A friend in need
Jobs for all
Grooming for IAS
Guru Manyo Granth
The saga of sacrifice at Saragarhi
Human trafficking on the rise
A friend in need
Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's visit to India has been richly rewarding. Unmindful of the fact that Mr Deuba represents the government as the nominee of a King who had sacked him two years ago and that there is no power or forum to legislate in Kathmandu, New Delhi has been generous: It has assured all assistance, including weapons and training, to help Kathmandu fight the Maoist insurgency; it will help Nepal build a Rs 33-crore oil pipeline from Raxaul in Bihar to Amlekhgunj; an INSAT ground receiving facility is to be set up in Nepal with Indian grant as part of an MOU on cooperation in weather forecasting. Kathmandu is seeking more than the Rs 100 crore that New Delhi provided last year to buy defence equipment. In short, the message to Nepal from the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is that "your problems are our problems and you can count on Indian support and assistance".
To a large extent such an approach has a basis in realities because the Maoist insurgency also represents a threat to Indian security; and unchecked movement of arms, ammunition, money and rebels across the border would reinforce a nexus between political extremists, arms merchants and other elements in both countries. Political stability in Nepal sustained by economic development is also in India's interests. To that extent New Delhi's unstinted support to crush the Maoists' violent campaign is an unavoidable necessity. Yet, despite all the support in the past, Kathmandu has been unable to contain the Maoist "People's War". Secondly, every political section in Nepal is given to India-baiting when its leaders are out of office. The problem is not merely one of anti-India elements, and curbing them, but eliminating the conditions and rhetoric that have spawned them.
So, the paradox is that the more India does to help Nepal, the more vulnerable it is to charges of interference. Given this situation, New Delhi has always to be careful in shaping its relations with Kathmandu so that changes of politics and personalities at the helm do not vitiate the goodwill and the material benefits arising from it.
Jobs for all
POLITICS is all about distribution of power and pelf. The Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, has lived up to this image when he appointed 10 MLAs and an equal number of aspiring ministers as chairmen of public sector undertakings. It is no surprise that among them are persons who had to be dropped when he had to downsize his ministry in July in accordance with a Central law. All these chairmen enjoy perks and privileges which are not inferior to the ones ministers are entitled to. By giving alternative jobs to every person, who had been rendered jobless by the downsizing, the Chief Minister has made a mockery of the law on the size of ministries.
When Parliament limited the size of ministries at the Centre and in states, it was in deference to public opinion which was shaken by the growing practice of making almost every ruling party MLA a minister. It is a pity that these days no MLA or MP is satisfied with just being a member of the House to which he is elected. Except in Delhi and Pondicherry, there was no limit on the number of ministers. While setting this right, Parliament could not have foreseen that chief ministers like the Captain would find ingenious ways to accommodate the ministerial aspirants among his partymen. Immediately after the surplus ministers were dropped, some new parliamentary secretaries were appointed. Thus whatever little gain had been achieved by the downsizing has been offset by these appointments. Chief Ministers in other states who face dissidence are bound to follow in the footsteps of their Punjab counterpart.
Most of the public sector undertakings in Punjab are in a terribly bad state. They are a drain on the exchequer. Many of them should have been privatised. If at all the government wants to keep them under its wings, the minimum it should do is to inject some measure of professionalism and autonomy into them. But such considerations could not have weighed with the Chief Minister when he appointed disgruntled politicians as their chairmen. In fact, one reason why these undertakings have been in the red is that successive governments have treated them as milch cows.
The upwardly mobile rail yatris had raised their eyebrows when Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav ordered the use of kulhars by the Indian Railways for serving tea. They should now raise a toast to him. The kulhars were meant to improve the comfort level of ordinary travellers. Ripley would be surprised if he were told the Indian urban yatris can now simply sms their request for reservation and the railways will have the tickets delivered to them at home. Who said too much technology is making life a tad complicated? Of course, only those who have mobile phones and credit cards can avail of the facility. If you have neither, please join the queue at crowded reservation counters.
Give the Rail Mantri his due. He may have never received or sent an sms to Mrs Rabri Devi (not even on Valentine's Day) or anyone else, but no can doubt his ability to send the right message to people who matter. When the Net spread its tentacles all the good and the evil that the global village had to offer, including air and rail tickets, became available at the click of a mouse. Now the sms is going to give the mouse a tough time. Of course, the proof of the success of the facility of rail reservation through sms would come once the scheme gets wider publicity.
