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EDITORIALS

Lining up for PM
Manmohan sets a fine example
P
RIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh's communique to his ministers not to see him off or receive him at the airport whenever he leaves or returns to Delhi from foreign trips is welcome because such rituals serve little purpose.

Justice for the missing
NHRC gives hope to families of victims
A
PUBLIC notice issued by the National Human Rights Commission has raised hope of justice for the families of victims of extra-judicial killings in Punjab.

Rape capital
Women are not safe anywhere
R
APE is the most heinous form of aggression since it singes the victim not only physically but also emotionally. Yet, a large number of women suffer this trauma day in and day out.







EARLIER ARTICLES

Realistic Reddy
July 29, 2004

Not by boycott
July 28, 2004

Bank burst
July 27, 2004

Punjab without power
July 26, 2004

Left provides life support to Manmohan govt, says Raja
July 25, 2004

Troubled waters
July 24, 2004

Eyeball to eyeball
July 23, 2004
Show him the door
July 22, 2004
Waiting for rain
July 21, 2004
Resignations a charade
July 20, 2004
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
ARTICLE

To hang or not to hang
Clamour for capital punishment unwarranted
by J. Sri Raman
“W
HERE were those people who talk about human rights when Parekh’s family had to leave the city after the ghastly incident?” This is a rhetorical question Mrs. Mira Bhattacharya, wife of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, is reported to have asked. She can only be answered with more rhetorical questions.

MIDDLE

A gay drama in New York
by Darshan Singh Maini
M
Y two-year stint at New York University (1988-90) was in many ways full of events and surprises, for New York, also called “the Big Apple” by the Americans, appears to be perpetually on show, what with bands and banners and buntings, chantings and dancing in the streets. Sheer fun and frolic.

OPED

Lopsided development of agriculture
Punjab should now encourage animal farming
by Dr Gurbhagwant Singh Kahlon
T
HE key to economic development in Punjab is agriculture. Crops and livestock cannot exist in isolation and, therefore, have to be developed side by side. In many developed countries, animal farming dominates the agricultural scenario as it generates employment opportunities, yields value-added products and ensures milk and meat of appropriate quality and in sufficient quantity for a sound health base for the nation.

Delhi Durbar
Pranab prefers old house
D
EFENCE Minister Pranab Mukherjee is believed to be unwilling to move out of his house on Talkatora Road, even though he is entitled to a bigger house in Lutyen’s Delhi. Insiders say the Congress stalwart considers the house lucky for him as after moving into it he won his first Lok Sabha seat.

  • World Sikh conference

  • Doctors’ night out

  • Sunil Shastri’s plan


 REFLECTIONS

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Lining up for PM
Manmohan sets a fine example

PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh's communique to his ministers not to see him off or receive him at the airport whenever he leaves or returns to Delhi from foreign trips is welcome because such rituals serve little purpose. Clearly, they are a waste of time, energy and resources of the ministers and the government. The picture of ministers, lining up with or without bouquets, at the airport does send a wrong message. It demonstrates that these ministers have no other work worth the name. It all started in the early seventies when sycophancy and obeisance to the Prime Minister were regarded as accepted standards of official conduct and practice. Such was the importance attached to this ritual that even a small gesture, smile or a glance of Indira Gandhi carried a lot of significance and import.

Sycophancy, hero-worship and exhibitionism may have become permanent features of modern political life. But then, Dr Manmohan Singh is no typical politician and is a cut above the rest. Yet, doubts are bound to be raised to what extent he can enforce his directive. For, such instructions by his predecessors — Rajiv Gandhi and Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao — were observed more in breach than in practice. Rajiv Gandhi once said that only those who have an urgent last-minute message to communicate or receive should see him at the airport. This was a reasonable norm. But how long was it followed? Soon there was a mela-like atmosphere at the airport with some ministers even carrying tilak.

Equally significant is the Prime Minister's order restricting the use of his picture in government advertisements. Hero-worship is deep-rooted in Indian society. This is true even in bureaucracy which has long forgotten the virtue of anonymity and neutrality. Whether Dr Manmohan Singh likes it or not, hero-worship will continue. Nonetheless, instructions such as these are a very desirable administrative reform. These should goad ministers and top officials to understand the value of time and concentrate on their work for which they are paid by the exchequer.
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Justice for the missing
NHRC gives hope to families of victims

A PUBLIC notice issued by the National Human Rights Commission has raised hope of justice for the families of victims of extra-judicial killings in Punjab. The NHRC is conducting an inquiry into the circumstances leading to the cremation, by the Punjab Police, of 2097 bodies as unclaimed/unidentified in the police districts of Amritsar, Majitha and Tarn Taran between June 1984 and December 1994. The illegal cremations had been confirmed by the CBI in its report to the Supreme Court more than seven years ago. It is a slap in the face of those who have been claiming that the missing persons had gone abroad in search of greener pastures.

