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EDITORIALS

Anger in Una
Express concern without violence

A
N element of anger gripping the people of Una in Himachal Pradesh is understandable as one of the truck drivers, Antaryami, held hostage in Iraq is from this district. They expressed solidarity with the relatives of the driver by demonstrating on the roads and blocking the Una-Nangal national highway.

Oil in Punjab?
Exploring it is worth it

A
T first, Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani’s claim that the border areas of Punjab and Rajasthan have oil and gas reserves may seem unbelievable. But Mr Ambani is not known to make flippant or off-the-cuff remarks.



EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Gentle fighter
Hiren-da enriched Parliament
I
T would have been most appropriate to call Prof Hiren Mukherjee, who died on Friday, “a grand old Communist” except that he never liked this description. Instead, he liked calling himself “an unrepentant Communist”. He was the kind of politician who would have been an asset to any party and, in fact, almost every party wished to have him in its ranks.
ARTICLE

Cutting our noses…
It’s better not to harm larger causes
by Pran Chopra
T
HE early years of Indian Independence gave us the priceless gift of federalism, without which "India" might have remained a dream. The assurance that India would be a federation between all the territories which agreed to join it did much to persuade many to come in who might otherwise have chosen to break away, as Pakistan had already done.

MIDDLE

The Titanic’s steel chest
by Trilochan Singh Trewn
T
his happened when I was attached to M/s John Browns in Clydebank, Grasgow. A midnight knock simultaneous with a long shrieking bell sound woke me up to face two admiralty flag cars with an urgent message. The President of India was pleased to acquire the aircraft carrier HMS Hercules as and where it was.

OPED

Dateline Washington
Kerry as belligerent as Bush
Promises more effective war on terror
by Ashish Kumar Sen
F
or those anticipating a shift in Washington’s foreign policy under a Kerry White House here’s some advice: please, don’t hold your breath. As the red, white and blue confetti settled on the Democratic National Convention at Boston’s FleetCenter, the pall of ambiguity that blurred Sen. John Kerry’s vision for the future lingers.

People Unusual bat cover
I
ndia’S most reliable batsman Rahul Dravid has an innovative mind and putting it to good use, has found an unusual safety cover for his favourite bat — socks. Yes, Dravid slips his favourite blade in one of a pair of clean socks, though it does not cover the bat’s full length.

  • The blind-folded barber
  • His fame lies in sand

 REFLECTIONS

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EDITORIALS

Anger in Una
Express concern without violence

AN element of anger gripping the people of Una in Himachal Pradesh is understandable as one of the truck drivers, Antaryami, held hostage in Iraq is from this district. They expressed solidarity with the relatives of the driver by demonstrating on the roads and blocking the Una-Nangal national highway. Few would have questioned these protests had they been mere tokens of their desperation. But when the blockade is prolonged, inconveniencing thousands of motorists, one has to look askance at it. And when they make a bid to take hostage a group of foreign tourists returning from Dharamsala, one cannot but sit up and scream "foul". Fortunately, no harm was done to the tourists, though their detention at Dehian would have upset their tight schedule.

The tourists, who belonged to different countries, have as much to do with the Iraqi situation as the hapless truck drivers have. Since the demonstrations in Una are reported extensively by the international media, what will the world at large think of the people if they vent their anger at the tourists? In doing so, they would have degenerated to the level of the Iraqi abductors, who use innocents as pawns on their chessboard. In other words, expressing solidarity with Antaryami is one thing and taking the law into their own hands quite another. They are welcome to send the message to the kidnappers that the drivers belong to a country, whose people stand solidly behind them in their hour of crisis.

On its part, the government has been taking steps to contact the militant groups holding the truck drivers to ransom. That such efforts have been making some headway is clear from the militants extending the deadline. For strategic reasons, the government may not be able to reveal all the steps it has taken in this regard. The government has its limitations as it has to deal with a group, which is answerable only to itself. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to bring extraneous pressures on the abductors. Given these facts, the people should cooperate with the government in seeking their release. Political leaders will also do well to impress upon their cadres to keep the protests absolutely peaceful.
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Oil in Punjab?
Exploring it is worth it

AT first, Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani’s claim that the border areas of Punjab and Rajasthan have oil and gas reserves may seem unbelievable. But Mr Ambani is not known to make flippant or off-the-cuff remarks. He runs the country's biggest private sector company with interests in oil and gas. That he is showing interest in Punjab is, therefore, welcome. His luncheon meeting with the Punjab Chief Minister was significant. Reliance has already applied for permission to the Director-General of Hydrocarbons to explore the Ferozepore and surrounding areas. Besides, Mr Ambani is keen to establish a gas-based thermal plant of 3,000 MW in Punjab.