However, it may be safe to raise a huge question mark over the railways receiving an unmanageable number of sms requests for reservation of tickets. Those who have the means also have an over-paid and under-worked secretariat for bloating their egos and comfort level. They are unlikely to undertake the extremely troublesome task of using the small print on their mobile sets for making sms requests for rail tickets. And for the fast expanding "mobile now" generation an sms means exchanging kisses, love notes and what not. Nevertheless, Mr Laloo Yadav still deserves a special toast for introducing a facility that he may himself never use in his eventful political life.
Grooming for IAS
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposal for tapping the brightest talent for civil services deserves a close look. The plan envisages an all-India entrance examination for those who have completed Class XII examination and a subsequent five-year course in a national academy. The successful ones will undergo a further two-year service-specific probation.
The proposal per se is worthwhile, but it is doubtful to what extent it would help cure the systemic ills. Clearly, any sincere attempt to reform civil services should go much beyond systemic changes in recruitment and training.
No doubt, the proposal leaves little scope for those who are not sure of what they would like to become. One has to decide at a very early age, say 14 or 15, whether he/she would like to become a journalist, doctor, engineer, scientist or an administrator. If one wants to join the IAS, he/she has to start preparing for the entrance test.
The proposal envisages three tests — entrance, after a three-year course, and after five years. A major drawback is the future of those who fail to qualify, especially after the five-year training course in the academy. Will the graduation degree so offered by the academy (after three years) or MBA (after five years) be worthy enough for a candidate to get a job in the open market?
This is a pertinent question because the present system leaves ample scope for candidates to try for alternative areas just in case they fail to qualify for civil services (either after prelims, main or viva-voce). As of now, a failed candidate, with his/her qualification, can still go on to become a doctor, engineer or a lecturer, if not an IAS officer. The new aspirants will simply be deprived of this opportunity. This, certainly, introduces a risk element in their future.
The proposal also puts rural candidates into great disadvantage. Most of them are late bloomers because of the lack of a competitive environment. The absence of adequate library facilities is yet another big handicap. And who cares for IAS coaching centres? Even those run by most universities are in bad shape and show a very poor success rate. Against this background, will the rural candidates be able to compete with those in urban areas? Surely, one’s success would purely depend upon his/her own hard work plus luck.
Nonetheless, one cannot grudge the proposal because the whole idea revolves around this concept — catch them young. The present system seems unable to throw up young and dynamic officers who can tackle the new challenges effectively. If all-India entrance examinations are okay for medicine, engineering and defence services, why not for civil services? The problem of late bloomers is there in every examination and is equally applicable in the case of the entrance tests for IITs, NDA and so on.
The idea of grooming civil servants in an academy (like the Ecole Nationale d’Administration in France, for instance, with suitable changes) merits a fair trial because the civil servants need to be fostered liberal and value-based education with a professional orientation to become effective administrators of tomorrow. They need to be trained beyond maintaining law and order or land revenue administration. They also require specialised training to gain reasonable knowledge in areas like finance, business management, political economy, industrial relations and international law.
Recruitment through training in an academy has its own merits. First, it would help evolve a specialised cadre by injecting scientific inputs into policy making. Second, it would improve the career opportunities available for recruits in services like the Indian Economic Service, the Indian Statistical Service, the Central Engineering Service and the Central Health Service. At present, these services do not receive due recognition because of the IAS monopoly.
Linked to the concept of catching IAS officers young is the plan to lower the age limit for recruitment to civil services from the present 21-30 years to 21-24 years (for general category). This idea, suggested by the P.C. Hota Committee, is to strengthen district administration with younger Collectors and to enable those above 45 years to become Secretaries to the Government of India and gain experience in various ministries for a full 15 years before superannuation.
A strong criticism of the IAS has been its arrogance, aloofness and domineering orientation. The officers could get away with this work culture in an entirely controlled economy but no more in the age of liberalisation and globalisation.
The licence-permit raj, which Dr Manmohan Singh wants to end, has reinforced anti-humanistic and anti-democratic attributes. Today the bureaucracy has to function as a helper, an accelerator and a booster. This is an uphill task because it has, traditionally, functioned more as a regulator and controller than as a facilitator.
