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EDITORIALS

More friends than foes
The joy of backseat driving
I
T is typical of the Left, to speak about bread when it sets out not only to have the cake and eat it too but also run the bakery. The CPM-led Left parties are part of the United Progressive Alliance. Yet, keeping out of the government is treated as licence to act as Opposition too.

Rain struck!
First showers and City Beautiful turns ugly
R
ESIDENTS of Chandigarh and the neighbouring Panchkula and Mohali never got to sing the rain songs to welcome the delayed monsoon. First genuine showers and the civic amenities in the modern planned cities collapsed.


EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Together in Bangkok
Sharing resources for speedy growth
T
HE just concluded meeting of the Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bhutan Economic Cooperation, popularly known as BIMSTEC, at Bangkok acquired special significance in the sense that it was for the first time that the Heads of State and Government from the seven member-nations participated in it.
ARTICLE

Trial of Saddam Hussein
Only non-Iraqi judges can ensure fair verdict
by Shelley Walia
H
E did not look worn out or tattered as he had on his arrest seven months ago. Dressed up casually, he looked thinner, fitter, better groomed and confident, though a little ruffled. The grand jury proceedings which will lead to a formal trial have begun and Saddam Hussein has spoken.

MIDDLE

Officialese
by Avay Shukla
O
NE of the unintended benefits of the Right to Information Act is that it is now possible for any desperate insomniac to requisition a government file, start reading its pages at bed time, and hey presto!- before he can say “mutatis mutandis” he would be fast asleep!

OPED

The SYL canal crisis: two views

Haryana should not beg for water
by Sher Singh
T
HE Punjab Vidhan Sabha has passed a law reiterating that Haryana and Rajasthan have no right to get even a drop of water from three rivers, as Punjab, being riparian state, is the sole proprietor of this water. These are
inter-state rivers and Haryana has 9,939 sq km area in the Indus basin. The riparian law is not applicable here.

Punjab has gone unheard
by G.S. Grewal
T
HE very first Article of our Constitution says ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of states. The word “Union of States” has been interpreted by a seven-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in “Special reference No. 1 of 1965 (AIR 1965 S.C. 745) to mean that the Union of India is federal in form with distinct powers to its constituents for
self-governance to a limited extent.


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More friends than foes
The joy of backseat driving

IT is typical of the Left, to speak about bread when it sets out not only to have the cake and eat it too but also run the bakery. The CPM-led Left parties are part of the United Progressive Alliance. Yet, keeping out of the government is treated as licence to act as Opposition too. And now, the CPM says that it would play an independent role as well and advocate alternative policies based on the Left and democratic programme. The CPM newspeak was delivered by none other than Politburo member Prakash Karat while making public the decisions of the party’s three-day Central Committee meeting that concluded on Sunday. For many it is hard to see how the same party can be with the government, its adversary and an independent alternative. Only compulsions of coalition politics, perhaps, can explain such a phenomenon.

The CPM’s three-fold approach spelled out by Mr Karat means that at a primary level, the party would continue to support the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme to which it has agreed. Second, the CPM would oppose decisions that are outside the ambit of the CMP. Third, and last, the Left would not confine itself to the CMP but keep up the campaign for alternative policies. Translated into realpolitik, this signifies that for all the talk of the CPM’s “bite” carrying the potential to be worse than its “bark”, the Left is unlikely to do anything to rock the UPA boat. At the same time, they are determined not to surrender their ground to the BJP, to retain which they would vehemently oppose measures like the fuel price hike and foreign direct investment in core sectors.

Given this scenario, the setting up of a UPA-Left coordination mechanism only underscores that the Congress and the Left are bound by their avowedly secularist platforms and united in the resolve to give no quarter to the BJP. There, however, could be moments which might add to the discomfiture of the Manmohan Singh government.

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Rain struck!
First showers and City Beautiful turns ugly

RESIDENTS of Chandigarh and the neighbouring Panchkula and Mohali never got to sing the rain songs to welcome the delayed monsoon. First genuine showers and the civic amenities in the modern planned cities collapsed. The underground drainage system clogged. Roads turned into impassable canals, leaving thousands of people stranded. To make matters worse, most sectors plunged into darkness. All claims of being fully prepared to meet the onslaught of the monsoon proved phoney. And to think that all this happened despite the fact that the clouds had started showering their bounty full one month late! When the residents were praying for the rains, the administration should have been busy gearing up for the challenge. Nothing of that sort was done. On the contrary the process of widening some roads was left uncompleted, turning the dug-up areas into death traps. This was not the first time this was happening. Being situated at the Shivalik foothills, Chandigarh faces the same problem year after year and yet the bitter experience is conveniently forgotten because accountability seems to be an alien word for powers that be.