The very fact that the NHRC has given a public notice for the families to file claims is commendable. It is one of the few such instances in the world where a statutory body has addressed the issue so boldly. Justice has to be seen to be done, even if it moves at a slow pace. There is no denying that the police and administrative machinery functioned in difficult circumstances during the days of militancy. However, the argument advanced by some that circumstances demanded ruthlessness in stamping out militancy is specious, since expediency can never justify extra-judicial measures. A major impact of this move, besides being cathartic for the victims' families, is that it shakes up the climate of impunity and non-accountability that prevails, especially when dealing with the decades of militancy in Punjab.

The work of various human rights organisations that have documented the violations in Punjab and relentlessly pursued the case is commendable. Once the commission establishes criminal conduct, both compensation to the victims and punishment of the accused would follow. This task should be done with delicacy. In 1999, the Punjab Government offered to settle 18 such cases with compensation "without admitting liability" but the victim families rejected it as money was not enough. The guilty must be punished, especially those in command of the operations at the highest levels. The demand by the victims in other districts to be heard by the commission also deserves sympathetic consideration.
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Rape capital
Women are not safe anywhere

RAPE is the most heinous form of aggression since it singes the victim not only physically but also emotionally. Yet, a large number of women suffer this trauma day in and day out. When such a crime happens even in the national Capital, it becomes all the more reprehensible because it sends the unfortunate signal that no place is safe for women. Delhi has the dubious distinction of having witnessed the rape of more than 300 women in this year itself. The shameful count increased further on Wednesday when a 23-year-old woman was molested, allegedly by her employer and his friend in a moving vehicle in South Delhi. For the police, the numbers may be just data but for those who suffer the ultimate stigma, it signifies the breakdown of civilised society.

The conviction rate is abysmally low in rape cases. Perhaps that is what emboldens many others to turn into beasts. The police insensitivity in such cases is to be seen to be believed. Despite knowing that the rape stigma is an unbearable humiliation in an Indian household, they will visit the victims in uniform, forcing many victims to either turn hostile or not pursue the cases. In the latest South Delhi incident, the police took several hours even to register an FIR as Mehrauli, Sarita Vihar and Badarpur officials argued about the area in which the crime had taken place. Such behaviour intimidates the victims no end.

The faith of the public in the fairness of the lawkeepers is further corroded when the men in uniform themselves turn into molesters. There have been many such cases even in Delhi. Some policemen have been dismissed from service but that hardly restores the confidence of the public. Ever since the rape of a Swiss girl last year, Delhi's reputation has been in mud. Since those who are assigned to prevent such crimes have failed to discharge their responsibilities, the men at the very top need to intervene to remedy the situation.
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Thought for the day

Good God! What a genius I had when I wrote that book.

— Jonathan Swift
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To hang or not to hang
Clamour for capital punishment unwarranted
by J. Sri Raman


“WHERE were those people who talk about human rights when Parekh’s family had to leave the city after the ghastly incident?” This is a rhetorical question Mrs. Mira Bhattacharya, wife of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, is reported to have asked. She can only be answered with more rhetorical questions.

Mrs. Bhattacharya was participating in an “open debate” on “to hang or not to hang” in Kolkata on that Saturday. The Hamletian poser was about the punishment that Dhananjoy Chatterjee deserved. There was no Hamlet-like ambiguity in her response.

The man has been convicted of raping and killing a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Hetal Parekh, in 1990; and so, according to Mrs. Bhattacharya and everyone else in the so-called “debate”, he had to die. She was supplying arguments to back her husband’s earlier official assertion that the convict must be executed, with no consideration of Presidential clemency.

To answer her with counter-questions does not, either in law or outside it, amount to an abetment or a defence of what was doubtless a heinous and horrendous crime deserving the harshest punishment — the harshest that a civilised society can contemplate. With that clarification and caveat, we can proceed to ask the questions.

Where were and are Mrs. Bhattacharya and her friends, when similarly heinous and horrendous crimes were and are committed, say, in slums and against non-bhadralok victims?

Where were they when unspeakable atrocities were and are committed against Dalit women in villages?

Where did they stage demonstration or “debates” to demand exemplary punishment for the culprits in the Best Bakery and Bilkis cases or, at least, a speedy process of justice in these and other grisly crimes committed with state connivance in Gujarat?

