There is more at stake than Zaheera

Every scientific inquiry involves the formulation of a hypothesis which is tested against facts. In the case of Zaheera Sheikh, one hypothesis is that she, neither well educated nor intelligent, was placed in a position of weakness by the horrors that she had witnessed, particularly the killings of her family members.

She would have become fearful and easy to manipulate, especially by those whom she knew to have been involved in or associated with the brutality. The lure of wealth beyond her wildest dreams may also have been a factor. Whatever the reasons, Zaheera changed her stand twice, first before the fast track court and, some days ago, while under the protection or control of the Gujarat government, which is prosecuting those against whom she was to testify.

People from the Gujarat Chief Minister downwards have said that an NGO used precisely this combination of fear and cupidity to make Zaheera change her stand after the fast track court had acquitted 21 accused in the Best Bakery case. This is perfectly plausible and must, therefore, be part of the hypothesis. It should not be difficult to establish whether a motley bunch of people was stronger than the entire police force of Gujarat. The hypothesis must be tested, for there is far more at stake than just Zaheera.




Peace in South Asia

This refers to G. Parthasarathy's article "The Bush second term" (Nov 18). He is probably correct from the right-wing point of view by asking: "What will India do if US gives F-16s to Pakistan?" In fact, President Bush's second term in office having just begun, the US administration has sanctioned a whopping $1 billion arms' gift to Pakistan. It has not yet finalised the F-16 deal.

The US is the mightiest nation. It has played a major role in keeping India and Pakistan at peace. As head of a minority political party and especially from Punjab's security point of view, my party and I think in the interest of peace in the sub-continent, both countries should have weapon parity in conventional and nuclear arms.

Political parties who want peace in South Asia welcome the US policy in keeping a balance of power in South Asia. Our party had also welcomed the US granting a quasi-NATO status to Pakistan. A militarily strong Pakistan can keep India's growing military strength and hegemony in South Asia in check. India has overburdened its economy by a phenomenal increase in the military budget. India is a poor country. It needs to spend its wealth to fight poverty and spread education.

However, in the interest of permanent peace in this region, the US policy must have both India and Pakistan divested of their respective nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, either by coercive diplomacy or through military means.

SIMRANJIT SINGH MANN, President, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Quilla S. Harnam Singh

Tighten norms

I would like to draw your attention to the indiscriminate admission of students in technical colleges, especially in Punjab. Earlier, getting admission in a technical field was very difficult. But now even those who have failed in the Plus Two examination are able to get admission very easily in the engineering colleges.

This is all due to the mushrooming of engineering colleges under the Punjab Technical University. The only outcome is increasing unemployment. To prevent this, I would request the authorities concerned to tighten the norms for affiliation of colleges.


On priority

Some time ago, the Himachal Pradesh High Court issued a directive to the subordinate courts to deal with cases pertaining to senior citizens on priority so that they may traverse the last leg of their long journey a little less forlorn.

From my own experience, I can say that the subordinate courts in this part of the state abide by the directive and thus providing the much-needed relief to senior citizens. This is admirable because the courts are doing whatever they can despite the limits of a delay-prone judicial system.

Would the executive wing of the administration take cue and emulate the judiciary's laudable example?

TARA CHAND, Ambota (Una)

Missing Siberian cranes

One has to read Rajnish Wattas' middle "The pull of Chandigarh" (Tribune, Nov 20) to realise how privileged we are to be residing in the City Beautiful. A measure of the credit for attractive architecture and landscaping surely goes to him as the head of the local College of Architecture. But alas! We will never get to see the Siberian cranes (Sibes) on the Sukhna lake, as wished by Wattas.

The only spot that the Sibes visited India in the winter was at the Bharatpur lake (now the Koeladeo National Park). Eleven of them were spotted for the first time there in 1937 by the late Salim Ali and Colonel Meinertzhagen. When a deliberate annual count was taken in 1964, the numbers had peaked to 200 Sibes.

Sadly, for many mindless deeds of homo sapiens in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Sibes wintering in India began to decline steadily beginning 1975. Only 76 visited in 1978, 14 in 84 and down to 06 in 92, then just 02 from 97 to 99 eventually tailing to one lone Sibe in 2000. How sad to have entered the 21st Century without the beautiful Sibes!

We were among the late starters in the world to realise the significance of conservation of our wetlands. The Chinese in our neighbourhood have had a much better track record. For, in the Poyang lake, nearly 3,500 Sibes winter every year, yet.

Now "if wishes would be horses" is the only chance of having Siberian cranes re-wintering in India. Future generations might just be lucky if the ongoing initiatives of the International Crane Foundation were to succeed. Let us live in hope.

Lt-Gen BALJIT SINGH (retd), Chandigarh


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