Nor does it require a downpour for the claims of good governance to go down the drain. Even otherwise, sanitary conditions in the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana are going from bad to worse. Stray cattle enjoy a free run. Slums are mushrooming in many sectors. The local authorities do not know that there are not even adequate signboards to distinguish one sector from another. It is no argument that the situation in other towns and cities is worse. Le Corbusier’s dream city ought to be a cut above the rest and a model for them. If the so-called City Beautiful has to turn that ugly, others cannot avoid being a faithful copy of living hell.

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Together in Bangkok
Sharing resources for speedy growth

THE just concluded meeting of the Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bhutan Economic Cooperation, popularly known as BIMSTEC, at Bangkok acquired special significance in the sense that it was for the first time that the Heads of State and Government from the seven member-nations participated in it. Sharing of their natural resources for the region’s speedy economic growth and the threat from terrorism were among the issues which dominated the discussions. This is quite understandable because no development activity can be undertaken successfully so long as terrorism continues to pose a threat to peace and security. That is why when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed the need for eliminating the scourge from the region, his viewpoint found unqualified support.

It is shameful that despite the region having abundant natural resources, the majority of the people here are leading a life of misery. There is widespread poverty mainly because of lack of imaginative policies and closer cooperation among the BIMSTEC countries. Take the case of Bangladesh, which is virtually floating on a sea of natural gas. India needs gas for spurring economic development, but Bangladesh is reluctant to oblige it on various flimsy pretexts. Both will benefit tremendously if a way is found for the sale of gas by Bangladesh to India. At Bangkok, there was, no doubt, an appreciation of India’s economic achievements after it launched its privatisation and globalisation programme, but that is not enough. India can do not only better but also serve as the nucleus of growth for BIMSTEC provided all the member-countries shed their prejudices and decide to give priority to economic issues.

However, no amount of cooperation can bring about the desired results unless drastic steps are taken to remove the roadblocks created by terrorism. It is good that BIMSTEC members have agreed not to allow one another’s territory to be used by terrorist elements for their nefarious designs. Pakistan, which is not a member of this grouping, has also been expressing its resolve to destroy the menace root and branch. If this really happens, South Asia can become an area of opportunities because growth and peace go together.

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Thought for the day

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

— L.P. Hartley


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Trial of Saddam Hussein
Only non-Iraqi judges can ensure fair verdict
by Shelley Walia

HE did not look worn out or tattered as he had on his arrest seven months ago. Dressed up casually, he looked thinner, fitter, better groomed and confident, though a little ruffled. The grand jury proceedings which will lead to a formal trial have begun and Saddam Hussein has spoken. He looked a little uncertain at first, and then became slowly but surely defiant, pouring spite on the young magistrate, out-gunning him with his political diatribe and leaving him with no credibility whatsoever. The finger-wagging dictator lost no time in using the dock as a political platform (exactly what Slobodan Milosevic had done at the Hague) declaring himself Iraq’s lawful President and questioning the legitimacy of the Iraqi court.

The Saddam case hearings were held under conditions of iron-tight precautions, in line with Mr Bush’s orders to insist on maintaining the so-called “high-value detainees.” While some applauded Mr Hussein’s public humiliation, others seemed sore, watching their former president being treated like an ordinary criminal. Nevertheless, his appearance on the screen established his power and aura to stir terror, revulsion and high regard among the people of Iraq.

The constitution of the court itself, according to Saddam, “is not legal; it is nothing but a theatre by Bush, to help him win his election.” Three American reporters were allowed inside the courtroom to carry out a manufactured reportage that is nothing but a lie; the others present in the court were three American officials, two lawyers advising the Iraqi judge, and a United States Navy admiral acting as a spokesman. Bringing justice to Iraq or giving a fair trial to Saddam is outright duplicity. It is not Saddam versus the people of Iraq, but Saddam versus Bush.

As it is, Saddam is physically in American custody to ensure his security, though legally he will be tried by the Iraqi tribunal. The truth, thus, is the main casualty of any trial that America chooses to supervise. Either the trial should have been taken up by the International Court of Justice or, as the defence lawyer argued, by the people of Iraq whom he represents and who have the legal right to bring charges against him, not a court set up by the invaders. Saddam, therefore, according to him, is not guilty until tried by a court that is not subservient to Washington’s wish. Many are of the view that the Iraqi President “never ordered the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in Halabja. That was done by the Iranians. The mass graves that are said to be full of Shiites — they are filled with Iraqi soldiers, killed by American troops.”