The law as laid down by the Supreme Court, we have been reminded umpteen times (as though no law can be or has been questioned in the least), allows resort to capital punishment “in the rarest of rare instances” — where the crime is so heinous as to invite the extreme “indignation of the community”. Did not the crimes, committed with the complicity of the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat, provoke the indignation of the large community of decent Indians?

Why, oh why, is it that such hysteria is whipped up over crimes and criminals only when the victims belong to the holy middle class? The last time such a clamour for hanging assailed the nation’s ears was when the Billa-Ranga case in New Delhi hit the headlines. It was, again, a heinous and horrendous crime against two schoolchildren.

And, again, it was a middle class outrage at what “they” had done to “our kids”. The respected citizens of the Capital, who revelled in their indignation at the sickeningly ugly crime, had never responded — and never were to respond — to crimes, no less heinous, against the city’s lesser inhabitants.

Mrs. Bhattacharya also asked: “Why are some people talking about the human rights of such a criminal?” May we ask: why not? Are not human rights the rights of human being including hardened criminals? Is not that the rationale of all prison reforms? How can there be human rights that deny any section of people the right to life? Can any democratic society or school of thought give the State the power to take away the right?

The heinous villains, talking of human rights violations, have pointed out that Dhananjoy was convicted only on circumstantial evidence. They have also said that the convict had already spent 14 years in under-trial detention. An additional life sentence, in their view, would have more than met the ends of justice.

The question, however, is: even if the trial had taken less time, and he had been convicted on copious evidence, would capital punishment have been all right? Would the clamour for it have been warranted? Did not the provision for such a punishment deserve to be removed entirely from the statute book of any civilised country?

Could the rulers of West Bengal, which used to boast of thinking “today” what the rest of India thought “tomorrow”, be unaware that capital punishment is as obsolete as tooth-for-tooth-and-eye-for-eye justice and jurisprudence in much of the rest of the world? Do the rulers of West Bengal prefer the state of the US, which considers capital punishment as legitimate as the crusading war on Iraq, as their role model?

Mrs. Bhattacharya said she was “speaking as a mother”. How did she react as a mother and a social worker to the much-televised campaign to mobilize schoolchildren in favour of the hanging? Many mothers — and fathers — elsewhere ask: must children be brutalised in this manner?

Hangman Nata Mullick, her fellow-“debater”, was for the creation of a hereditary caste of hangmen. “After my death my son will do the job, and we will not spare a man who has no love in his mind, which itself is a crime” Were he and his applauders activated by an abundance of love in their hearts?

Were there no dissenters in the “debate”? Are there none in what once called itself the intellectual or cultural capital of India? Is there no one to speak up for human rights in the city that once prided itself on its humanity?

The “Communist Manifesto” may have been a youthfully impatient expression of an ideology that was to find wide appeal including in West Bengal. But did Karl Marx and Frederick Engels have in mind the kind of hypocrisy and holloness displayed in Kolkata’s “debate” when they poured scorn over “bourgeois law and morality”?
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A gay drama in New York
by Darshan Singh Maini

MY two-year stint at New York University (1988-90) was in many ways full of events and surprises, for New York, also called “the Big Apple” by the Americans, appears to be perpetually on show, what with bands and banners and buntings, chantings and dancing in the streets. Sheer fun and frolic. This gaiety of the spirit is the feeling of upbeatness that marks their national life.

However, my story concerns that fraternity of men and women who are “gay” in their sex life, and who make no secret of it. On the contrary, they openly celebrate it, enjoy it to the full, and to hell with the preachers and their kind. They have an annual “gay” festival, and that evening the streets in New York belong to that noisy crowd, inebriated and high on drugs.

I trust, the Americans are no more victims of this vice than the rest of the peoples all over the world. In Old Testament itself, the fate of two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, is held up as an example of God’s wrath and their destruction. This ingrained vice, thus, is as old as the history of man. In today’s New York, one can see adds regarding their “queers”, or “fairies in the sub-way, commuter trains offering help to gays, drug-addicts, incestuous sinners and their kind. And that part of Manhattan in New York known as “the Village” is teeming with this breed — fallen film stars, writers, painters, etc. And that’s where New York University is located.

This brings me to the point of my story. One evening, as I and my wife were returning to our university apartment from our evening walk, we suddenly ran into a motley crowd of “gays” who were to be seen all along the street, chanting their “gay” songs and dancing. The “gays”, I may add, have evolved a lexicon of their own, and my bewildered spouse was wholly innocent of that kind of language. My wife asked me if I could tell her what all that pother was about. I told her to wait, and first try to get back home. And, as we were seeking a side alley, some “gays” thrust an armful of their “literature” into our unwilling arms. Later, when I explained the matter to her as discreetly as possible, and when the meaning dawned upon her, she blushed and blushed and blushed.

