Delayed duty cuts
Catch them young
But IAS shouldn't lose sight of Indian ethos
ON the face of it, the Union Government's proposal to introduce a new recruitment system for civil services with a view to catching the country's future administrators young and training them for a specialised cadre deserves appreciation.
Pakistan’s search for
The Mormons of Salt Lake City
US changes posture on NATO
Delhi Durbar MPs
Delayed duty cuts
CONSIDER the impact of the rising global oil prices: the Centre stands to lose Rs 2,500 crore this fiscal after it slashed customs and excise duties on petro products on Wednesday. The soaring oil prices affect citizens directly as these lead to a climb-up in the prices of all commodities that require transportation. The duty slash is a weak and belated attempt to contain inflation, which had surged to a 41-month high of 7.61 per cent during the week ending July 31. The duty relief, however, compensates the public sector oil companies, which have deferred their announced price hike from August 16.
The future of oil prices depends on the global crude rates, which had peaked at $47.35 a barrel on Wednesday before dropping slightly on reports from Iraq of an end to the Najaf uprising. The threat of disruption of oil supplies from Iraq is one factor leading to the price rise. Rumours, hotly denied though, say top oil companies have deliberately not invested in new assets as a ploy to keep prices high. Also, the demand for the fuel has risen sharply in the US, China and India. OPEC production is at its highest in 25 years, but that has failed to cool the prices. The temporary closure of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico due to a hurricane has also contributed to the current high prices.
The US inflation rate has not seen any upswing so far. That may explain why it is not exerting sufficient pressure for a cool-off in the oil prices. The oil cartel, Opec, is meeting mid-September for a review. India and China have been specially invited to present their points of view. Meanwhile, the governments at the Centre and in states may have to further cut the duties to meet the petro challenge. Otherwise, inflation may keep rising. The governments need to shrink and cut their flab. The crisis has also prompted the Centre to consider mergers of oil PSUs to cut costs and face up competition. The economist-led government knows the problem, but the solution may get delayed by coalition
Siege of Kathmandu
THE blockade of Nepal's capital by Maoists should serve to end the complacency of the international community, especially India, that the stand-off between the rebels and the royal administration cannot get worse. The present offensive, which marks a new phase in their eight-year violent campaign to overthrow the monarchy is evidence - if such evidence was needed - that the conflict would keep escalating in the absence of sustained efforts for peace. From killings of individuals and security forces and attacks on state property, the Maoists have stepped up their People's War to target the economy and shut down business. Indian business ventures which are threatened have decided to close down, if not move out altogether.
The British and Americans, who poured arms and aid into Nepal, also find their business hit badly by the development. The scenario is grim as the conflict, which has claimed over 9,000 lives since 1996, raises the prospect of Kathmandu being choked off from food, fuel and essential supplies.
While the US and the UK can be trusted to safeguard their immediate and larger interests, it is surprising that India should have let the situation drift to a point where New Delhi could neither anticipate this siege nor discourage Indian business ventures from being targeted. The assurances given by the Nepali administration — that Indians and Indian business and property would be protected — are of little value when the government is not able to protect itself against the predatory onslaught of the Maoists. In the circumstances, New Delhi has to engage with the situation in a way that it safeguards Indian interests without provoking the India-baiters in Nepal.
While the bigger enterprises have staved off threats by closing down, the 'little Indian' — the tradesmen and retailers - who cannot afford to abandon their means of livelihood remain sitting ducks for the Maoists. New Delhi should bear the plight of these people in mind even as it grapples with the larger security, economic and political concerns that require to be addressed without delay.
Catch them young
ON the face of it, the Union Government's proposal to introduce a new recruitment system for civil services with a view to catching the country's future administrators young and training them for a specialised cadre deserves appreciation. The plan envisages an all-India entrance examination for those who have just passed their Class XII examination and a subsequent five-year training programme for the successful candidates in a national academy, with in-built elimination rounds. The whole idea, borrowed from the practice that obtains in France and Singapore, revolves around this cardinal principle: one has to decide at a very early age whether one would like to become an engineer, doctor, scientist or an IAS officer.
If doctors and engineers make a beeline to the civil services today, it is mainly because of the power and influence of the IAS. But this also results in the wastage of scientific talent and dilution of the concept of civil services. Moreover, because of the monopoly of the IAS, there is a rapid decline in the career opportunities available for recruits in the Central Engineering Services and Central Health Services. Departments like Agriculture, Planning, Education, Commerce and Industry don't get the attention they deserve. As the challenges to administration are increasing day by day, there is a need to inject scientific inputs into policy making.