But is insurgent Iraq mature enough to develop a robust judicial procedure to try a war criminal? Is the Iraqi Special Tribunal not too fragile to undertake such a serious trial, the outcome of which could either signify the continuing influence of the US or a new and independent beginning for the Iraqi people confident of receiving full justice after decades of human rights violations? The defendants must be provided by defence lawyers who are known to be partial. Already Sajida, Saddam’s wife, has hired lawyers from Jordan and France to represent him in his trial.

In the recent past it has become clear that the US has brashly rejected the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, forcing many nations around the world to refrain from sending American citizens for trial to The Hague. And now Saddam is to be tried by an Iraqi tribunal, which, handpicked as it is by the coalition, fully depends for its upkeep on American favours. Two hundred legal experts have been now sent to Baghdad to collect evidence as they choose and feed the Iraqi tribunal on ways to go about prosecuting Saddam. The Iraqi members of this unlawful kangaroo court have been assembled from across the world where they lived in exile harbouring rancour for the former Iraqi dictator. Under these circumstances, any trial of Saddam would be a charade of international law owing to the predisposition of the members of the Iraqi court against the former regime that had victimised them, as well as its suspect status as a trial court which is a far cry from any international authority.

As it is, Saddam is guilty of international crimes which go beyond the limits of Iraq’s borders: thousands of deaths in the occupation of Kuwait, millions dying in the war with Iran, the use of chemical weapons, torture and rape. Does this not understandably put the trial of Saddam beyond the purview of a mere national court, which lacks international legitimacy?

The US will, in no case, authorise the appointment of any international advisory committee consisting of competent judges skilled at overseeing the legal handling of the trial. This, President Bush feels, might lead to a judgement that does not sentence Saddam with a death penalty. It is a well-known fact that the Americans have no qualms in sending their prisoners or culprits to the gallows. Mr Bush alone as a Governor of Texas had no objections to about 200 culprits being sent to the death row. This refutes the European Convention on Human Rights which advocates the inhumanity of a death penalty. Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the-second-in-command among the coalition, has agreed to stand up for its abolition. But the American government has no hesitation in using murder and illegitimate confinement of persons as a convenient alternative to a fair trial.

As from its past history, it is well known that the Iraqi nation is used to speedy trials often lasting not more than a day. But so much of evidence has to be scrutinised for crimes that cover a period of more than three decades beginning in 1974 with the purge of Sunni and Shia leaders followed in 1986 with the gassing of thousands of Kurds in Halabja as well as the crime of invading Kuwait in 1990. It will take a fairly long trial and a tedious pulling together of evidence to see to it that Saddam is given full justice which would, in turn, help in satisfying those who might still have some sympathy lurking in their minds.

The formal trial will not begin till early next year. The prosecutors, therefore, need to build a water-tight case and collect documentary evidence that lies scattered all over the country. For a fledgling Iraqi government this could be one way of arousing confidence in a worn-out nation. Keeping in view the sincere role of the international courts set up in the case of Rwanda or Sierra Leone, it is logical and legal to have the UN appoint international judges to the Iraqi tribunal, which should have no members from within the nation, who might lend some suspicion to the verdict of the case.

But it is to be seen if Mr Bush will consent to the functioning of this international mechanism to demonstrate to the world that all his chest-beating rhetoric on America’s fight for peace and justice does not ring hollow. After Guantanamo Bay, how can the world ever trust a reasonable trial for Saddam under the auspices of Mr Bush? The citizenry has to demand an updating of laws of war, creating a new code of international criminal justice. Complete dependence on Iraqi law with American legal expertise behind it could either build an image of transparency and justice which could benefit the already despised US intervention or end up in more bloodshed by activists who want American interference to end immediately.

The writer is Professor, Department of English, Panjab University, and Senior Fellow, University of Oxford.

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Officialese
by Avay Shukla

ONE of the unintended benefits of the Right to Information Act is that it is now possible for any desperate insomniac to requisition a government file, start reading its pages at bed time, and hey presto!- before he can say “mutatis mutandis” he would be fast asleep!

So legendary are the soporific effects of the language of governments that afternoon siestas are a sine qua non in government offices and Prime Ministers have regularly dropped off to sleep while delivering their own speeches. But occasionally, beneath this mound of drivel, dropped articles and gyrating gerunds, one comes across nuggets of witticism and unintended humour that make file-pushing worthwhile. Here are some examples that I have come across in my misguided career.