Reliance Industries being an aggressive player in its chosen fields has discovered substantial oil reserves, including some in Rajasthan. Reports indicate that certain Pakistan-based companies have already found oil and gas fields along the Indo-Pakistan border. This is what has prompted the Reliance group to scan the area, taking a lead over the public sector oil giant, ONGC. Looking beyond the border, the Reliance boss is perhaps also hoping that the aborted gas pipeline project with Iran might revive with improved Indo-Pakistan relations.

One need not, however, entertain any grand illusions of success on the slippery oil front. Punjab has seen quite a few big projects flounder. The oil refinery project at Bathinda has been hanging fire for too long, resulting in a huge cost escalation and it is a pity that the Amarinder Singh government is opposed to the refinery coming up. An atomic power plant in Sangrur district was proposed, but it never materialised. The Iran gas pipeline project has not seen any progress. Often NRIs have complained that they want to invest in Punjab, but corruption and red-tape come in the way. The laid-back political leadership and bureaucracy are happy with the status quo. If Punjab is still a vibrant state, it is in spite of the government.
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Gentle fighter
Hiren-da enriched Parliament

IT would have been most appropriate to call Prof Hiren Mukherjee, who died on Friday, “a grand old Communist” except that he never liked this description. Instead, he liked calling himself “an unrepentant Communist”. He was the kind of politician who would have been an asset to any party and, in fact, almost every party wished to have him in its ranks. But he remained steadfast to the Communist Party all his life. It is another matter that he had started his political career as a Congressman in the 1930s. The Congress' loss was a boon for the Communists because the scholarly professor gave the Congress government many an anxious moment during his glorious tenure in the Lok Sabha from 1952 to 1977, especially during 1969 on its silence on US atrocities.

The Oxford-educated Hiren-da spoke English like an Englishman and his oratorical skills were legendary. In fact, it was difficult to say whether he was a better politician or a better scholar. He excelled in both fields and enriched both of them. His gentle demeanour hid his fighting spirit which made him a born leader. No wonder, he was closely associated with the trade union movement and led unions of postal, insurance and bank employees. In 1982, he even became the consensus Opposition candidate for the Presidency before it was discovered that his name was missing from the electoral rolls — a basic requirement for anyone to contest an election.

To add to it all, he was a prolific writer in Bengali and English. His book on India's freedom is considered a classic. Despite being a Communist, he would quote extensively from the Gita and the Ramayana to stress his point. The winner of the Padma Vibhusan award also authored studies on Gandhi, Nehru, Bose, Tagore and Vivekananda. How one wishes Parliament still had men like him! 
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Thought for the day

It is totally impossible to be well dressed in cheap shoes.

— Hardy Amies
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Cutting our noses…
It’s better not to harm larger causes

by Pran Chopra

THE early years of Indian Independence gave us the priceless gift of federalism, without which "India" might have remained a dream. The assurance that India would be a federation between all the territories which agreed to join it did much to persuade many to come in who might otherwise have chosen to break away, as Pakistan had already done. The ties woven out of this initial consent were reinforced as those who joined stayed on to discover in the Constituent Assembly that they were full and equal partners with all others in writing the terms on which they would stay together.

A few years later came another priceless gift: a mass-based and vigorous multi-party democracy, powered by universal adult franchise. Everyone soon discovered that whoever wanted to do so was free to enter the electoral arena and form the government wherever he could muster the required votes. A third gift had to be invented by these two, because neither could have survived without it. Too many parties, each going its own way, would have tied the federation in irresolvable tangles. Thus came the realisation by all parties that they must learn the art of coalitional politics. Not all of them have learnt it yet; the country's largest party, the Congress, and its individualistic leader are probably the last to accept it. But none has been spared the pain of learning it.

But that makes it all the sadder to see how many parties and leaders, like the proverbial man who cut his nose because he did not like his face, have allowed their hobby-horses to come in the way of larger causes which they share with actual or potential allies.

Take the case of the Left front's partnership with the Congress. It has brought this arrangement to the brink on the single issue of limits on foreign investment in some parts of the economy. The front must ask itself whether this disagreement, which is - so far — the only one, is important enough for it to threaten - and repeatedly - to cause such a serious breach. On the other hand, if it thinks this is a serious matter of principle and it must be confronted before it becomes the thin end of a lethal wedge, then it must ask itself a more serious question. Before deciding to go to bed with the Congress, did the Left front explore the ideology of the Congress sufficiently to assure itself that even this much rift could be ruled out ? An answer either way would show that both sides took the responsibilities of coalitional politics too lightly.