The new proposal seeks to address these problems by imparting training to the candidates and evolving a specialised cadre for the future. The French model has more or less worked well. It would, however, be worthwhile to replicate it only after a thorough study. Needless to say, the new recruitment system, while emulating the finer aspects of the French and other models, should not lose sight of the Indian ethos, values and experience.
Pakistan’s search for ideology
Pakistan celebrated its Independence Day on August 14 as usual. Mid-August is the period throughout South Asia to take stock of things, ponder over the nation's present situation and prospects.
The central problem that Pakistan faced in August 1947, sad to say, remains still unresolved. It was to determine the new state's raison d'etre and the master principle that would keep the nation united. The quest got mixed up with the emotive term of ideology at the initial stage. That opened a Pandora's box.
Religious personalities, led by Maulana Maududi of the Jamaat-e-Islami, began to raucously agitate that since Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, it had to be a unique Islamic State, based on the teachings of Quran and Sunnah. What is an Islamic State? Ask us, they said, and we will tell you what the Quran and Sunnah mean on any subject. Only, Maulanas can interpret the scriptures.
Poor Jinnah had no answer. All he wanted was just another nation-state, democratic, albeit comprising a Muslim majority. A religiously-oriented state, dominated by clerics, was farthest from his mind. The Muslim League was always socially and politically conservative, and except for promoting the Muslim community's interests, its members were secular politicians. Their original prescription was a secular Pakistani nationalism. But Jinnah's major advocacy of a secular Muslim state failed. He lived only 13 confused months. The Muslim League government became incoherent against the Maulanas' shrill cries about what Islam demands. The League quickly ditched secularism and later adopted Muslim nationalism as its ideology.
Pakistan comprised two parts, each distinctive in language and culture. The eastern wing had a Muslim majority that was reconciled to Jinnah's secular concept and wanted a democratic Pakistan as a means to speedily improve East Bengal's economy. The eastern Muslim League comprised uninhibited communalists because they were mainly landless poor Muslim peasants while most landlords were Hindus. That made them radical land reformers. The first major act of the Muslim League government in Dhaka was to end landlordism without compensation.
That was a fateful decision. It frightened all the West Pakistani feudal Khans, Chaudhries, Waderas, tribal Sardars, et al, who saw Bengalis as semi- Bolsheviks. They got together under the leadership of the mainly Punjabi bureaucracy. Power quickly shifted to the bureaucracy which began calling the shots. In the first 11 years, Pakistan governments were changed almost every year by a coterie of top bureaucrats who hated democracy because it implied a major share of power to the Bengalis. By 1958, the Army took over and proclaimed martial law, though the bureaucracy's role and social supremacy of large landlords survived. It was a plan for suppressing the obstreperous Bengalis. The demand for free elections and democracy was ignored. The Army has stayed as the ruling elite ever since and each dictator has given his own version of controlled democracy to acquire a democratic veneer — not excluding the current regime.
Militarism meant wars with India, and it promoted nationalism that was a mixture of Islamic fervour and anti-Indianism. The bureaucracy-Army coterie could not have suppressed democracy so completely and so early except for the US support. The process had begun with the secret decision of Ghulam Muhammad, Gen. Ayub Khan and Iskandar Mirza to join the West against the communist menace behind the back of the Cabinet and Parliament. Later it was the US that did not want a free election for fear of pseudo-communists getting elected from Bengal. The first general election could be held only after 25 years in 1970. Which polls too were a gimmick to perpetuate military dictatorship. When the gimmick did not work Gen Yahya Khan preferred civil war, the country's dismemberment and military defeat rather than accepting the election results.
All social policies followed in Pakistan so far have been conservative; all governments after 1954 toed American line and yearned for aid; always stayed distant and distrustful of India. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had an opportunity to put Pakistan on democratic rails because the Army stood demoralised after 1971. Bhutto blew the historic opportunity. His economic reforms were a part of bogus socialism and willfully allowed big landlords to largely survive with their possessions intact despite the drastic-seeming land reforms. He had a democratic constitution written that fudged the issue of ideology: it was simultaneously Islamic, socialist and suffused with anti-Indian nationalism. He rebuilt the Army's morale, increased its pay and perks and expanded it. The Army resumed power and hanged him. It ruled upfront for 11 years.