And now the “gay” priests and their sermons. Reportedly, a high church dignitary in England has rationalised homosexuality in his own peculiar way. His “kinky” argument is that while their sex instinct was needed for the purposes of His “grand design” of procreation, this vice could have been omitted from the Lord’s scroll of sins, if He had so willed. What dispute after that!
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Lopsided development of agriculture
Punjab should now encourage animal farming
by Dr Gurbhagwant Singh Kahlon


The imbalance between crops and livestock has to be corrected
The imbalance between crops and livestock has to be corrected

THE key to economic development in Punjab is agriculture. Crops and livestock cannot exist in isolation and, therefore, have to be developed side by side. In many developed countries, animal farming dominates the agricultural scenario as it generates employment opportunities, yields value-added products and ensures milk and meat of appropriate quality and in sufficient quantity for a sound health base for the nation. This has been the case in Denmark, New Zealand and Australia.

In Punjab, our development efforts have been concentrated exclusively on crop improvement, particularly wheat and rice which offer restricted employment scope. The recent emphasis on diversification also does not go beyond the cropping sector and infrastructure for handling produce from new crops is yet to be evolved. This policy has led to a lop-sided development of the agriculture sector and has made it unsustainable.

The imbalance between crops and livestock has to be corrected. It is animal farming’s turn now. The high production levels in milk and meat obtaining in the USA, Denmark and other development countries are achievable in Punjab. With the imposition of the “Anand pattern” uniformly all over the country, including Punjab, in 1970, the government has relied on landless labourers and marginal farmers for milk and meat production. The hope that they could meet the demands of a population of over 1,000 million strong was indeed far-fetched. This policy must yield place to a new strategy that will encourage the establishment of animal farms with sizeable herds of high genetic potential animals run on scientific lines with proper feeding and under favourable production environments, not known in India so far. Two district plans are needed — one far arid areas with limited irrigation facilities and not exposed to high technologies and another for Green Revolution areas. This is necessary for becoming globally competitive. This will also yield better results than the much-talked about Veterinary University for a cash-starved Punjab.

It must be recognised that animal farming has to be a commercial enterprise. If this is recognised, policies and programmes to be developed for the animal sub-sector will be similar, in many respects to the policies and programmes developed for industry and other commercial segments of the economy. In the development process in all progressive countries, agriculture becomes a commercial enterprise and it is only in these countries where it is so treated that it has successfully met the requirements of economic and industrial development of the country. Punjab requires a pragmatic approach by incorporating hi-tech milk and meat production to compete with cash and commercial crops rather than made to follow an outdated medieval, alien pattern and system with a disastrous effect on its agriculture sector and economy. The result is that this class of rural population has neither its own resources nor are they helped financially to purchase and maintain high-yielding milch or meat animals.

There is no limit and restriction on the size, finances and technology in the industrial sector. Rather, the stress is on the selection and installation of the latest and most modern machinery available from the best sources in the world market along with their housing designs. The services of architects, civil, mechanical and electrical engineers are availed for their installation and maintenance. They are manned by professionals in the fields of management, accounts and marketing. Against it as a policy, milk is to be produced by landless and marginal farmers having one or two milch animals. It is also stipulated that milch animals and meat animals should adorn the huts of only the poorest in the rural areas, preferably illiterate and resourceless. These animals have to be such as can sustain themselves on crop residues or grass from the bunds under semi-starved and unhygenic conditions. They should provide only a part of the livelihod to their owners so that milk and meat can be sold under distress.

Misleading projections, far-fetched from reality are being made that India has emerged amongst the world’s leading dairy nations which has made even our planners complacent. There’s a need for scientific scrutiny by professionals in this field. A study of the published data reveals a dismal dairy scenario. India is not even self-sufficient in milk. The availability of milk works out to less than 210 gms per capita per day against the minimum requirement of 250 gms recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

The present policy has failed to deliver results for the Indian milk producer and consumer. Indian milk producers are among the lowest paid in the world, according to the Dairy Outlook, an Internet programme of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The price rise from milk producer to consumer is alarming and disgraceful. The Indian consumer is paying the highest price for milk in the world.

After Independence, the livestock population in the country increased at a frightening speed. The country has already crossed the saturation point in the livestock population. In Punjab, the availability of fodder at present is 15 kg only against the minimum requirement of 40 kg per animal per day.