Or take the case of Punjab. It is depressing. The state is an outstanding example of the benefits of inter-state management of river flows. Because of them, Punjab has been able to reduce its dependence upon unpredictable monsoons, and at the same time ensure for itself a steady supply of hydro-electric power. In doing so it has benefited a great deal from the waters it gets from rivers which come to it from neighbouring states, thanks to the arrangements brought about by New Delhi by extending the reach of federal intervention. They have made Punjab a much bigger recipient, by significant margins, than it is a donor of water. Yet it is prepared to jeopardise these arrangements. It is hard to say whether it is being driven by domestic politics or a misunderstanding of its need for water and sources for it. But the gamble it has launched is a very dangerous one, dangerous for Punjab and for the optimum benefits of federal arrangements regarding rivers.

Turn to another federal matter, another Mrs Gandhi, and you find that if the Union's hands were dirty then they have not become clean in the regime of the other Mrs Gandhi. Acting through the President the Congress has often manipulated governors for partisan purposes on the specious plea that in any case governors can hold office only so long as the President (read the government) is pleased with them. But one cannot remember any other Union Home Minister who went so far as to say, as the present incumbent has done, that some governors were removed because their "ideology" (in this case meaning their association with the RSS) was not acceptable. He would have earned some points for honesty at least if he had first declared the RSS ( and which other party ?) to be tainted and then used the taint as a disqualification. But political differences with another party are not a justifiable cause of actions against it in constitutional matters.

Against this background two things have happened, each unpleasant and unnecessary but also unsurprising. Soon after the Governor of UP had been removed as "tainted", his obliging replacement, Mr T.V. Rajeshwar, selected for Lucknow by the Union Home Ministry, took what is probably an unprecedented step. He objected to the Chief Minister's choice of Raghuraj Pratap Singh as a minister. This is quite outside the known domain of governors in the Indian system. The Chief Minister's choice can be questioned on grounds of political propriety since the "taint" on this candidate can be seen from New Delhi with the naked eye. But the objection by the Governor is out of court. What is more relevant is the tug of war which has been going on for months between Mr Mulayam Singh and the Congress leadership. As for the sizes of "taints", Mr Shibu Soren, whose appointment as Union Minister was supported by the Union Home Minister in the Lok Sabha, has had warrants of arrest pending against him for years in a large-scale murder case.

But mistakes in making or refusing appointments are a minor matter. Much more serious is an impending blunder which can undo a careful policy on reservations crafted by earlier generations of Congress leaders. That policy provided reservations only for classes and individuals considered socially and economically backward. Where the benefits would cover candidates of religious minorities also, care was taken to explain that the criteria related to their backwardness, not their religion. The new government of Andhra has reversed the process. Reservations will be extended to cover Muslims "by including them in the Backward Classes" according to the new Chief Minister, Mr Rajashekhara Reddy. Speaking on "the welfare of minorities" on July 13, he announced that the change would be effected through a Bill which would be in tune with "the new government's promise to extend reservation for the Muslim community in government jobs and educational institutions."
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The Titanic’s steel chest
by Trilochan Singh Trewn

This happened when I was attached to M/s John Browns in Clydebank, Grasgow. A midnight knock simultaneous with a long shrieking bell sound woke me up to face two admiralty flag cars with an urgent message. The President of India was pleased to acquire the aircraft carrier HMS Hercules as and where it was. The ship was anchored at Garelockhead in Scottish lakes and I was to proceed there early next morning. The ship was later commissioned as INS Vikrant.

Within weeks the mighty ship was towed to Belfast for modernisation at the Harland and Wolff shipbunding yard there. Earlier, this yard had built ships like the Titanic as well as other aircraft carriers.

I followed the ship. Next day I was ushered in the spacious office of Dr E. Rebecc, the Chairman and Managing Director of the shipyard, for a formal introduction. I was neither trained nor experienced in semi-diplomatic encounters like these. I had to walk 40 feet straight to meet the chief executive of the largest British shipyard. He was seated on a large oblong table. He watched me advancing towards him and slowly got up to shake hands. He was a tall, robustly built person and I felt my arm joints aching after his jerky double hand shake. My right palm ached severely more because it was a hand shake between two unequals.