An important file was submitted to a senior Secretary (who usually spent at his time in office sleeping) at Shimla with the noting: “Worthy Secretary may kindly indicate date and time for holding the meeting.” On this the Secretary recorded: “On any waking day between 3 and 4 pm.” Was his slip showing?

Quite often a little humour can go a long way in reinforcing a serious message. One of the best examples of this is to be found on the river that flows just in front of the Dhekala Forest Rest House in the Corbett National Park. A big sign there warns: River has crocodiles. Swimming prohibited. Survivors will be prosecuted. A real Hobson’s choice, what?- if the crocks don’t get you the cops will!

On the Kalka-Shimla highway, where any number of dhabas sell all kinds of meat, some enterprising Forest officer has put up a sign with a very conservationist mathematical equation; the sign claims: A bird in the bush is worth two on a plate. Never was a truer word spoken.

Many years ago I was serving my sentence in the Coal Ministry in Shastri Bhavan. One of the ministries had an official auto-rickshaw on the back of which the long suffering driver had written: Nanak Dukhiya Sab Sansar, Sare Dukhiya Yamuna Paar. Is Noida listening?

And here’s the gem. In the eighties the Punjab government, quite against the run of play, came up with a bright idea: a single window system where all the approvals required for setting up an industry would be made available at one counter. And, as governments are wont to do, it decided to publicise this innovation. Large ads came out in the papers proclaiming: Good news for industrialists. All their needs would now be taken care of by one single widow! Now isn’t that more like the Punjab we know...??

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The SYL canal crisis: two views

Haryana should not beg for water
by Sher Singh

THE Punjab Vidhan Sabha has passed a law reiterating that Haryana and Rajasthan have no right to get even a drop of water from three rivers, as Punjab, being riparian state, is the sole proprietor of this water.

These are inter-state rivers and Haryana has 9,939 sq km area in the Indus basin. The riparian law is not applicable here. The successive Chief Ministers of Punjab have been maintaining this illogical stand that Haryana and Rajasthan have no right to the water of these rivers. To reach a logical conclusion, let Haryana and Rajasthan accept their stand, and end once and for all the insult heaped on them from time to time.

We have to go back to the distribution of water between India and Pakistan. India claimed three eastern rivers. The World Bank asked India to submit a plan to utilise all the water in these rivers. The water in these rivers is so much that Punjab alone cannot utilise it.

If Punjab gets all this water, all its area will be under water and no land will be available for cultivation. The ministers and engineers had to find areas where this extra water could be used. The engineers prepared a plan and submitted that dry lands of Rajasthan and eastern districts of Punjab, now called Haryana, could be given this extra water. This satisfied the World Bank and Pakistan also agreed and put a condition that India should bear the costs of closing the channels through which Pakistan uses the waters of eastern rivers and constructing channels to receive water from the western rivers. India gave Rs 1,100 crore to Pakistan for this.

After the reorganisation of Punjab in 1966, till today, Punjab has been making and breaking agreements, and Haryana and Rajasthan have not been getting their share of the water according the plan submitted to the World Bank. Punjab does not allow the Union Government to implement those decisions and agreements. The Centre keeps on postponing the implementation.

The Badal Government postponed the implementation of the 2002 decision of the Supreme Court and the present government is also putting off the implementation of the June 2004 decision of the Supreme Court by utilising Article 143.

The President has made a reference to the Chief Justice of India, but all legal luminaries know that the advice of the CJI is not binding upon the government. Therefore, there will be no in change the situation. The government also knows it and is using it as a device to postpone the implementation of the Supreme Court order. By these delaying tactics, the Union Government, under pressure from Punjab, is also responsible for nullifying all agreements.

The people of Haryana and Rajasthan want one final decision after having lost faith in the Union Government. They must face the challenge directly. The people of Haryana and Rajasthan are not beggars; they do not want even a drop of water, if they have no right to it and if the Punjab Vidhan Sabha passes a law denying them the water.

Speaking for the people of these two states, I insist that no water from these rivers be allowed to enter their territories. We do not want to poke our nose in the dirty politics of Punjab.

Instead of making statements and passing laws, the Punjab politicians should implement the laws and become heroes. Punjab still has the control of all head works from where water is released. Now it should stop the release of water to Haryana and Rajasthan.

To become a bigger hero, Capt Amarinder Singh should implement what Parkash Singh Badal could not. They have now united and we welcome it. Punjab does not accept the plan approved by the World Bank; it should stick to it. One does not want to give water and the other will have no charity.

The writer is president of the Haryana Raksha Vahini and a former Irrigation and Power Minister of Punjab.

