SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped | Reflections

EDITORIALS

Dereliction of duty
Manmohan Singh's stand is principled
T
HE slogan "no taxation without legislation" raised during the American war of Independence has eternal validity. One was reminded of it when the Lok Sabha passed the Finance Bill for 2004-05 without any debate on Thursday.

Apples in a jam
Truck operators' strike rings alarm bells
N
ormally, a bumper apple crop is followed by a lean season. But Himachal Pradesh has had good yield for the third year in a row. Still, the growers may not have much to cheer if the truck operators' strike gets prolonged.



EARLIER ARTICLES

Election season
August 26, 2004
Virtue out of necessity
August 25, 2004
On a different track
August 24, 2004
Congress parivar
August 23, 2004
We will withhold our guns but not withdraw, says Varavara Rao
August 22, 2004
Doping shame
August 21, 2004
Delayed duty cuts
August 20, 2004
Silver streak
August 19, 2004
Peace in Parliament
August 18, 2004
Unrest in Northeast
August 17, 2004
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Right choice, baby
There are simpler solutions
W
HAT is a problem of plenty in one place could be one of poverty elsewhere. One more illustration of this comes from Singapore, which has declared baby-making a national priority.
ARTICLE

Unlucky Bhutanese refugees
Will their suffering ever end?
by H. Bula Devi
R
efugees are not born; they are created. It is a man-made situation and humanity perhaps takes a toll when a man is called a refugee in his own land. Thirteen years have passed since the Bhutanese of Nepali origin were thrown out of the southern plains of Bhutan.

MIDDLE

Complaint book
by Abha Sharma
A
complaint book is an integral part of a public service organisation. Those with pretensions of participative management call it “complaint and suggestion” book. At times, one comes across complaint boxes.

OPED

Improving standards of governance
IAS recruitment should be through armed forces
by Gurmeet Kanwal
T
HE Central Government is considering a proposal to select aspiring IAS and allied services candidates after the 12th standard with a view to catching them young for a career in the civil service. Presumably, a new academy will be established for this purpose because the Mussoorie academy has a different charter.

Delhi Durbar
Mobile stolen at Paswan’s house
T
HE other day a group of four former MPs went to Ramvilas Paswan’s Janpath residence for a party function. The media was also invited. The press room was filled to capacity. A scribe from a major Hindi daily discovered to his dismay that his mobile phone was missing after the press conference.

  • Rashtrapati Bhavan show for visitors

  • Celebration of Congress victory

  • Leaders less reliable than workers

 REFLECTIONS

Top








 

Dereliction of duty
Manmohan Singh's stand is principled

THE slogan "no taxation without legislation" raised during the American war of Independence has eternal validity. One was reminded of it when the Lok Sabha passed the Finance Bill for 2004-05 without any debate on Thursday. In doing so, the Lower House authorised the government to spend as much as Rs 5,00,000 crore without any let or hindrance. Except in totalitarian or dictatorial regimes, rulers never get such free access to public money. Never before in the history of Indian Parliament has the Finance Bill been passed in this manner. The NDA is entirely to blame for the unprecedented development.

Incidentally, the idea of passing the Bill without any debate came from the Opposition as a concession to the government. But having announced its strategy, it sought to prevail upon Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make some alterations in the Bill. Dr Singh, who knows the sanctity of the Bill, refused to enter into any discussion on its contents within the four walls of his office. He reminded its leaders that the forum for such discussion was Parliament. But for this he earned the sobriquets of "impolite and discourteous". Little does the NDA know that anybody who knows a little bit about parliamentary democracy will only lap him up for taking a principled stand in not entering into any deal with the Opposition. In any case, everybody knows that Dr Singh is an epitome of civility, etiquette and courtesy and does not need any certificate from Mr George Fernandes.

