For peace and progress
New roads, new taxes
Tigers remain unchanged
For peace and progress
During his tour of North-Eastern states, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh struck a much-needed note of intimacy with the estranged sections. While giving them a call to shun violence and help in the development of the region, he spoke less like a politician and more like an elder person addressing sulking family members. He did not delve into what has happened in the past either; but only exhorted everyone — including militants in Nagaland, Manipur and Assam — to make a new beginning. In doing this, he indirectly underlined that just as indulging in violence does not solve the people’s problems, the government too cannot win them over by sending more troops. Better results can be obtained by having a heart-to-heart talk. The Prime Minister struck an emotional chord by reminding the Assamese youth that they did not have to indulge in violence to get their demands accepted when they had a Prime Minister from their own State (he has been a Rajya Sabha MP from there since 1991). He also went out of his way to meet and empathise with Manipuri women who had been protesting against the rape and death of Manorma Devi allegedly in custody. Such humane touch can act as a balm on frayed nerves.
To make amends for the neglect of the region in the past, the Prime Minister also unfolded an elaborate development blueprint. If his schemes to provide a better life to the people of the remote areas get translated into action - better roads, more employment, flood control — these can go a long way towards removing the sense of abandonment.
Above all, Dr Manmohan Singh sought to improve the linkage of the North-East with the rest of the country. Since this will be done at the same time when the region is being prepared as a springboard for the country to launch itself into an "intense economic integration" with South-East Asia, it may indeed help script a new saga of peace and cordiality.
Two rulings of the Supreme Court — the cancellation of land allotment to a former Calcutta High Court Judge by the West Bengal government and upholding the dismissal of a civil judge in Gujarat — once again bring to the fore the issue of professional misconduct among the judges. The two incidents add to the increasing number of cases of moral turpitude and misconduct among the judges. In the Calcutta land allotment ruling, the apex court rightly said that as the judges wield untrammeled powers, one expects the highest standards of integrity and rectitude from them. However, if the judges themselves compromise their integrity and misuse their exalted position for petty gains, as Calcutta High Court Judge Justice B.P. Banerjee had done, people will lose faith in the judiciary.
The Supreme Court verdict delivered by Justice S.N. Variava and Justice H.K. Sema that a judge cannot compromise his "divine judicial duty" for petty gains should have a salutary impact on the judiciary. When Justice Banerjee failed to get land in Kolkata's Salt Lake area from the Chief Minister's discretionary quota, he stopped further land allotment from this quota while hearing a case. But after a few days, he vacated the stay order once he himself got a plot of land from the same quota. He ought to have realised that he would be held accountable one day for his violating the code which should guide a judge.
If this was a clear case of professional misconduct, the dismissal of the Gujarat civil judge is equally a sad reflection on the functioning of judges in the lower judiciary. There is need to tighten norms for their recruitment at various levels. Since the Manmohan Singh government has clarified that it is against the idea of setting up a National Judicial Commission, the Supreme Court Chief Justice should strengthen the inhouse mechanism of the Collegium of which he is the chairman with four senior Supreme Court judges as members. Similar steps should be taken by the chief justices and their senior colleagues in the High Courts across the country.
New roads, new taxes
The Punjab Government has imposed hefty levies on vehicles plying on the Chandigarh-Ludhiana and Chandigarh-Amritsar highways. More are in the pipeline as it plans to build several bypasses, bridges, overbridges and roads, charging a toll for each. What happened to taxes already being paid? Apart from state levies like road tax, sales tax and octroi, there are Central Customs and excise duties as also a cess on petroleum products. The pain of the recent oil price hikes has still not subsided. Anyway, all this will further raise the cost of living.
Good roads, no doubt, are required. The government, too, needs huge funds to build and maintain these. The taxes have to be reasonable. The collection process should be smooth, flawless and handled efficiently, preferably through private hands, so that it does not lead to delays, bickering and corruption. Is it not possible to club all taxes and collect them at one source? It is convenient for the government to pass the entire burden on to the vehicle owner. Many vehicle pliers may not mind paying a bit more for using a better road or a bridge provided there is no harassment.