General Zia's 11 years (1977-88) saw Pakistan remain enmeshed in America's anti-Soviet intrigue that begun in the early 1970s with Bhutto enthusiastically joining it. As a result of the war in Afghanistan, many of Pakistan's present day troubles started. The war virtually ended in 1987-88. Pakistan remained firmly under the Army's control in the 1980s, though General Zia started a democratic experiment of his own in 1986 with ultimate power in the President's hand, who could sack the Cabinet, Parliament, provincial assemblies and governments, appoint Judges in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, the armed forces' chiefs and all other key officers of the state like the Chief Election Commissioner.
After Zia's death in 1988 the new Army Chief decided to have a civilian President who would listen to him. These presidential powers were freely used, five governments changed in 13 years and four general elections were held. A government fell when the Army Chief was displeased.
The Army's tentacles can be seen in all sorts of civil jobs. Its policies have made the country awash with modern small arms, with a heroin and gun culture coming into being. Soon after the earlier war with the Kabul regime ended, another began — this time it was a proxy war against India in Kashmir. That was based on the assumption that Pakistan's nuclear weapons were an invincible shield behind which it could do anything. The bomb strengthened the Army no end. It is not merely autonomous but a supreme institution that dictates national security and foreign policy while economic policies are decided by the US and international financial institutions. Anyone can see that the ministers are puppets, acting on the President's direction who had chosen them.
This has almost destroyed law and order. Islamic obscurantist groups have flourished like mushrooms. They are flush with money. All have armed militias.
After the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, there was the Kashmir jihad to go to. In Afghanistan, the Pakistan Army had tried to fill the vacuum and acquire strategic depth. In the meantime, relations with India were plummeting and India chose to carry out five atomic tests to impress the world. Pakistan responded with six. Both countries are developing ballistic missiles to carry atomic weapons. Some fear that the Kargil operations and the Agra failure, not to mention the 2002 confrontation, may have sealed the fate of the current negotiations, despite popular expectations.
It is Gen. Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan today. He saw Pakistanis expelled from Afghanistan, where they had been a dominant force and the country was forced to join yet another war there. This time it was against Islamic terror. Jihadist ideas and many organisations had to be proscribed, and prominent jihadis were arrested. It has meant Pakistan becoming a battlefield for several holy wars by various jihadi outfits against General Musharraf's rule and the minorities, chiefly sectarian ones.
General Musharraf has his own "real" or "complete" democracy where Prime Ministers have been changed on whims: three in two years by the will of one man. The national scene is dominated by the usual propaganda of "achievements", excellent state of the economy and a ramshackle democracy that impresses nobody; inflation is rising, actual savings and investments are too little and quasi-military operations in the Federally administered areas of the NWFP, Balochistan and Karachi are going on against Al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists, several of whom are engaged in their own intra-gang warfare. On top of it Afghanistan's troubles have now become Pakistan's
The Mormons of Salt Lake City
As we generally know, most religions of the world are vertically split into separate sectarian, theological establishments with further schisms within their own ranks, each governed by its own vision of divinity, its own theological doctrines and beliefs, its own ritual, ceremonies and complete codes of conduct, but not many are familiar with the fact that some of such denominational institutions have strange practices, sacradotal doctrines hard to accept in modern times. My brief account here is concerned only with one obscure Christian church, the church of the Mormons.
However, one small church restricted to one state and city virtually has existed since its origin in 1830 at Layfette(USA). This new church claimed some revelations as recorded by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon. Thus, when I visited Salt Lake City at the invitation of an old American friend, Prof William Mulder who with his delicately frail wife, Helen, had once visited our home in Patiala, I had learnt about Mormonism in some detail.
Soon after arrival, I saw the liberal Mormons like the Mulders in a visible moral dilemma. The professor’s two books on the Mormon Church had already been disowned by the Mormon Establishment, for the doctrines and the practice had caused a crisis of conscience in him. And this pernicious and racially discriminatory doctrine rationalised by bringing Christ and God into the picture amounted to a kind of apartheid. The Blacks (whom they always insisted on calling “niggers”) in their view were a lower species, whom God had punished for their previous sins. This ethnic tyranny had thus isolated the Mormons from the mainstream American churches.
I do not know if the Book of the Mormon carries any such view, but the whole thing appears agonisingly close to the ancient Hindu brahmanical belief that the Shudras or “the untouchables” were suffering for their sins in previous births. It appears, then, that this kind of evil can exist under one doctrinal pretext or another.