The chairman lost no time in relating his cordial relations with the then First Lord of Admiralty Lord Louis Mountbatten. While listening to him I noticed a large framed gilded photograph of the famous passenger liner the ‘Titanic’ placed conspicuously on his wide office table. The ship was built in this very shipyard before it was lost in North Altantic in 1912.

During buffet lunch Dr E. Rebecc narrated that he was a young apprentice in the same shipyard in 1912 attached to “fitters afloat” section. He had assisted in installing a steel chest in the captain’s room of the Titanic. The chest had a monogram depicting the Sheffield firm’s name welded on the outside and a favourite saying of the captain on the inside of the chest’s handled door. The inscription read: “Whatever is on my left side is on my port side and whatever is on my right side is on my starboard side.”

At that moment Sir Mathew Slattery, Chairman of the famous aircraft manufacturing firm Short and Harlands, joined us and informed Dr Rebecc that the latest exploration efforts at sea bed on disaster site had located the captain’s chest with its door inscription blurred but intact. Dr Rebecc was instantly overwhelmed with this startling news and hugged Sir Mathew before all present in the hall. Later, I obtained a copy of the inscription on the submerged chest door being retrieved. I still cherish the immortal words which will continue to inspire and guide all those in command at sea.
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OPED

Dateline Washington
Kerry as belligerent as Bush
Promises more effective war on terror

by Ashish Kumar Sen

John Kerry: ready to play the game
John Kerry: ready to play the game

For those anticipating a shift in Washington’s foreign policy under a Kerry White House here’s some advice: please, don’t hold your breath.

As the red, white and blue confetti settled on the Democratic National Convention at Boston’s FleetCenter, the pall of ambiguity that blurred Sen. John Kerry’s vision for the future lingers.

From the opening line of his acceptance speech on Thursday night — “I’m John Kerry, and I’m reporting for duty” — to his proud reference to his service in Vietnam, the Democratic nominee for president projected himself as a leader whose wartime experience qualifies him to be America’s next
commander-in-chief.

What Mr Kerry didn’t say, however, was how this experience would transform the United States of America’s response to terrorists that target the country and the regimes that aid and foster them.

“I know what we have to do in Iraq,” Mr Kerry told ecstatic supporters. But he didn’t elaborate on what that was.

As president, he promised to fight a “smarter, more effective war on terror.”

Rhetoric precisely tailored for political conventions festooned Mr Kerry’s acceptance speech. Talk of “military might,” “firepower” and “beacon in the world” dominated a speech devoid of any mention of compassion for the people and respect for the sovereignty of other nations.

“We will deploy every tool in our arsenal: our economic as well as our military might; our principles as well as our firepower,” Mr Kerry said. “Strength is more than tough words... We need to make America once again a beacon in the world. We need to be looked up to and not just feared.”

Mr Kerry’s speech was also peppered with references to “our allies.”

Twice he said we need stronger alliances “so we can get the terrorists before they get us…. We need a strong military and we need to lead strong alliances.” With strong alliances, he said, “we will be able to tell the terrorists: You will lose and we will win…. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required.”

Striking a theme uncomfortably close to the one sounded by the Bush White House, Mr Kerry said he “would never give any nation or institution a veto over our national security.”

This thinly veiled reference to the United Nations indicates he does not mean to pursue international consensus at any cost. But if not, how then would his policy differ from President Bush’s?

His alarmist remarks —”the front lines of this battle are not just far away — they’re right here on our shores, at our airports, and potentially in any town or city” — were no different from those espoused by the Bush administration and mocked by filmmaker Michael Moore in his hit documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Looking beyond America’s shores, what will a Kerry presidency mean for India?

Outlining his priorities in a letter to an Indian-American political action committee, Mr Kerry said he would “nurture the important relationship between the United States and India and ensure that the rights of Indian-Americans are protected here at home.”

Pointing out that he had long supported a closer relationship between the United States and India, he said: “I believe it is important, to both the United States and to India, that the economic and military relationship between our two countries continue to grow.”

“The threat of international terrorism affects both the United States and India. And the fight against terrorism requires a mix of military, diplomatic and law enforcement responses. I strongly believe that the United States and India must continue to work together to bolster our joint capacities,” he added.

Mr Kerry’s dispassionate relationship with Pakistan would bring some relief in New Delhi. The Bush administration’s dependence on Pakistan in the post-9/11 era has resulted in a virtual carte blanche to Islamabad supplemented with generous doses of financial aid.

Acknowledging the importance of Pakistan’s support to operations in Afghanistan, Mr Kerry has said he hopes that “Pakistan will always remember that our goal is to have free nations with open societies in which there is no place for terror or the support of terror.”