Also, it has to be ensured that the money thus collected is not diverted to paying babus’ salaries and government loans. Politicians drive governments bankrupt through populist measures to appease their vote-banks as well as to pay for their own, and their supporters’ comforts. The Amarinder Singh government, which inflicted on itself a Rs 17 crore loss in the recent liquor vend reauction, is notorious for extravagance. Examples: a large battalion of parliamentary secretaries raised unnecessarily, MLAs made chairmen of bankrupt boards and corporations and no attempt made to downsize a top-heavy police and civil administration. It pains more to pay taxes to such a reckless government.
Tigers remain unchanged
Strategic relations between India and Sri Lanka are on an upward curve. President Chandrika Kumaratunga was in Delhi the other day. In a space of 15 days, both Army and Naval Chiefs also visited Colombo, the Navy Chief for the first time after 1982 and the Army Chief for the first time since the ignominious expulsion of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force from the island. The Chief of Air Staff, however, has been visiting the country because the IAF was not directly involved in the IPKF operations.
Relations between the two militaries have been strained after the duplicity of the Sri Lankan government (SLG) during the IPKF operations and the virtual refusal of the Indian Army to bail out the Sri Lankan military garrison from Jaffna in May 2000 following the LTTE’s touch-and-go capture of Jaffna. Since then, Sri Lanka has given India a strategic stake both in Palaly airfield and Trincomalee harbour. In return, India has agreed to sign the long-pending Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) minus a mutual security act.
With the peace talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lanka government floundering and a nearly three-year-long ceasefire under strain, the DCA is seen as vital to deter the LTTE from recourse to war and resumption of hostilities. The LTTE is quite upset and the Manmohan Singh government’s southern and communist partners dismayed over the DCA. Chief LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham’s latest outburst against donor countries and clarifications over the framework of the political settlement coupled with the “anticipated” bombshell from Prabhakaran on the traditional November 27 Heroes’ Day speech have made the Kumaratunga government very jittery.
At the end of the Oslo round of peace talks on December 5, 2002, an elated Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the peace process would reach a point of no return in 2003. This was not to be as the talks have been stalled since the middle of last year. Actually, what the LTTE had accepted in Oslo was to “explore” a federal solution and not as generally perceived, that they had dropped their demand for Eelam or accepted a federal arrangement within a united Sri Lanka. The LTTE had sought an Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) — in line with the demand for internal self-determination — to administer and develop the North-East as a prelude to accepting a final solution, whatever the “exploration of the idea” might throw up.
Those who think they understand the Tigers and their stripes are convinced that the LTTE has not changed its goal of an independent state regardless of the changes in the ground reality. Others argue that the LTTE has made concessions: accepted a ceasefire that has run 32 months as well as a federal solution, both acts of good faith. There is, therefore, an interim solution (ISGA) and a final settlement (based on a federal idea). For the LTTE, the twain do not meet!
The LTTE is insisting that the ISGA must be the stepping stone to a final solution, while the hardline JVP, a key constituent of the Kumaratunga government, is advocating that a final solution must precede the ISGA. Mrs Kumaratunga has suggested a compromise formula — granting of the ISGA but operationalising it only as part of a final solution. Another reason for the LTTE not returning to the negotiating table is its desire to contain or kill its eastern renegade leader Karuna first, so that the East does not wriggle out of their control or pose any future problems.
The Karuna factor and the standoff for the ISGA are holding up the talks since April 2003. The LTTE’s counter-proposal on October 31, 2003, to the government’s version of the ISGA in July 2003 was like a red rag to a bull. Altogether the LTTE has committed 2491 violations of the ceasefire agreement compared to 113 by the Sri Lanka government.
The situation in the East is volatile. The intra-Tamil war between the LTTE and Karuna’s supporters in the East and the LTTE and other Tamil groups elsewhere is threatening the ceasefire agreement, which is only between the government and the LTTE. The imperfections of the ceasefire agreement require its review and refinement. Equally, the 66 Scandinavian monitors of the Sri Lanka monitoring mission have been unable to effectively fulfil the mandate, probably because they are doing the dual job of mediating and monitoring. But it is highly unlikely that the ceasefire agreement can be revisited. It is also unlikely that the LTTE will resume hostilities knowing full well that it cannot militarily achieve its political objectives. At best it can take the threat of war to Colombo by taking recourse to suicide bombings to retain its moral ascendancy at the negotiating table.