Now, America, seemingly a land of equality, justice and freedom couldn’t altogether ignore this ethnic indignity. Particularly, the black power, just on the up swing, had challenged both the white fascist Klue Klux Klan (KKK) and the Mormons, and the humanist Americans had raised a strong voice against them. But these outfits kept working in one way or another. The Mormons, in particular, had become an eyesore, for they had used just a “fig-leaf” of “divinity” to cover their hideousness.
It appears to me that this kind of evil has an atavistic origin, though it remains costumed in religious trappings. Societies have always worked out doctrines that keep some sections of their people doomed perpetually to serfdom. The Manu Code in India, though dead officially, still, is in practice down South to remind us that power in disguised form imposes such heinous crimes on
US changes posture on NATO
President Bush, speaking at a forum of veterans of foreign wars at Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 16, made far-reaching proposals related to future US foreign and strategic policies. He announced that over the next 10 years 70,000 US troops along with 100,000 of their family members would be pulled back from overseas. The bulk of them would be withdrawn from Europe, particularly Germany, and there would also be reduction of forces from the Korean Peninsula.
The President has justified the proposed move on the ground the world has changed a great deal and, therefore, “our posture must change with it”. He talked of a more agile and flexible force.
The proposal has come in for criticism by two leading dailies — The New York Times and The Washington Post.
They have pointed out that the reduction of troops from Germany and South Korea would give the impression that it was being done to punish the two countries which had disagreed with the US. Germany had done so on Iraq, and South Korea on the negotiating strategy with North Korea.
Though the troop withdrawal from Europe will have very serious implications for the NATO force structure, there is no indication that the US proposals had been subjected to serious discussion in NATO. This appears to be a unilateral move. This is not the first time when the US has come out with its unilateral proposals. In the past, in the sixties, it had propounded its flexible response strategy and it took some years to persuade other NATO members to accept it.
This time the US proposal may not cause any dismay. Western Europe, or for that matter Eastern Europe, does not feel under any security threat. The French and the Germans have been advocating the need for an autonomous European force independent of NATO. The present US proposal may vindicate the advocates of the independent Euro force.
Britain, which emphasises its special relations with the US, opposes the autonomous Euro force and is likely to be concerned about this move. There was also a demand from the Europeans that the command of the NATO forces should be held in turns by European and US Generals. The US had till now been able to veto this in view of its overwhelming contribution to NATO. If the US were to reduce its contribution to NATO by withdrawal of its forces, the European nations will have a stronger case to press for a European commander for NATO.
It was the protection of NATO which had compelled the European nations to toe the American line on all political and economic policies. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the European nations do not feel the need for US security protection. Already on economic matters like various World Trade Organisation controversies and political issues like Iraq, major differences have developed between the US and the European Union.
If the US forces in Europe are to be reduced, the European economic, political and military autonomy will grow further. It is expected that with the expanded European Union there is likely to be greater rivalry between the two sides of the Atlantic and Europe can play increasingly the role of countervailer to the US.
The reduction of the US forces from South Korea is likely to have a profound effect on Japan. The US forces on the demilitarised zone in Korea was considered as a shield by Japan against any adventurism by North Korea. The proposed reduction is likely to shake up the confidence of Japan in the US.
Though Japan has agreed to invest in the missile defence, intended primarily against North Korean adventurism, one cannot rule out the argument in Japan in favour of its independent nuclear deterrent getting strengthened. A nuclear Japan, in turn, will lead to adjustments in Chinese strategic policies and the China-North Korea equation.
The present Bush proposal may not survive the November elections if President Bush does not get re-elected.
Senator Kerry has promised to follow a policy of cultivating allies. If Kerry gets elected and the US is compelled to change its policy that would constitute a major lesson to Washington that the international system is not unipolar and the US cannot act unilaterally as its own.
Bringing the US servicemen home is popular with the American voter. The Bush administration has tried to give a spin to its proposal that by making its forces more agile and flexible and relocating them, the US will be able to fight its war against terrorism more effectively mostly on its own.
One cannot rule out the possibility of the American voter buying this proposition and re-electing President Bush. In that event the world may have to be prepared for a longer period of instability in West Asia and Afghanistan and a prolonged war of attrition against terrorism in other parts of the world.
NATO’s survival will depend on whether Washington is willing to follow a policy of consultation with Europe. A policy of US unilateralism may bring NATO to an early demise. These developments are of great interest to India for its strategy of enlarging its maneuverability politically and economically in the evolving global order.
There is a mindset in this country inherited from the cold war which clubs the US and Europe and treats them in an undifferentiated way. Unilateralism may land US in trouble with other major powers — the European Union, Japan and China. Yet our policies towards the US as well as other powers should be based on our national interests and reciprocity in mutual benefits and not on the basis of any preconceived ideology.