Whatever the Opposition may call Dr Manmohan Singh, it forgets that in boycotting Parliament it is guilty of dereliction of duty. The people have sent its members to Parliament to play the role of a constructive Opposition which involves scrutinising every legislative attempt and protesting against any move that may not be in their interest. It is also a forum for debate and discussion and the ability of the Opposition is decided on how best it uses it to further the cause of its constituents. In extreme cases, it is empowered to walk out but only to walk in after the protest has been registered. In no case should the Opposition boycott Parliament to allow the treasury benches to have a field day as on Thursday. It amounts to sheer neglect of its duty to Parliament and the people.
Top

 

Apples in a jam
Truck operators' strike rings alarm bells

Normally, a bumper apple crop is followed by a lean season. But Himachal Pradesh has had good yield for the third year in a row. Still, the growers may not have much to cheer if the truck operators' strike gets prolonged. Delhi is the main market for the apples but the striking truckers are threatening to stop vehicles carrying even perishable items as fruit and vegetables. That will spell doom for the growers in the hill state because trucks are the lifeline for them. Trucks are plying within Himachal Pradesh but since the local consumption is no more than 10 per cent, the rest of the produce is worthwhile only if it reaches centres like Delhi. Transportation is a difficult task even at the best of times because apples are exported mainly in the rainy season when roads get blocked at many places. The strike has only added to their woes. Plucking has been postponed in some areas but that is only a temporary measure because overripe apples have no takers. If the strike does not end soon, requisitioning of special trains will become unavoidable.

The plight of vegetable growers is even worse. They were first hit by drought. Then there were incessant rains, ruining tomato and pea crops. The vegetable growers also depend exclusively on export to other states during this season but have been done in by the transportation problem.

Some of the Himachal Pradesh truck operators, for whom August-September is the busiest season, are said to be sore with their counterparts in the plains who go on a strike during this season, which is normally lean for them. They are even willing to venture out. But that will be possible only if the government is able to provide foolproof security. If the loaded trucks are held up because of the strike, the fruit will be spoiled. Only resolute action, along with the provision of special trains to ferry apples and vegetables, can lessen the burden of the harried growers somewhat. That will be beneficial to consumers as well who are reeling under the spurt in the prices of fruit and vegetables.
Top

 

Right choice, baby
There are simpler solutions

WHAT is a problem of plenty in one place could be one of poverty elsewhere. One more illustration of this comes from Singapore, which has declared baby-making a national priority. In a country of one billion plus, where the swelling population is treated as a hindrance to growth, there are many Indians who want to make a Singapore of their cities like Mumbai or Bangalore. But, in Singapore, what they want is for their people to make babies at the rate Indians do. In a truly globalised world where borders are banished for not only goods and services but also people, paucity of resources of any kind in one country can be swiftly made up from another.

But the difficulty is that Singapore wants Singaporean babies and the city-state is shelling out millions of dollars to make it a national endeavour. The expectation is that manna would work where love and other motivations have failed. The state has announced a $ 175-million baby-boosting package - bigger houses, care subsidies, tax rebates, longer and more leave and cash payments of up to nearly $ 9000 for a third and fourth child - to reverse the plunging birth rate. While this is a problem common to many developed countries in the West, Singapore is an exception in overpopulated Asia.

Should Singapore be inclined to look at new ways for dealing with the problem it can count on the wealth of human resources in South Asia which is home to the largest population of the world's poor. One day Singapore could think of simple and cheaper remedies to tackle its problems. It could just let more people from other countries become its citizens. After all, it is a globalised world.
Top

 

Thought for the day

We must beat the iron when it is hot, but we may polish it at leisure.

— John Dryden
Top

 

Unlucky Bhutanese refugees
Will their suffering ever end?
by H. Bula Devi

Refugees are not born; they are created. It is a man-made situation and humanity perhaps takes a toll when a man is called a refugee in his own land. Thirteen years have passed since the Bhutanese of Nepali origin were thrown out of the southern plains of Bhutan. They confined themselves to seven camps in Nepal. So far they have been taken care of by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in these camps.

Unlike the majority Burmese refugees, these people have only one wish: to return to their homes in Bhutan. They have no other demand. But there are several hurdles on the way and the present generation of young refugees doesn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. At least not in their life-time. But they want to carry ahead the struggle so that the next generation can return home.

There is a greater threat looming over them now as the UNHCR has already embarked on the process of gradually phasing out its activities from these camps. The deadline is 2005. Since bilateral talks between Bhutan and Nepal are deadlocked, the situation is becoming more complex with no sign of a solution.

There are many issues that have factored into the complex situation. Traditionally, the UNHCR is present on both sides of a border for the repatriation process, but in this case, despite repeated requests, the Bhutanese government has denied entry. At the same time, threats of Maoists and recently flushed out insurgents of underground militant outfits from Bhutan like ULFA, KLO, BDLF making inroads in these camps have been reported. Caught in this bind are the ethnic Nepalese or the Lotshampas who are living in the refugee camps in Nepal.