Time is on the side of the LTTE as the peace process has helped the LTTE politically, diplomatically and militarily. The one area where the LTTE has not delivered to the people of the north-east is development and reconstruction. The international donors had committed a $ 4.5 billion package for Sri Lanka of which one-third is meant for the north-east. In yet another rebuff to the donors who had met in Oslo and Tokyo for two rounds of talks, the LTTE has asked them not to “stipulate” political parameters for settlement of the ethnic conflict.
Mr Anton Balasingham, the LTTE’s chief negotiator, last week posted a statement on the TamilNet website which clarified the LTTE’s stand on a political settlement. He complained that “Colombo, with the active collusion of its international tactical allies, was attempting to superimpose its own set of ideas and propositions on the LTTE”. Read with his recent statement that the LTTE’s acceptance “to explore federalism on the principal of internal self-determination did not entail an unconditional abandonment of the secessionist option — Eelam”. He also refuted the UNP’s position that a framework for a political settlement had emerged from the Oslo communiqué in December 2002.
Mr Balasingham’s statement does not augur well for the peace process and represents a hardening of the LTTE’s stand days before the annual Prabhakaran pronouncement. The DCA has been finalised. This should deter the LTTE from adventurism. But there is little else that India can do, having withdrawn all its cards from the table. Sinhalese and Tamils are convinced that India and India alone has the power, if not the will, to break the stalemate. But India is still once bitten twice
BELIEVE it or not, there are, or were, such people. Behind that khaki uniform, more so when it is exchanged for ‘civvies’, lie many a heart in tune with your own. Someone who lets his hair down and joins you in a convivial evening.
Way back in ‘49, there was a man called Sinha, the I.G.P. in Patna. I forget his first name. He was good company in my house on Dak Bungalow Road or on the lawns of the Bankipore Club by the Ganges.
In ‘51 on being posted to Ahmedabad I had as my neighbour in Shahibag, the D.I.G., K. Pravinsinghji, a scion of one of the princely houses of old Kathiawad.
Morarjibhai being in the saddle at Bombay, strict prohibition was in force, including house to house searches. I had my “health” permit but two units a month were hardly sufficient for throwing a party. Being the sort of fellow who never says die I used to make frequent tours to MP and Rajasthan, both States being as “wet” as the sea. I also knew K.P’s predilection for gin, a colourless liquid, and so I never held a get-together in my house without the D.I.G.’s beflagged car standing outside it.
Pravinsinghji was succeeded by Keki Nanavatty who, later, became IGP, Maharashtra. He and his wife Dhan were among our dearest friends. He died several years ago and his widow lives in Poona. Keki liked his little drop but, on principle, never had one in my house or his own. It did me good to see him swallow a real “Parsi peg” when he and Dhan stayed with us in Jullundar on their way to Kashmir on holiday.
In Jullundar we were friendly with two policemen. Ram Singh, DIG armed police who always offered a choice of at least four brands of Scotch to his dinner guests. The other was an Englishman, ‘Buster’ Manley who was married to an Indian lady and decided to stay on in India after Independence. He was the civil DIG. He was not very “clubbable” in my sense of the word as he neither smoked nor drank though he was good company. Perhaps because of his abstemiousnes he was elevated to the post of Additional IG, Punjab. On his retirement he and his wife settled down in Chandigarh before returning to England.
‘Jimmy’ Mehta was the top policeman I got to know when I came to Delhi in ‘59. Apart from having been the police tennis champion, he was a connoisseur of food and drink. I remember eating many a good meal in his spacious bungalow on Alipore road.
In case you detect a tinge of snobbishness in what I have written let me tell you that my oldest friend in the police was a classmate at school, a Sikh boy by the name of Asa Singh whose parents could not afford to send him to college.
Several years later after we had both left school I was riding a bicycle in Kashmere Gate one day when a burly traffic cop stopped me, grinned from ear to ear and made me dismount. I recognised him immediately despite the hirsute growth on his face. Arm in arm we walked to the nearest tea-shop where he plied me with tea and samosas for which he just would not let me pay.
The talks between the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh and the Naxalites of the CPI (Maoist) Party seem to have hit a roadblock after the first phase of the negotiations held in October last.
The Rajasekhara Reddy government has not come out with a schedule for the second phase of dialogue till date. It has also been displaying, of late, a marked change in its tone and tenor on the issue.