Lately, parliamentarians appear to be a little suspicious of the company they keep. The reason: some of them have lost expensive fountain pens, leather-bound notebooks and digital phone books. With extended coffee sessions in the Central Hall of Parliament, certain MPs and former MPs found to their chagrin that their mobile phones have disappeared from the table without a trace. Some of them have expressed dismay at the loss of unlisted telephone numbers and even photographs of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Another MP is said to have lost her expensive earrings. Surprisingly, nobody is trying to get to the bottom of such incidents. It is apparent nobody wants to distract attention when they have the onerous task of serving the nation.
Some of them have expressed dismay at the loss of unlisted telephone numbers and even photographs of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Another MP is said to have lost her expensive earrings. Surprisingly, nobody is trying to get to the bottom of such incidents. It is apparent nobody wants to distract attention when they have the onerous task of serving the nation.
Standoff on PF interest rate
Undeterred by a bad throat, the CPI’s Gurudas Dasupta did not leave the opportunity of having his say on the Provident Fund interest rate. Taking sips of water, Dasgupta held forth on the subject for nearly half an hour in the Lok Sabha. When the Chair asked him to wind up, the CPI leader urged for another two to three minutes. He accused Labour Minister Sis Ram Ola of misleading the House and said he was not calling the minister a liar as the word is unparliamentary. Not to be left behind in championing the cause of the working class, Ola remarked: “Mein mazdoor se zyada mazdoor hoon.” In the exchanges, Ola had the last word when he observed that if he had spoken anything wrong, then the parliamentarian can ask for his resignation.
When the Chair asked him to wind up, the CPI leader urged for another two to three minutes. He accused Labour Minister Sis Ram Ola of misleading the House and said he was not calling the minister a liar as the word is unparliamentary.
Not to be left behind in championing the cause of the working class, Ola remarked: “Mein mazdoor se zyada mazdoor hoon.” In the exchanges, Ola had the last word when he observed that if he had spoken anything wrong, then the parliamentarian can ask for his resignation.
Shatrughan in Pakistan
The BJP’s Shatrughan Sinha, a close friend of the family of the late Zia ul Haq, was on a private visit to Pakistan recently. A politician’s visit to the neighbouring country evokes tremendous interest. Sinha was in Islamabad to attend the birthday of his adopted sister Zaine Zia, daughter of the late Pakistani dictator. He was also a guest of the Pakistan Prime Minister, Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain, and Pervez Elahi, Chief Minister of Punjab. Sinha attended a dinner for party workers of the PML at the Prime Minister’s residence where he was seated at the head of the table. He is said to have regaled the audience with some jokes about Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was a big draw in Pakistan during his visit to that country a while ago.
Sinha attended a dinner for party workers of the PML at the Prime Minister’s residence where he was seated at the head of the table. He is said to have regaled the audience with some jokes about Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was a big draw in Pakistan during his visit to that country a while ago.
Festival of India in New York
India will be the focus of several events in New York to be organised by the Asia Society and Museum as part of their special 2004-2005 initiative. The show begins on September 14 with outstanding collections of ancient, medieval and traditional Indian art and a talk by Asia Society President Visakha Desai with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on work and career. The Asia Society will also present a number of public programmes, including musicial performances from India. Then, there will also be an exhibition on “recent art in India” covering the past few
decades. Contributed by S Satyanarayanan, Gaurav Choudhury and R
Contributed by S Satyanarayanan, Gaurav Choudhury and R
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always. — Mahatma Gandhi There is no way to improve humanity except the preachings of a true preacher. — Swami Dayanand I am a God-intoxicated man and I have lost my reason in pursuit of Him, my sovereign Lord. — Guru Nanak Man cannot renounce the world even if he wishes, because he is thwarted by the Karmas that are bearing fruit in the present birth and by the impressions of previous actions left on the mind. — Sri Ramakrishna Joy’s recollection is no longer joy, while sorrow’s memory is sorrow
still. — Rochefoucauld
— Mahatma Gandhi
There is no way to improve humanity except the preachings of a true preacher.
— Swami Dayanand
I am a God-intoxicated man and I have lost my reason in pursuit of Him, my sovereign Lord.
— Guru Nanak
Man cannot renounce the world even if he wishes, because he is thwarted by the Karmas that are bearing fruit in the present birth and by the impressions of previous actions left on the mind.
— Sri Ramakrishna
Joy’s recollection is no longer joy, while sorrow’s memory is sorrow still.