The Massachusetts senator has also previously asserted his commitment to promoting bilateral engagement between India and Pakistan in an effort to resolve the dispute in Kashmir, and to combating terrorism. “I believe the United States has the unique ability to help this process along, and as President I intend to take full advantage of the opportunity to do so,” he said.

New Delhi will be concerned by Mr Kerry’s insistence that India sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. In a Senate speech in 2001, Mr Kerry said: “Indian officials have made it clear that there would be no roll back of India’s nuclear program and that India intends to have a credible minimum nuclear deterrent which means nuclear weapons and delivery systems. They believe that the United States is under-emphasizing India’s security needs and over emphasizing non-proliferation objectives. I believe there is a happy medium between these two.”

“Arms control and regional stability are inextricably linked, and global security is inextricably linked to our resolution of these issues,” he added.

On the economic front, Mr Kerry has tapped into the resentment of unemployed Americans by promising to put an end to the outsourcing of jobs. Countries like India and China have been major beneficiaries of an economic policy that has helped keep US firms afloat by providing world-class services with a cheaper price tag.

Come November, America will exercise their voting rights. The outcome of that effort may result in political change, however, it would be optimistic to surmise that this would translate into a change in the way America deals with other sovereign people that inhabit the planet.
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People
 Unusual bat cover

Rahul Dravid India’S most reliable batsman Rahul Dravid has an innovative mind and putting it to good use, has found an unusual safety cover for his favourite bat — socks.

Yes, Dravid slips his favourite blade in one of a pair of clean socks, though it does not cover the bat’s full length.

“It’s my innovation,” Dravid says with a smile.

“I have been keeping bats like this for about a year now.” And the 31-year-old seems to love his willow so much that he does not want to part with it. He takes it to his room, maybe because he is superstitious, or maybe because he simply wants to keep it in front of his eyes all the time.

So, is the bat safer in the socks than in the “coffin”, as a cricketer’s kit bag is called? Dravid reasons: “I keep it this way because I don’t want to carry the full bat cover.” Dravid loves doing things the simple way, but that obviously does not stop the genial Bangalorean from innovating.

Different batsmen have different methods and ways of taking care of their kit, or bats to be precise. And great batsmen like Dravid innovate ways of protecting their favoured willow — the most important item in their “coffins”.

The blind-folded barber

Getting a haircut from a barber with perfect eyesight is dicey enough, considering that the slip of the scissors or the razor can cause considerable harm. Handing oneself over to a barber who is blind-folded is many times more risky. But a barber in Kerala has been finding many customers even when he works with his eyes closed.

For Suresh, 37, the skill has come after long years of hard work. “It took me nine years of hard work to master this art of cutting anyone’s hair blindfolded. Since mastering this art, more than 30 customers have gone back happy,” he says.

The busy barber in the heart of Kottayam town admits frankly that not everyone trusts him enough to let him cut their hair with a blindfold around his eyes. But then there are enough satisfied customers to keep Suresh going, and working to perfect the art. However, he prefers to call his skill a science rather than an art.

His fame lies in sand

An Indian has won an international sand sculpture championship in Germany for creating a 25-foot-high statue of Hanuman.

Sudarsan Patnaik, a sand artist from Orissa’s temple city of Puri, was the lone Indian representative in the Sandsation championship in Berlin this year.

In all, there were 10 participants — from Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Indonesia, Morocco, Scotland, England, the US and India — who created the sculptures in an 8,000-square-metre area at Zitty Park.

Patnaik has already represented India in 23 international sand sculpture festivals. Last year, he won the second prize at a contest in Spain and the fourth spot at China.

He is often seen sculpting at the Puri sea beach. His sculpture based on the reported torture of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison and another on the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles have received wide acclaim.

Patnaik has been teaching this art to about 50 students in his open-air school in Puri.
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There is nothing so lovely and enduring in the regions which surround us, above and below, as the lasting peace of a mind centred in God.

— Yoga Vasishtha

Free your mind of ignorance and be anxious to learn the truth, especially in the one thing that is needed, lest you fall a prey either to scepticism or to errors.

— The Buddha

Riches, beauty and flowers — all are guests only of a few days.

— Guru Nanak

A person may have no relatives anywhere but Mahamaya may cause him to keep a cat and thus make him wordly. Such is Her play!

— Sri Ramakrishna

God is gracious to him who earns his living by his own labour and not by begging.

— Prophet Muhammad
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