Sadly, civil servants have not been performing their functions well. If most development programmes have suffered a setback, it is mainly because of their inefficiency and lack of interest in the programmes. As a result, there has been considerable dissatisfaction with the administration. If the essential tool of action is blunted or unsuitable in content, form and scope, no government policy can be implemented. As the IAS has lost its elan, there is a need to infuse a new work ethic.
The Planning Commission has identified administrative weakness as the main reason for the shortfall in the implementation of various poverty alleviation programmes. Also, optimum utilisation of resources has not been possible due to the substandard administrative structure. The steady degradation of the system has jeopardised the plan programmes. Large projects have slipped in schedule leading to exponential cost escalation and generally poor standards of construction. Waste is endemic.
It is not that the administrative personnel are incapable of fulfilling the objectives of these programmes. Rather, they are poorly motivated, prone to corruption and subject to local and state-level pressures which often make them pervert the purpose of the programmes. Monitoring of the programmes is either poor or non-existent, evaluation is sporadic and the findings are likely to remain on paper.
Unfortunately, the government’s record of implementation of successive reports on civil service reforms is very poor. The Surendranath Committee report, the B.N. Yugandhar Committee report and the Malimath Committee report on judicial reforms are all gathering dust in the Cabinet Secretariat. Similarly, one does not know the fate of the Dharma Vira report on police reforms. Successive governments have turned a blind eye to its recommendations. That’s why the latest in the series — the P.C. Hota Committee report — does not inspire much confidence.
Indeed, personnel management has all along received a very low priority. The neglect of major training academies — the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie and the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy at Hyderabad — and the posting of directors who go there has placed the civil services at a disadvantage ab initio. Neither the Cabinet Secretariat, nor the Department of Personnel, nor state departments of general administration have engaged in meaningful personnel management.
Postings within a state, to the Centre and to so-called “prize ministries” within the Centre have become a rat race in which influence, pliability and connections are considered more important than merit and performance.
This really means that the Establishment Board, the Senior Secretaries Board and the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet have been bypassed in some cases, although the form and formality have been maintained. If the Prime Minister is interested to reform civil services, he should strengthen personnel
Guru Manyo Granth
WHEN we moved into the official residence of the Deputy Commissioner in Amritsar at No. 3 Maqbool Road house and saw the “Babaji”s room”, we determined that we owed it to Guru ki Nagri to have “Prakash” there.
Will you be able to maintain the “Maryada?” was the concerned response from both our parents. My husband and I were confident that we would give it our best. Errors and omissions, if any, would surely be condoned by a benign Omnipresent and Omniscient — “Ek Onkar”. The scriptures direct, “Sab Sikhan ko hukam hai Guru Manyo Granth..” Sri Guru Granth Sahib is different from other religious texts in that it is deemed to be the personification of a Guru. This is why it is said, “…Guru Granth ji Manyo, Pargat Guran ki deh…” Guruji was installed with ceremony and we went through a crash course in “Maryada” from a kindly Bhai Sahib from the SGPC.
Our day commenced with “Prakash” when we awoke Guruji after rest and took “Gurvak”, the “Hukamnamah” or the Order, which laid the tone for the rest of the day. In the evening, we did the Sohila Path, took “Gurvak” again and completed the “Sukhasan”. My little sons, Bilawal and Sehaj, who derive their names from Guruji, then only 5 and 2, took turns to wave the fly whisk (“Chaur sahib”) with energetic enthusiasm. We also acquired a page-to-page English translation of Guru Granth Sahib. But the real message, I believe, can sometimes be lost in translation. Guru Granth Sahib needs to be read with faith and conviction. The message is in each individual’s interpretation of its 1430-page text. A message as true today as it was 400 years ago, when it was first installed in 1604 in Harmandir Sahib by Baba Buddhaji.
Through the Bani in Guru Granth Sahib we have become familiar with the thoughts of the Gurus and their perceptions of our faith. The family favourite undoubtedly is the most beautiful “aarati” ever composed, “Gagan mai thal..” a cosmic “aarati” set to Raag Dhanasari, in the Sohila Path composed by Guru Nanak Devji. Each evening my family rests secure after the Chaupai in the Rahras Sahib : “Hamri karo hath de rachha, Pooran hoi chit ki icchha,….” A prayer for everyone, it seeks God’s blessings and protection, for all family members, for the fulfilment of all desires, and destruction of enemies.