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Punjab has gone unheard
by G.S. Grewal

THE very first Article of our Constitution says ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of states. The word “Union of States” has been interpreted by a seven-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in “Special reference No. 1 of 1965 (AIR 1965 S.C. 745) to mean that the Union of India is federal in form with distinct powers to its constituents for self-governance to a limited extent.

List II of Schedule VIII of the Constitution mentions 66 subjects on which the power to legislate and administer vests in states. Item 17 of List II gives exclusive powers to the states to legislate regarding water. The Punjab Termination of Agreements Bill, 2004, received the unprecedented support from all parties in the Assembly.

By translating the wishes of his people in the form of an Act, the Chief Minister has neither created any constitutional crisis nor is his action anti-national. He has made one last effort to savenine lakh persons from starving. Besides, he has also pre-empted any move from fanatic and communal forces to launch an agitation on the issue.

Twenty-two years ago, a peaceful agitation was launched in Punjab from the village of Kapoori to oppose the digging of the SYL canal. Later, the agitation became violent and culminated into a series of events — Operation Bluestar, revolt in the Army, assassination of a Prime Minister and also the anti-Sikh riots. The nation still has failed to rehabilitate the families of riot victims. These events are too recent to be forgotten.

The foresight of Captain Amarinder and his full perception of the recent history have guided him to take the only legal step to save his people from annihilation.

The problem needed cool and sober deliberations, but the reaction in the country has been hysteric. Most people have called him anti-national and unpatriotic, but nobody has told him what were his other options.

Both Haryana and Rajasthan want more water for the areas that have not been irrigated, so far. To satisfy them, Punjab has to take water from nine lakh farmers, who have been using it for decades, and turn nine lakh acre of their green land into barren. Is it justified under our laws or any other law in the world?

These agreements are not sacrosanct. If it were so, Rajiv Gandhi would not have refused to transfer Chandigarh and other Punjabi-speaking areas to Punjab on the specified day. None of the clauses of the Rajiv-Longowal agreement have been implemented so far; only the pressure for constructing the SYL canal is being built against Punjab under clause 9.3 against all settled norms.

The distribution of Punjab water is being done on the basis of what was surplus with Punjab in 1947. Since then, much work has been done on the land. Because of the Green Revolution, India has become surplus in food. Naturally, Punjab consumed almost all water that was then available.

Today, Punjab has again become scarce in water. Too much dependence on underground water has almost thrown Punjab into a crisis. Still, Punjab has not cut or reduced any of the water utilised by these states. The new Act envisages only the stoppage of more water to those states because Punjab has no unutilised water. A settlement that is physically impossible to follow is void.

No inter-state or international agreement that is not fair to all can ever last. Only 13 years ago, Karnataka took similar steps, but neither any national leader accuse it of being anti-national or unpatriotic, nor the work in Parliament was stalled even for short time. Then, why Punjab alone is being treated thus. We might not express it, but such discriminatory attitude of the Central leadership hurts our sense of national pride and patriotism.

Unfortunately, even the national press has joined the anti-Punjab campaign and chosen the choicest of adjectives to paint Capt Amarinder Singh black. Because of this, the Punjab version has not gone to the people and we are being blamed unheard. Still, we will continue to explain our case and hope that sooner or later, the truth will prevail.

So far, Amarinder Singh has played his cards cautiously, and yet created a storm. One day, this, too, will subside.

The Termination of Agreements Act was drafted after consultation with the best legal brains in the country. There are chances for a favourable verdict from the Apex court, but the other options should not be closed. Water is not a legal issue alone; it is a human issue also. Dialogue on the possible solutions may be continued.

The Supreme Court has to decide, but that decision may or may not solve the problem. It is hard to recall the last time when courts successfully settled a human issue. Law is not the panacea for all our ills. Let the wise and good leaders actively help in achieving a solution.

Till then, let us keep our fingers crossed and nobody doubt that we are Indian first.

The writer is former Advocate General, Punjab.

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As a lump of salt melted in water cannot be perceived by the eye but tasted only by the tongue, so indeed the ever-existent Brahman shining in the depth of the heart cannot be realised by the external senses, but by the light of that gracious awakening which comes from the word of a seer-teacher: “You indeed are this Brahman, not the phenomenal universe that appears around.”

— Sri Adi Sankaracharya

If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.

— The Buddha

God is made known to men by the grace of the Guru, the enlightener.

— Guru Nanak

Vedanta formulates no universal brotherhood, but universal oneness.

— Swami Vivekananda

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