The claim being made that the prevailing imposed pattern of milk production provides additional income to the milk producers is belied even by Milkfed Punjab’s own data. It reveals that last year it collected milk per day 2.8 litres per producer worth Rs 650 per month as gross income. The real income which accrues to a milk producer has to be worked out after taking into account the cost of milch animal, depreciation, mortality, expenditure on the fodder, feed, health cover, etc. Social costs also be counted, including that of women tied down to home, or village boys and girls being deprived of education as they take out cattle for grazing or bringing grass from bunds.

The Green Revolution areas in the country are face the presence of stray cattle but, ironically, there is not a single stray buffalo among them, the reasons for which are not difficult to find. India is known for cow worship and the cow enjoys the exalted status of mother. If Indians start worshiping the cow the right way by improving its genetic-capability, and providing proper production environment along with scientific, nutritious feeding, the cows even with less numbers will give the blessings in the form of flowing rivers of milk as it has the capability and capacity to yield 109 litres of milk in a day or 21,203 litres of milk in a lactation of 305 days. In this scheme of things the buffalo has little role to play since its genetic potential is limited. No better germ plasm is available for improvement. We have, therefore, to depend upon cow, which offers tremendous potential for improvement.

The writer is a former Milk Commissioner of Punjab
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Delhi Durbar
Pranab prefers old house

DEFENCE Minister Pranab Mukherjee is believed to be unwilling to move out of his house on Talkatora Road, even though he is entitled to a bigger house in Lutyen’s Delhi. Insiders say the Congress stalwart considers the house lucky for him as after moving into it he won his first Lok Sabha seat. This is the same house where Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi used to stay when he was a minister in the Narasimha Rao Cabinet in the early 1990s.

Soon thereafter Gogoi took over as the PCC chief and subsequently as Chief Minister of the north-eastern state.

World Sikh conference

A two-day World Sikh Conference will begin on September 18 in Australia to discuss issues affecting the community and promote understanding of Sikhism. The conference, which will have delegates from India, Canada, the United Kingdom and Malaysia, will be funded by the New South Wales Community Relations Commission’s 2004 Community Development Grants programme.

The Sikhs in NSW are highly regarded for their contribution to the state. The first Sikhs arrived in Australia in the late 19th century as workers on sugarcane plantations. A census reveals that 8,604 people in NSW have identified their faith as Sikhism and there are over 17,000 Sikhs across Australia.

Doctors’ night out

Doctors of Indraprastha Apollo Hospital perhaps believe in the Epicurean philosophy of “Eat, drink and be merry, tomorrow you may die”. At the eighth anniversary celebrations of Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, a large number of specialists and surgeons joined the Chairman, Apollo Hospital Group, Dr Pratap C Reddy at the Marriot Hotel, Saket, to raise a glass. Accompanied by their wives, the doctors otherwise clad in white coats could hardly be recognised in formal wear.

Close to midnight, they moved to the dance floor to shake a leg to the evergreen Hindi, Punjabi and English hits being played by the live music band. The Deputy General manager, Patient Services, Dr Raji Chandru, Dr Praveen Khilani, Senior Consultant, Neo Natology and Senior Consultant, Urology, Dr N Subramanayam made the evening all the more memorable by singing Hindi film lyrics in their melifluous voice. The Medical Director, Dr Anupam Sibal, could not help admiring his talented colleagues.

Sunil Shastri’s plan

Sunil Shastri aims to strike a different note. With lots of fanfare, the BJP in the mid-nineties had admitted disgruntled Congress leaders like former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s son Sunil Shastri in its fold. Many others like Aslam Sher Khan, Dilip Singh Bhuria, K C Pant, Rangarajan Kumarmanglam followed him.

Barring the chosen few, only a limited number could climb up the ladder as it was not easy to swim in the RSS pool. Many of them adopted a low profile thinking that the BJP under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee would return to power. Now with the BJP being out of power and Vajpayee’s stature curtailed, many of these former Congressmen are thinking of chartering their separate course away from the BJP. A little bird tells us that Sunil Shastri may float a forum for kisans and jawans. Where does he land politically can be anybody’s guess.

Contributed by Satish Misra, Gaurav Choudhury, R. Suryamurthy
and Tripti Nath.

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What neither mother, nor father, nor any other relatives could do, a well directed mind does, and thereby elevates one.

— The Buddha

Lay aside your greed and love the Infinite Lord so that you may find the door of salvation.

— Guru Nanak

Even the injunctions of destiny are cancelled if one takes refuge in God. Destiny strikes off with her own hands what she had written about such a person.

— Sarada Devi

Unless one always speaks the truth, one cannot find God who is the soul of truth.

— Sri Ramakrishna

He dies not who gives life to learning.

— Prophet Muhammad
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