In every home that we have set up thereafter, the pivot has always been Guru Granth Sahib. Many are the times that we have knelt before our Guruji, only to find answers to questions and problems that appeared to be without a solution. The fragrance of the flowers and incense surrounding Guruji permeates our lives for all the “Bara Mah” of our
The saga of sacrifice at Saragarhi
Many of us have grown up reciting Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (describing the cavalry charge by the 13th Hussars against Russians at Balaclava during the Crimean war in 1854). But how many know about the unparalleled sacrifice of the 21 Sikhs of the 36th Sikhs who fought till the last against thousands of hostile tribesmen defending a small signal post at Saragarhi village in the North West Frontier on September 12, 1897?
The Battle of Saragarhi is still on the fringes of Indian history. This could be because it was fought under foreign domination. However, if even the British Parliament could be moved by it with all its members standing up to give a standing ovation to the act of bravery and also posthumously awarding the Indian Order of Merit (IOM) to all soldiers of the Saragarhi post, it is surprising that little is being done to perpetuate the memory of the brave soldiers in their own homeland.
Old soldiers of Patiala, who have served in the same regiment, formed the Saragarhi Memorial and Ethos Forum some years ago. They were able to ensure a befitting tribute to the Saragarhi martyrs at a public function held on the 100th anniversary of the martyrs in 1997 in Ferozepur, to which most of the martyrs belonged.
Brig (retd) Dalip Singh Sidhu, who belongs to the same battalion, says it was announced at the function attended by then Chief Minister P.S. Badal that the Saragarhi saga would form part of the curriculum of the Punjab School Education Board and that a school would be built at Hakumat Singh Wala, near Ferozepur, in memory of the soldiers of the 36th Sikhs. Brig Sidhu says though a story on the Saragarhi sacrifice has been included in a Punjabi grammar and essays book of the board, this was not what the forum of old soldiers had wanted. He says the story should be included in the social science or history lessons of the school board.
About the promised school, Brig Sidhu says money has not been provided for its construction. The Saragarhi Memorial Forum had requested that a military school or sainik school be constructed at the site as there was only one sainik school in the state. Others retired soldiers, including Capt (retd) Amarjit Singh Jaijee, have also asked the present government to work towards this goal.
Capt (retd) Mahinder Singh, who migrated from the North West Frontier and has been made a member of the Saragarhi Memorial because of his interest in propagating the sacrifice even though he does not belong to the old regiment, says efforts should be made to maintain the Obelisk created at Fort Lockhart near Saragarhi in a befitting manner. At present the Obelisk is maintained by the provincial government of the North West Frontier with the help of the locals.
The soldiers say the battle of Saragarhi, which is one of the eight stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO, is only commemorated by the 4th Sikh Regiment which was earlier the 36th Sikh. The 100th anniversary of the Saragarhi saga could be commemorated in a big way because the Regiment was stationed at Ferozepur then. Presently it is stationed in Lucknow. The local Army authorities commemorate the event every year but it is limited only to Army personnel.
Capt Mahinder Singh says the 21 soldiers posted at Saragarhi were not expected to put up any fight. This was because they were manning a communication post. At that time communication used to be done through a heliograph (a device by which coded signals are sent by using the reflections caused by a mirror). The post was situated on a ridge between the two forts of Fort Lockhart and Gulistan four miles apart, but were not intervisible. The Saragarhi post, situated on a rocky ridge, consisted of a small block house with loop-holed ramparts and a signalling tower.
The post was commanded by Hav. Ishar Singh, who had a fearsome reputation and commanded the loyalty of the troops under him. On September 12, 1897, the post as well as Fort Lockhart and Gulistan were surrounded by thousands of Orakzai tribals. At 9.30 a.m. the tribals approached the Saragarhi post, confident of a quick surrender and asked the defenders to surrender while promising them a safe passage to Kohat. However, they did not reckon with Hav. Isher Singh, who spurned the overture with the choicest Punjabi invectives. The post was immediately assailed by the tribals but they had to beat a hasty retreat due to accurate fire from the defenders stationed at the ramparts of the post.
The fight continued till 3.40 p.m. when the last defender Signaller Gurmukh Singh passed a message to Fort Lockhart Commander, Lt Col Haughton, telling him he was the only survivor left and wanted permission to close down the communication set and pick up his rifle to continue the fight alone. Having being given permission, he placed the heliograph in its leather case and took on the responsibility of defending the post.