“The ball is in their court,” the Chief Minister declared recently. “The government is ready to hold talks with Naxals on the issue of laying down arms.” Mr Reddy’s sudden tough-talking on the arms issue has surprised observers. Said K Balagopal, an interlocutor for the dialogue,” the Chief Minister does not appear to be keen on the talks anymore. The arms issue is not central to the negotiations. But he seems to be bent on this single point.”
The police, which was lying low during the initial phase of the talks, suddenly became active in denying permissions to ultra left meetings. Even when meetings were held with court permission, the cops tried to thwart them.
“The government is implementing an undeclared ban on ultra left parties after the first phase of talks,” Jampanna, Secretary, North Telangana Special Zonal Committee of the CPI (Maoist) Party, alleged.
Speaking to reporters at an undisclosed location recently, he also made it clear that there would be no basis for the talks if the issue of weapons was made the crux of the talks exercise.
The people in the extremist-dominated areas suffered in the crossfire between armed guerrilla squads and grey hounds, the anti-Naxal wing of the state police. While police repression cost heavily in terms of men for the Naxalites, the administration realised that it would be impossible to completely root out extremism, given the backing it enjoyed in rural Andhra Pradesh.
The People’s War had its roots in the peasant uprising at Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal in May, 1967. The group, formed in 1980 by K Seetharamiah, believes in organised peasant insurrection to capture political power through armed struggle.
Towards this end, the PW has been building up bases in the rural areas, transforming them into guerrilla zones,which would subsequently become liberated zones. Led by Muppala Lakshman Rao, alias Ganapati,the outfit is believed to have around 1,000 to 1,050 underground cadres. Besides, it has about 5,000 over ground activists.
Though the numbers are small, the extremist organisation acquired complete control over large tracts of the rural areas, especially in the backward Telangana region because of its unstinted support to the oppressed sections.
The fight between the PW and the government came to a flashpoint when, for the first time in its history,the Maoist group made an audacious bid to assassinate the then Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who had unleashed a reign of terror against Naxalites by arming the police with unfettered powers.
It was in this backdrop that the PW worked for the defeat of the TDP, and as a direct beneficiary of the policy, the Congress promised to initiate dialogue with the Naxalites. The government asked the cops to stop fake encounters and allowed militants’ meetings in the open.
The People’s War reciprocated by declaring that it would not indulge in any sort of violence, would refrain from targeting its political rivals in various parties and abide by a self-imposed ceasefire.
Top underground leaders, including CPI (Maoist) Party state Secretary Ramakrishna, alias A Haragopal, came out of their hiding in the forests to participate in the talks as state guests. They raised issues such as distribution of land to the landless poor and ban on liquor sales.
The government was not pleased with the demands for confiscating lands allegedly occupied by industrial houses such as Satyam Computers and Ramoji Film City. “This shows their shallow understanding of issues. Land is required for industrial development, and the government, even if it is the earlier government, has the right to allot land for the purpose,” an annoyed Mr Reddy retorted.
The sudden turnabout in the government stance on surrender of weapons seems to be partly influenced by the Union Home Ministry’s assessment that the Naxalites were becoming stronger after the merger between the People’s War and the Maoist Communist Centre.
Beside, the state police too, which has not been happy with the dialogue process, appears to have convinced the government that the Maoists were on a recruitment and fund collection binge using the reprieve as a cover.
Venkaiah Naidu had created a ripple in the BJP by suddenly announcing his decision to quit the position of party presidentship citing a “family problem” on October 18. He had also said that he would not be able to give adequate time for the party affairs due to his wife’s illness. Despite his assertion, the former BJP chief seems to be more active now and is seen at all important meetings of the party.
Despite his assertion, the former BJP chief seems to be more active now and is seen at all important meetings of the party.
Modi changes tune Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi seems to have adopted a strategy not to make political comments before the national media. During his recent visits to the Capital, Modi focused on economic development and reforms in Gujarat, ducking all political questions. The other day when he was visiting the India International Trade Fair, he refused to comment on the raging Shankaracharya arrest issue as also the Uma Bharti issue.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi seems to have adopted a strategy not to make political comments before the national media. During his recent visits to the Capital, Modi focused on economic development and reforms in Gujarat, ducking all political questions.