With every passing year, the issue is becoming more complicated. Security is becoming a major threat for the entire region with uncontrollable illegal immigrants crossing over the porous borders. In such a situation, it is obviously becoming more and more unclear whether one is a genuine refugee or an illegal immigrant.

Not just that. Now destabilisation in Nepal has also factored in the already existing complicated situation. With international agencies supporting the refugees, the camps have become sore eyes for the economically deprived locals who envy the camp inhabitants. There have been instances of the locals targeting these refugees.

The whole issue dates back to the late 1970s. Worried by the possibility of destabilisation by the Nepalese, the Bhutanese authorities enacted the 1985 Citizenship Act. In 1989, a Code of Conduct was introduced. As the ethnocentric citizenship policy was being implemented, the Nepalese interpreted it as an attempt to Bhutanise them. With such a fear haunting them, over a lakh —- mostly Nepalese —- left for the camps in Nepal.

Bhutan claims that along with genuine refugees, many others also took shelter in the camps as refugees. Ten rounds of joint ministerial talks between the governments of Bhutan and Nepal took place and ultimately it was decided to initiate a joint verification process. The process started — although it was flawed as it did not conform to minimum international standards — in the Khudnabari camp in December 2001. The results were declared in June 2003, after 18-long months.

Of a total 12,183 persons who were “verified”, only a minuscule 2.5 per cent were accepted under category I (people who were forcibly evicted). The fate of 70 per cent of the refugees hangs in the balance as they were put in category II (people who “voluntarily” left Bhutan). While 24.4 per cent cases were rejected, another 2.8 per cent were declared criminals.

In December 2003, the Bhutanese authorities declared that they were willing to take back the 2.5 per cent persons under category I, but for those under category II to regain citizenship would have to stay in designated camps for two years during which time they would have to prove their loyalty to the King and the government. For the rest there was obviously no return.

Such terms and conditions opened a Pandora’s box and their pent-up feelings took the form of a scuffle and stone-pelting at the camp when a joint verification team came from Bhutan on December 22, 2003. The candle of hope that had rekindled in the hearts of these refugees got blown over by the occurrence of one single incident. Since that incident, the Bhutanese authorities have refused to resume the verification process until the culprits are identified and punished.

In the meantime, the UNHCR also feels that its hands are tide. It feels compelled to scale down its activities in the present circumstances while being denied with a comprehensive solution for the refugees. It now wants the various UN agencies — like the UNDP for the development of the area and the UNICEF for education — to get directly involved at the scene of action. Whether the step is towards “return” dynamics is unclear, but it is definitely finding it difficult to extend either its expertise or help with wholesome repatriation.

Unless the repatriation process starts, it is difficult to sequence solutions on other fronts like the case of the non-Bhutanese who fall under category III. The Government of Nepal also rightly feels that if the UNHCR steps in for the non-Bhutanese, then it would undermine the bilateral process.

While Bhutan cannot afford to absorb illegal immigrants, Nepal is facing destabilising effects. The situation has become too sensitive. Frustration has set in among the refugees. The European Commission has stated that these camps have become breeding grounds for extremists. Even experts from India fear that it is a fertile ground for insurgency. With the number of frustrated, directionless, unemployed youth multiplying over the years, the potential for militancy has also become high.

In such a situation, the Bhutanese refugees look forward to the Government of India to play an active intermediary role to resolve the crisis. Their argument is based on the 1949 Treaty. But the Indian government’s stand is very clear: it is a bilateral issue between Bhutan and Nepal.

With the threat of Maoists and the recently flushed out militants from Bhutan’s soil infiltrating these camps and India having porous borders with Nepal and Bhutan, India is definitely concerned for the sake of its own internal security.

As the “uprooted people” chase the chimera of a “return” with rights and dignity, the UNHCR may have to show some flexibility before actually scaling down its activities. At the same time, more international pressure could be put to expedite the talks between Bhutan and Nepal.
Top

 

Complaint book
by Abha Sharma

A complaint book is an integral part of a public service organisation. Those with pretensions of participative management call it “complaint and suggestion” book. At times, one comes across complaint boxes. Recently, incensed over suicide by a farmer the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh decided to put complaint boxes outside bungalows of his ministers. The poor farmer fell victim to an error on the part of a rural development bank officials who got him harassed to death under the loan recovery rules. So much for the customer who was innocent !