The tribals, by this time, were getting tired and impatient. In their final and determined bid, they set fire to the post with the help of dry bushes before ransacking it. The fatally wounded were killed and their bodies mutilated. However, even in such a scenario Signaller Gurmukh Singh put up a stiff resistance and accounted for twenty tribals before he was killed and consumed by the flames.
The entire battle was watched by men and officers at both Fort Lockhart and Gulistan. They could not come to the rescue of the Saragarhi post as they themselves were besieged and heavily outnumbered. Two diversions were made from Fort Lockhart but remained unsuccessful. It was left to the men of Fort Lockhart to send in relief troops the next morning. Besides the mutilated remains of the brave Sikhs, all they found was the heliograph which was still intact inside its singed leather case.
To commemorate the battle, an impressive memorial in the form of an obelisk was built at Fort Lockhart and a cairn was erected with stones from the ruins of the Saragarhi post. The Saragarhi martyrs were also assured a place in “Guru charan” with a gurdwara being built by the government in their name in the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar, besides a commemorative gurdwara in their home town of Ferozepur.
Human trafficking on the rise
Before discussing the recent report “Action research on trafficking in women and children in India — 2002-2003” put together by the NHRC, UNIFEM and the ISS, I would like to state that as a society we are to be blamed for the trafficking of hapless women and children.
Within families and with teenaged children, we don’t discuss even the ABC of sex and sexual needs. On the one hand we use women and children for sexual outlet and on the other we put facades of being righteous and God-fearing.
A high percentage of married men visit brothels. I quote from this report: “Out of 852 clients interviewed 45.5 per cent were married and 72.9 per cent of them were living with their spouses. And 82.3 per cent of the married clientele had wives below 35 years of age. And 85 per cent were local residents and 93.8 per cent were frequent visitors to brothels. And only 67.9 per cent used condoms and 32.1 per cent do not go for safe sex measures.”
Research for this report was carried out in 13 States/UTs. The team interviewed 4,006 persons falling in seven categories — victims, survivors, brothel owners, traffickers, clientele, rescued trafficked children and police officials.
This report states that “out of the interviewed survivors and victims who were trafficked, the maximum (29.5 per cent) were from Andhra Pradesh, followed by Karnataka (15 per cent), West Bengal (12.5 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (12.3 per cent). Intra-state trafficking was also observed to be very high in almost all the states studied except Delhi and Goa.”
The report finds linkages between trafficking and migration, between trafficking and “missing” persons. “At an average 22,480 women and 44,476 children are reported missing in India every year and out of which 5,452 women and 11, 008 children continue to remain untraced”.
A total of 65,602 persons were arrested under the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956 during 1997-2001. Of them 87 per cent were females.
Traffickers, transporters, brothel owners and clients were mostly male and untouched by the law.
“Law enforcement is hampered by serious limitations as trafficking is a very complex crime extending beyond the jurisdictional boundaries of law enforcement agencies. This is further compounded by lack of proper procedures for assessment of age of the rescued victim, inadequacy of women police staff and absence of training/orientation, infrastructure as well as public support systems”.
The judicial delivery mechanism is another area that needs improvement, especially when it comes to orienting itself to human rights, gender issues and standardised sentencing policies”.
Have we ever paused to ask the very basic: what happens to their lives once they are actually retrieved from the brothels or wherever they were confined?
No, they are just about bypassed; so even when, and if, saved from brothels, they are subjected to another hell.
The number of the so-called western modes of entertainment is going up. There is a linkage between them and prostitution. Child/girl prostitutes are exploited in bars and massage parlours. There is an urgent need to curb their growth.
Those that want to help mankind must take their own pleasure and pain, name and fame, and all sorts of interests, and make a bundle of them and throw them into the sea, and then come to the Lord. That is what all the masters said and did. — Swami Vivekananda Bhagvan (the Lord), Bhagavata (His word or scripture) and Bhakta (devotee) are all one and the same. — Sri Ramakrishna He alone who utters God’s Name with his heart and not with his tongue, enjoys its bliss. None else can realise its pleasure and significance. — Guru Nanak
— Swami Vivekananda
Bhagvan (the Lord), Bhagavata (His word or scripture) and Bhakta (devotee) are all one and the same.
— Sri Ramakrishna
He alone who utters God’s Name with his heart and not with his tongue, enjoys its bliss. None else can realise its pleasure and significance.
— Guru Nanak