The other day when he was visiting the India International Trade Fair, he refused to comment on the raging Shankaracharya arrest issue as also the Uma Bharti issue.
New team of lawyers The legal fraternity is not much impressed with the team of law officers appointed by the UPA government to defend it in the Supreme Court. Earlier, a formidable Soli J. Sorabjee had led a bunch of brilliant lawyers like Harish Salve, Kirit Raval, Mukul Rohtagi and Altaf Ahmed during the NDA regime. The practising lawyers in the apex court are of the view that barring Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati, who was elevated to the post from Advocate General of Maharashtra, no other law officer of the UPA government has so far been able to leave any imprint, specially when the appearance of Attorney General Milon Banerjee in the court is not as frequent as that of Sorabjee.
The legal fraternity is not much impressed with the team of law officers appointed by the UPA government to defend it in the Supreme Court. Earlier, a formidable Soli J. Sorabjee had led a bunch of brilliant lawyers like Harish Salve, Kirit Raval, Mukul Rohtagi and Altaf Ahmed during the NDA regime.
The practising lawyers in the apex court are of the view that barring Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati, who was elevated to the post from Advocate General of Maharashtra, no other law officer of the UPA government has so far been able to leave any imprint, specially when the appearance of Attorney General Milon Banerjee in the court is not as frequent as that of Sorabjee.
Yadavs on top Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Babulal Gaur, in the Capital to participate in a Planning Commission meeting, began his media interaction on November 20 with a question. How many members of my clan are ruling different states, he asked. A journo replied: “Three. You, Laloo Yadav, and Mulayam Singh Yadav.” Gaur said: “Three overtly. The fourth one does not reveal himself,” he said whetting the journalists’ curiousity. Then he identified the fourth one as Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Babulal Gaur, in the Capital to participate in a Planning Commission meeting, began his media interaction on November 20 with a question. How many members of my clan are ruling different states, he asked.
A journo replied: “Three. You, Laloo Yadav, and Mulayam Singh Yadav.”
Gaur said: “Three overtly. The fourth one does not reveal himself,” he said whetting the journalists’ curiousity.
Then he identified the fourth one as Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh.
Learning BJP ways Najma Heptullah, who had gone to Parliament Street on November 20 to participate in a protest meeting against Shankaracharya’s arrest, was about to enter the dais area with her shoes on. Suddenly she realised that all the leaders had taken off their shoes before climbing up the dais. She also immediately removed her slippers, prompting a party worker to comment “she is fast learning the BJP ways”.
Najma Heptullah, who had gone to Parliament Street on November 20 to participate in a protest meeting against Shankaracharya’s arrest, was about to enter the dais area with her shoes on. Suddenly she realised that all the leaders had taken off their shoes before climbing up the dais.
She also immediately removed her slippers, prompting a party worker to comment “she is fast learning the BJP ways”.
ASEAN fever in India The CII bosses are not willing to let their hair down after the ongoing first India-ASEAN car rally — which the CII and the Ministry of External Affairs co-organised — ends next month. The CII’s strategy is to facilitate people-to-people contacts and encourage visits by business delegations. —
Contributed by S. Satyanarayanan, S.S. Negi, Satish Misra, Rajeev Sharma
The CII bosses are not willing to let their hair down after the ongoing first India-ASEAN car rally — which the CII and the Ministry of External Affairs co-organised — ends next month. The CII’s strategy is to facilitate people-to-people contacts and encourage visits by business delegations.
Contributed by S. Satyanarayanan, S.S. Negi, Satish Misra, Rajeev Sharma
God writes through us, and however imperfect instruments we may be, He writes beautifully. — Mother Teresa God knows no fear and has no enmity with anyone; He is immortal. — Guru Nanak Even as a tree has a single trunk but many branches and leaves, there is one religion - human religion - but any number of faiths. — Mahatma Gandhi When following Dharma, you are in harmony with the cosmic order; you abide close to God. — Essence of Hinduism
— Mother Teresa
God knows no fear and has no enmity with anyone; He is immortal.
— Guru Nanak
Even as a tree has a single trunk but many branches and leaves, there is one religion - human religion - but any number of faiths.
— Mahatma Gandhi
When following Dharma, you are in harmony with the cosmic order; you abide close to God.
— Essence of Hinduism