Customer is the king. He is our purpose, not a nuisance, believed Gandhiji. This saying of Bapu aptly adorns the walls of many government-run utilities. A complaint book symbolises an organisation’s customer consciousness.

And for good reasons. The most ubiquitous element of this sub-continental continuity is the Government of India. Nothing in independent India has grown so phenomenally as the GOI. It touches lives everywhere. And the touch is uniform - the same shabby corridors and paraphernalia of privilege and power; the same odour of corruption, paan-stained walls, musty files and sweating supplicants, the same programmes and jargon, the same spools of red tape which binds and beguiles the service seekers in almost all walks of life.

A civil servant friend of mine had a brush with the complaint book in the late nineties. Posted in Delhi, one evening he received a message from his native village in Allahabad about his mother’s illness. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, he decided to rush home and get ready to catch the Prayag Raj Express from New Delhi station. Since he had no advance reservation, he ran from pillar to post to get one. But to no avail. The reservation charts signalled no room for him. Against his wishes, the harried man had to reveal his identity to the train conductor and plead for help. The man in black melted at his plight and assured all possible help. At long last, some friendly adjustments saw him settled in a berth. He slept his way to Allahabad.

From the railway station, he rushed to his native village. A grief-stricken family received him. Last rites done and the mourning period over, he headed for Delhi. This time round he had a confirmed ticket. When he saw the train conductor around, he recalled the good Samaritan who had bailed him out a few days ago. My grateful friend tried to find a trace of him but drew a blank.

Early morning the train pulled up at New Delhi station. This much obliged friend walked up and down the main platform to find the noble soul and thank him personally. He expressed his heart-felt desire to record his appreciation for onward communication to that train conductor’s superiors. All that the Station Manager could offer him was the complaint book wherein my friend poured out his heart. Somewhat satisfied he left.

A few days later, he opened a letter received from Chief Commercial Manager’s office. It read: “Your complaint has been registered. An enquiry has been ordered. Appropriate action will be taken against the staff at fault”.
Top

 

Improving standards of governance
IAS recruitment should be through armed forces
by Gurmeet Kanwal

THE Central Government is considering a proposal to select aspiring IAS and allied services candidates after the 12th standard with a view to catching them young for a career in the civil service. Presumably, a new academy will be established for this purpose because the Mussoorie academy has a different charter.

The best option and one that is readily available is to train the young recruits at the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakvasla, which provides all-round education at the undergraduate level. In fact, it would do the budding central services officers a world of good to do some national service in the armed forces for about five years during which they would be exposed to a disciplined way of life, gain hands-on experience of man-management and good leadership, imbibe values and ethics and learn to be officers and gentlemen. They would also contribute handsomely to national security and help to reduce the officers’ shortage in the armed forces.

The endemic shortage of officers in the armed forces continues to have a deleterious effect on their war-fighting capability, particularly on the Army’s performance in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-eastern states. As the shortage of officers is primarily in the ranks of Captain and Major, the solution apparently lies in a re-vamped short-service entry scheme which offers lateral induction into civilian jobs after five to eight years of service in the Army. Such a scheme would confer the twin benefits of filling all the vacant positions and reducing the pension bill.

The most pragmatic option is for the Central Government to absorb all officers scheduled for early release from the three services. The best method with multifarious benefits to the nation would be to make “military service” compulsory for all aspirants for the central services.

Recruitment to the IAS, IFS and the allied services should be channelled only through the armed forces, for men as well as women. Entry into the Army, the Navy and the Air Force should be through the Combined Defence Services examination for the NDA conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). On graduating from the NDA, the cadets should receive further training at the respective academies of the three services and then join these as commissioned officers. After five years of service, all volunteer officers should be given three chances each to appear for the UPSC examinations and interviews for lateral transfer into the IAS, the IFS and the allied services. Those who do not wish to leave or do not qualify would continue to soldier on in their respective service.

Assuming that the bait of eventual transfer to the central services would be a lucrative enough inducement for talented young men and women to join the armed forces, such a step would considerably enhance the quality of junior leadership of the three services and, later, of the central services. However, such a move is bound to meet stiff resistance and would require political will to implement. Since the Prime Minister is himself eager to improve the quality of intake and the training standards of the central services, he must provide the leadership to ensure that this pragmatic measure can be pushed through politically.

