accused in the case in which a tribal mob allegedly led by him attacked the Muslim-dominated village as part of a campaign to drive away "outsiders". A warrant was issued against him in 1986, but was never served on him.

Soren began his career by campaigning against moneylenders. He was venerated by the tribals of Santhal Pargana. His initial days were spent in the jungles, fighting the cause of poverty-stricken people. With the passage of time, he became a politician and took over charge of the JMM from Nirmal Mahto, the party’s founder.

He has flirted with both the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Before the creation of Jharkhand in 2000, he backed the BJP as the party had assured him the Chief Minister’s post after the formation of the state. After the BJP backtracked, he joined the RJD.

Soren’s career graph shows he has always been a rebel. The rebellion in him was ignited when at the instigation of a money lender, his father, Shobaran Soren, was murdered. Soren could not bear the loss. He vowed to get his region freed of the "tyrants" and initially his slogan was "Jharkhand ko soshan se mukti doo" (free Jharkhand from exploiters). Subsequently, the movement gave rise to JMM. Soren became the torchbearer of the struggle.

The 1960s saw the exploitation of tribals touching a new high with money lenders, landgrabbers, landlords, businessmen and forest mafia getting foothold in the coal and mica belts and bringing with them all the vices. They plundered the forests, seized the land of adivasis and desecrated the rivers.

Rose from the midst of maltreatment of tribals, Shibu took up cudgels against the tyranny of exploiters. He organised mining workers, dalits, backward classes under one banner and posed a challenge to the mafia. He soon came to be known as "jungle leader" and "tribal crusader". With the murder of Soren’s father, the struggle gathered momentum. Since then, Shibu Soren had only one-point mission — to get a separate state of Jharkhand.
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Diversities — Delhi Letter
Amitabh Bachchan steals the show
by Humra Quraishi

ONE of the best book releases I have ever attended was Rahul Singh’s “Khushwant Singh: In the name of the father” (Roli). Held at Le Meridien last Tuesday, Amitabh Bachchan was the chief guest. He clearly stole the show, admitted by Khushwant Singh himself. He had come with his clan — wife, daughter, son-in-law and Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh. It was a smooth rolling affair;  the speeches were short and crisp.

Amitabh BachchanThough Khushwant will be 90 on August 15, he spoke with spontaneity and forthrightness. Much after the Bachchans had departed, Khushwant continued sitting, encircled by admirers and cameramen. Theatre personality Zohra Sehgal sat next to him. Khushwant’s face hasn’t really aged. It’s childlike and the smile and laughter is boyish. There is no clash between what he thinks and what he says. He is a man without any  pretences or facades.

People-to-people contact

A 29-member delegation of Nazims (elected heads of district governments) and councillors (local government representatives) from Pakistan’s Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and North West Frontier Province will visit Delhi’s Institute of Social Sciences to promote people-to-people contact. Last week, it toured Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal, Karnataka and Kerala. It met Union Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and Kerala Chief Minister A.K. Antony, among others.

This weekend Rajmohan Gandhi’s book “Ghaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns” (Penguin) will be released at the IIC.

External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh will release the book; the special guest will be Ghaffar Khan’s  grandson and leader of the Awami National Party of Pakistan, Asfandyar Khan.

A film with a difference

In the midst of the ongoing Sixth Asian Film Festival, Sashi Kumar’s film “Kaya Taran” (Chrysalis), a sensitive film, got overshadowed. It is a film with a difference and a definite outreach. Based on bureaucrat N.S. Madhavan’s short story “When Big Trees Fall”, it rotates around the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and the Gujarat riots of 2002. It tries to expose the insensitivity of those in power where even after years, the guilty are not brought to book as political games take on.

Scholar, diplomat rolled into one

The Dean of the Arab Ambassadors in India, Dr Abdalmahmood Abdal Haleem Mohammad, who is also the Sudanese Envoy to India, is a well-known Arab scholar who writes regularly for newspapers and is in constant touch with the world  of culture and the arts. He hosted dinner for film personalities and delegates of the Asian Film Festival with much enthusiasm, as a man who knows and appreciates the diverse culture of this continent.
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If one happens to do a good turn to another, one feels proud and makes too much of it. But God who bestows so much merit and does countless good, does all this graciously and never regrets afterwards.

— Guru Nanak

God enjoins that man should desire to live a hundred years (or his full life) constantly working; he should never be idle.

— Swami Dayanand Saraswati

If a man foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall go from me; the fragrance of goodness always comes to me, and the harmful air of evil goes to him.

— The Buddha

A man who is terribly attached to his wealth is always agitated. He suffers from the constant fear of losing it.

— Swami A. Parthasarathy
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