Graduates of the NDA receive B. Sc. degrees as the armed forces require a fairly high threshold of the knowledge of science. The NDA syllabus can be suitably modified to accommodate the special managerial requirements of the central services. Particularly at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, and the corresponding academies of the Navy and the Air Force, a recognised management diploma can be included in the syllabus and, if considered necessary, the duration of training can be increased to two years to enable the Gentlemen Cadets to acquire an MBA degree.

At present, officers from the NDA get commissioned at 21 to 22 years of age. Those selected for the central services after five to seven years of active service in the armed forces would be absorbed into the IAS at about 27 to 29 years of age. This would be only marginally higher than the present average age of IAS officers on joining. Services officers joining the central services will be trained leaders of men, some of them baptised under fire, and would have had the unique privilege of commanding men - perhaps the greatest honour that any man can strive for. Above all, they will have the opportunity to serve the national cause in many strife-torn corners of the country and will gain first-hand experience of problems of the local people. Their acquaintance with and insights into the unique diversity of India’s culture and traditions, reflected in the armed forces, would surely stand them in good stead in the remaining 30 to 32 years of their service.

It has been accepted by all perceptive observers of the national scene that in these times of a failing national character, with rampant corruption, political expediency and widespread nepotism ruling the roost, the three services have played a stellar role in holding the nation together as a viable political entity. A disciplined way of life, highly advanced and pragmatic man-management techniques, a no-nonsense approach to problem solving and active secularism have helped the services to avoid falling prey to the maladies afflicting the other organs of the state. The officers transferring to the central services from the armed forces will carry with them these impeccable attributes and will undoubtedly succeed in transforming the manner in which the bureaucracy conducts the business of administration.

Compulsory military service for entry into the central services will also give civilian bureaucrats a better understanding of India’s defence and security interests and will create a permanent bond of camaraderie between the civilians and the servicemen. It is a win-win situation and an idea whose time has come.

The author is Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.
Top

 

Delhi Durbar
Mobile stolen at Paswan’s house

THE other day a group of four former MPs went to Ramvilas Paswan’s Janpath residence for a party function.

The media was also invited. The press room was filled to capacity. A scribe from a major Hindi daily discovered to his dismay that his mobile phone was missing after the press conference. He searched for his mobile but in vain. Ultimately he lodged an FIR. A media colleague remarked in a lighter vein that one grows from petty crime to big crime.

Rashtrapati Bhavan show for visitors

The spooky reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan has got a make-over. Visitors are now issued passes which have their photographs as well as the time when they should leave Rashtrapati Bhavan. And while waiting for the pass, the visitors are treated to a multimedia presentation about Rashtrapati Bhavan on the newly installed computers.

Celebration of Congress victory

A get-together recently hosted by Congress MP Ashwani Kumar to celebrate the formation of the Congress-led government had a fairly good spattering of Congress notables. As the evening coincided with the UPA coordination committee meeting, there was no chance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, senior ministers and Ambika Soni making it.

Dr Karan Singh, Mohsina Kidwai and Parneet Kaur were among several MPs present. The gathering also included diplomats and lawyers.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit found time for some one-to-one interaction, but Montek Singh Ahluwalia had groups of Congressmen gravitating towards him to know why the inflation was rising.

Leaders less reliable than workers

Congress members attending the AICC meeting in the Capital got several ocassions to clap and cheer. One was the presence of Rahul Gandhi, who did not take the centrestage despite loud demands.

Quite a few speakers took a dig at the leaders present on the dias and addressed Congress President Sonia Gandhi directly.

An AICC leader from Uttaranchal had Ms Gandhi in splits when he said that he was still waiting for the ticket to become an MLA despite having spoken from the same stage earlier.

Each time, he said, the Congress had succeeded, it was because of Ms Gandhi and party workers. There was a loud applause.

Pointing to the leaders present on the dias, he said there was a possibility of their leaving Ms Gandhi but the ordinary worker of the Congress will always rally around her.

Contributed by Prashant Sood and R Suryamurthy.
Top

 

Separate treatment of untouchables cannot be allowed. Unless untouchability is destroyed, we can never have self-government.

— Mahatma Gandhi

I am the Lord’s bard of low caste; others claim to be of higher castes. But I seek the company of those who meditate on You, O Lord!

— Guru Nanak

He who promises runs in debt.

— Talmud
Top

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |