SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped | Reflections

EDITORIALS

Shut and open cases
Also punish those who abetted riots
T
he very decision to reopen as many as 1,500 cases relating to the infamous Gujarat riots is testimony enough that the administration had gone horribly wrong during those cruel days. 

8 per cent! Cheers!
Focus on power, agriculture now will help
A
day after the BSE Sensex crossing the 10,000 mark comes the 8.1 per cent growth forecast for the current fiscal from the Central Statistical Organisation. Calling it a “heady mixture”, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram proudly points to the “sound fiscal and monetary policy”. 



EARLIER STORIES
Raj Babbar’s outbursts
February 9, 2006
After 10K
February 8, 2006
Left alone
February 7, 2006
Iran in the dock
February 6, 2006
Regulatory body needed
February 5, 2006
Guaranteed jobs
February 4, 2006
Pay panel pill
February 3, 2006
Scope for diplomacy
February2, 2006
Airport blackmail
February1, 2006
Delayed IT refunds
January 31, 2006
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Outrage at Durjanpur
No mercy should be shown to the guilty
T
he reports that minor teenage girls in a school in Haryana were drugged and repeatedly raped over a period of time by their school teachers is more than shocking.

ARTICLE

Jaswant in Advani’s footsteps
Some odd statements in Pakistan
by Inder Malhotra
O
NLY a few newspapers in this country have taken note of BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s overland pilgrimage to various shrines in Sindh and Balochistan provinces of Pakistan, and that too to record the host country’s surprise at his decision to cancel his visit to the tomb of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. But the Pakistani media has been having a field day discussing some of his statements that do seem odd.

MIDDLE

He refused to be “purchased”
by Syed Nooruzzaman
T
he refusal to accept a dowry-hungry boy as her husband by Navneet, the courageous girl of Assandh (Karnal district) in the news today, reminds me of an interesting story. But it is of another kind. The central character of the story is not a girl, but a boy. He could have earned a front-page mention in the newspapers then (nearly 30 years ago), but those who were aware of the incident kept quiet.

OPED

Preparing to buy combat aircraft
by Abhijit Bhattacharyya
O
ne is not on technical specifications or the superiority thereof in the choice of 126 combat aircraft (i.e. multirole fighter) of the Indian Air Force. One only needs to explore the depth as to who has what plan up his sleeves for choosing from amongst the four vendors of Europe and the USA!

Russia aghast as red tape causes vodka shortage
by Andrew Osborn
S
tocks of vodka, Russia’s national tipple, are running dangerously low because of a Soviet-style bureaucratic blunder that has brought production to a halt. Hardly a bottle of the grain-based spirit has been made since the beginning of the year, and as the mercury hovers around minus 20C, many vodka warehouses across the country are empty.

Delhi Durbar
Power game in Congress
N
ew power brokers have emerged in the Congress. After the exit of Ambika Soni from the party, Janardan Dwivedi is the person being watched. He is tipped to be the contender for the post of Congress media cell chairman. Dwivedi became close to Sonia Gandhi by writing her Hindi speeches.


From the pages of

 
 REFLECTIONS

Top








 

Shut and open cases
Also punish those who abetted riots

The very decision to reopen as many as 1,500 cases relating to the infamous Gujarat riots is testimony enough that the administration had gone horribly wrong during those cruel days. Since the entire attempt seemed to be to protect the culprits, the cops turned into criminals themselves. Now that the Supreme Court has intervened in a firm way, ugly truth that was unceremoniously buried will come out, perhaps. Naturally, some of the dramatis personae must be shivering in their jackboots. The trail has cooled down considerably during the intervening years but may not have gone quite so cold that they can pull wool over the eyes of the watchdogs yet again. This is a signal victory for the civil society which had been doggedly attempting to ferret out the truth in the face of stiff official resistance. One just hopes that the reopened cases will be investigated with necessary determination and impartiality so that none, howsoever powerful, is able to escape justice this time.

The guilt of the policemen who sided with the rioters in a shameful manner is too blatant to be amenable to a whitewash attempt. But they were not the only ones who disgraced themselves. There were many others in responsible positions who instigated the rioters and even engaged in targeting the minority. Many of them happened to be well-known politicians wielding influence and power. Cases against all of them must be pursued in a clinical manner so that there is no escape route for them, even if the Modi government creates roadblocks.

Ironically, certain organisations still do not have any regret over what happened in Gujarat and singed the state for ever. There are reports that the VHP has issued a veiled threat to Chief Minister Narendra Modi that he must not succumb to the pressure of “secular fundamentalists” if he is to retain his vote bank. Rather than telling Mr Modi to behave, the Sangh Parivar should itself realise that it lost power at the Centre mainly because of its misdeeds in Gujarat. If they do not mend their ways even now, they may find themselves in greater trouble. 

Top

 

8 per cent! Cheers!
Focus on power, agriculture now will help

A day after the BSE Sensex crossing the 10,000 mark comes the 8.1 per cent growth forecast for the current fiscal from the Central Statistical Organisation. Calling it a “heady mixture”, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram proudly points to the “sound fiscal and monetary policy”. Equally jubilant at the economic bounce-back, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said, “We will aim even for better.” In this context, the present low-profile Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh’s 10 per cent aim may also seem within reach in a not-too-distant future.

Although the growth projection is well beyond the expectations of the Finance Ministry and the RBI, the CSO figures, released on Tuesday, point to at least three areas of concern where growth is still lagging: electricity, mining and petroleum. While the government has little control over the global oil prices, it can push mining and power from the present sluggishness. A growing economy cannot be allowed to be held hostage by an inefficient power sector. The Centre cannot let the states take their own time on power reforms. Politics of appeasement must not come in the way of growth.

Two more sectors call for urgent government attention. The booming housing sector may well contribute to employment and growth, the RBI caution on the possibility of a bubble in the making should not be taken lightly. Secondly, agriculture is still a problem area. It is projected to register a higher growth of 2.3 per cent compared to last year’s dismal 0.7 per cent. However, the UPA government’s conservative 4 per cent target is still far away. Two-third of the country’s population still depends on agriculture, which, in turn, depends on the monsoon. Taking note of these concerns, the Centre and the states will have to jointly make efforts for stepping up growth of the agriculture sector. Launching a new Green Revolution has become an immediate necessity. 

Top

 

Outrage at Durjanpur
No mercy should be shown to the guilty

The reports that minor teenage girls in a school in Haryana were drugged and repeatedly raped over a period of time by their school teachers is more than shocking. They remind how dehumanised our society is becoming. The unspeakable violation of the fundamental integrity of the human body and the heinousness of middle-aged teachers assaulting young wards left trustingly under their care must be condemned. The victims, in Durjanpur village in Jind, need more than just our sympathy. The administration and the police need to get their act together to ensure that the two suspects are not only brought to book, but are also prosecuted and given severest punishment without any delay.

The stigma of rape has always been cast on the hapless victim, whereas it rightfully belongs to the perpetrator. Worries expressed by the villagers as to how “no one will marry” girls from the village after such a scandal are indicative of this universal attitude. This is one reason why, apparently, the victims’ families kept these happenings under wraps for some time even after learning of it. The victims and villagers should marshal their anger towards ensuring proper investigation and obtaining convictions in court. This is all the more important considering that the suspects are reported to be powerful men not averse to using violent methods to subvert the truth.

Safety of schoolchildren against the abuse of this kind, especially in remote villages, is an issue that has received inadequate attention. The education authorities must take steps to ensure that this kind of outrage does not take place again. Children have to be protected and not abused. Those found guilty of the heinous crime have to be despatched only to one place — the prison — for spending the rest of their life. Even then the ends of justice will not have been met, considering the nature of their crime. 

Top

 

Thought for the day

We used to build civilisations. Now we build shopping malls. — Bill Bryson

Top

 

Jaswant in Advani’s footsteps
Some odd statements in Pakistan
by Inder Malhotra

ONLY a few newspapers in this country have taken note of BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s overland pilgrimage to various shrines in Sindh and Balochistan provinces of Pakistan, and that too to record the host country’s surprise at his decision to cancel his visit to the tomb of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. But the Pakistani media has been having a field day discussing some of his statements that do seem odd.

To be sure, he is unlikely to cause the kind of uproar that Mr L.K. Advani did by his loudly proclaimed discovery that Jinnah was a paragon of secularism. But some of his remarks, as reported by the Pakistani media, might cause him some trouble.

For instance, according to one report, he “conceded, in so many words” that the Vajpayee government “might have erred” by cutting off people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan in the wake of the terrorist attack on Indian Parliament in December 2002. Remarkably, as a member of the Cabinet Committee on Security — first as Foreign Minister and then as Minister of Finance — he was party to the decision to launch Operation Parakram. Is there something in the Pakistani air that makes even such sensible individuals as Mr Jaswant Singh give utterance to curious thoughts?

At least one leading Pakistani analyst has bluntly stated that no Pakistani should take seriously the statements of someone who — as disclosed by his American opposite number in the Indo-US nuclear dialogue, the then United States Deputy Secretary of State, Mr Strobe Talbott — had called Pakistan the “epicentre of terrorism”. Those Pakistanis who have read Mr Talbott’s book on his protracted dialogue with Mr Jaswant Singh are even more incensed, understandably, because of what he said to Mr Talbott about both Islam and Pakistan.

As Mr Talbott records it, “He (Mr Jaswant Singh) called Pakistan the ‘avatar’ of all that was intolerant, aggressive and terrorising about radical Islam. India, by contrast, was the ‘avatar’ of all that was benign, inclusive and tolerant in Hinduism — and Hindutva. Here was the stuff of which vicious cycles are made, especially now that both India and Pakistan had brought the bombs out of their basements.”

“The more Jaswant elaborated on his thesis, the more resistant to it I grew. I also found troublesome the way Islam fit into Jaswant’s worldview — or, more to the point, it seemed to be inherently at odds with his concept of Hindu civilisation. By implication, while Parsees, Christians, and others qualified as welcome additions to the Indian melting pot, the Muslims did not”.

It, of course, goes without saying that any Indian who travels to Pakistan, leave alone someone of Mr Jaswant Singh’s eminence, is overwhelmed by the warm welcome and lavish hospitality. No wonder then that Mr Jaswant Singh used superlatives such as “epic”, “historical” and “memorable” to describe the reception he got. But this makes the gap between what he told Mr Talbott and what he said during his long journey in Pakistan all the more conspicuous.

That apart, many Indians would find it rather amusing that Mr Jaswant Singh, of all people, should have sharply attacked the United States and its “patronising attitude for the world and South Asia” on the soil of a country whose president and military chief is America’s “frontline ally” in the war on terrorism. Pakistani newspapers have quoted him as having said, “Until yesterday it was Iraq. Today it is Iran, and with the NATO forces in Afghanistan, tomorrow it could be that. I don’t want to go any further, but it is worrisome”. He went on to add that it was time for the US to “stop telling all of us in South Asia” what to do.

Now, the US merits trenchant criticism for the mess the Bush administration has made in Iraq, President George Bush’s tall claims about successful Iraqi elections and consequent ushering in of democracy in that country notwithstanding. Nor is the criticism of America’s policy towards Iran or its propensity to lay down the law for everyone illegitimate. What is strange about Mr Jaswant Singh’s vitriol is that it comes from someone who, as Foreign Minister, was among the principal architects of the Vajpayee government’s policy of going “all the way with the USA”.

So much so that immediately after 9/11, his ministry had rushed in verbally to convey to the US embassy in New Delhi that India would offer America all help, including military bases, in the fight against terrorism. The skeptical US mission asked for confirmation in writing, which was promptly given. Earlier, Mr Jaswant Singh had welcomed President Bush’s highly controversial National Missile Defence (MND) before anyone else had done so.

It is doubtless true that of late the BJP has changed its foreign policy 180 degrees. Immediately after its unexpected defeat in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and the United Progressive Alliance government’s attempts to develop close relations with the US, the principal Opposition party had started abandoning its highly friendly approach towards America.

It had expressed serious reservations on the July 18 agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush. But the crescendo was reached in December at the rather melancholy grand assembly of the party on its golden jubilee in Mumbai. There, in a formal foreign policy resolution, the BJP accused the Manmohan Singh government of having made India “subservient” to the United States.

Ironically, this resolution, from which Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee remained visibly aloof, was moved by Mr Jaswant Singh and endorsed strongly by Mr L.K. Advani who, as Deputy Prime Minister, had all but assured the Americans that Indian troops would be sent to Iraq. This unwise move was abandoned only after Atalji had put his foot down.

Apparently, in today’s polarised atmosphere, there is no escape from Indian foreign policy becoming a plaything of partisan politics. But the resultant political scene has become rather bizarre. The Left Front remains committed to supporting the UPA government “from outside”. It is deeply dissatisfied with the government’s policies on a whole series of issues, ranging from the Iran vote at Vienna to the partial privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports. Yet, it refuses to withdraw support from it for one reason and one reason only: to keep the “communal” BJP at bay. Even so, in relation to foreign policy, the Left and the BJP appear to have become firm ideological allies rather than adversaries.n

Top

 

He refused to be “purchased”
by Syed Nooruzzaman

The refusal to accept a dowry-hungry boy as her husband by Navneet, the courageous girl of Assandh (Karnal district) in the news today, reminds me of an interesting story. But it is of another kind. The central character of the story is not a girl, but a boy. He could have earned a front-page mention in the newspapers then (nearly 30 years ago), but those who were aware of the incident kept quiet.

In fact, to call him simply a boy would be unfair. He was mature enough to understand that the evil called dowry could be eliminated only when boys themselves stopped accepting those girls as their wives whose parents gave the lure of dowry. There is no dearth of such people even today.

The hero of the story was a journalist, working for a Hindi weekly. He was well-versed in three languages — English, Hindi and Urdu — but preferred to write in Hindi only. Marriage for him was not a priority. He was already wedded to journalism. But he was not like those journalists who would spend their evenings in a Press Club drinking and gossiping. He was addicted to holding discussions on current affairs with colleagues and friends over a cup of tea. He had a fairly large circle of friends, who would visit him mostly in the evening. They exchanged their views in a tea stall in a decrepit locality in Old Delhi, and it was he who paid the bill most of the time.

But he did not come from a rich family. He belonged to a village in Uttar Pradesh, and lived in the office premises. His addiction to discussing matters of his interest would result in a heavy bill from the tea-stall owner every month. There were times when he would get no salary at all. He would then live on advance withdrawals against his salary.

His married colleagues, therefore, thought that he should be persuaded to tie the nuptial knot. The responsibility that comes after getting married, they believed, might bring some order in his life.

So, a girl was identified, and her parents were ready to give any amount of dowry sought from the other side, of course, if it was within their means. They were impressed by the young man’s credentials.

He preferred not to apprise his parents of the marriage plan at this stage. His idea was that he would involve them only after having made up his mind about the proposal. The girl was a graduate with an impressive personality. Her parents could have been of great help to him in getting settled in Delhi.

The young man had seen the girl and liked her. But he wanted to have a meeting with her parents, particularly her father. A meeting was, therefore, arranged at a friend’s house. Everybody who knew the man was happy that finally he would get married and lead an orderly life. But, alas, that was not to be. The man got wild when the girl’s father asked him about what he would like to have as dowry.

The young man retorted: “Are you here to purchase me? I may be a poor person, but not a commodity to be purchased by moneyed people. I can’t accept the daughter of a person like you as my wife. Please keep your daughter and your dowry with you. I am sorry. Thanks.”

Top

 

Preparing to buy combat aircraft
by Abhijit Bhattacharyya

One is not on technical specifications or the superiority thereof in the choice of 126 combat aircraft (i.e. multirole fighter) of the Indian Air Force. One only needs to explore the depth as to who has what plan up his sleeves for choosing from amongst the four vendors of Europe and the USA!

As is well known, the four bidders for the modernisation of the IAF fleet are French Mirage2000: Russian MIG-29; US F-16 and Sweden’s SAAB JAS 39 Gripen.

India’s use of Mirage 2000 in the IAF 1 and 7 squadrons goes back to October 1982 with 40 aircraft, with operational induction in June, 1985. Twentyone years have gone by and the Mirage 2000 continues to be a “darling fighter” for the fliers of the IAF.

Interestingly, Mirage is also in use with three Asian (Abu Dhabi/UAE, Qatar and Taiwan), one European (Greece) and one Latin American (Peru) air force apart from the 285 serving the French Air Force. (If Jane’s all the world’s aircraft apart from 2005-2006 is to be believed — “In 2002, India is planning acquisition of 126 Mirage 2000-5s to equip seven squadrons in strike role; final discussions continued into 2003”.

The Russian-Indian umbilical cord in defence hardware stands amply demonstrated by the extensive knowledge of the IAF men and the intensive use of the Russian flying machines by New Delhi. Thus, although the “production of the land-based Mig 29s ended in the mid 1990s leaving a substantial stock of semi-complete airframes available to meet export orders, activity currently centres on upgrades for existing aircraft.”

And perhaps Jane’s observation has been perceptive — “prospects for new production were long dependent upon the Indian order for carrier-based MiG 29K. By 2001, in advance of formal order, MIG was constructing two pre-series MiG 29Ks, one MiG 29 KUB and static test airframe in single-seat configuration.”

Should this information come as a surprise? One does not think so, as Russian-Indian defence relations go much deeper than what can be inferred by a layman. Be it the IAF fighters or transport aircraft, (the various MiGs Sukhois, Antonovs, Tupolevs and the Ilyshines) or the Navy submarines Foxtrot, Kilo and the nuclear powered Charlie class, or the Army’s main battle tanks like T-55,T-59, T-72, PT-76 and T-90 the Russians still are on top.

India will be hard pressed to ignore in case of a clarion call by Moscow to continue using MiG-29 for the modernisation plan of its ageing air arm. So much for the Russian interest and the Indian choice!

Be that as it may, perhaps it is time to have a wider choice by the consumer IAF from amongst the producers of defence hardware. That leads to the prospective sellers like Sweden’s SAAB JAS 39 Gripen into the fray.

However, the prospect of JAS 39 Gripen in the international market appears slightly “jinxed”! Why so? Is Gripen a bad aircraft? Certainly not. At least a non-technical man like me cannot even dare suggest so.

It is only the sequence of events. The Swedish Air Force requirement was originally 280 Gripen, to equip 16 squadrons, but this was reduced to 204. Thereafter, exports of some 250 aircraft were anticipated over 20 years from 1996 and presentations were made to Austria, Brazil, Czech Republic, Chile, Poland, the Philippines, Slovenia and South Africa.

Thus, Australia received the Gripen offer in 2002, but American Lockheed Martin F-35 was selected in June, 2002. Similarly, the Austrian request for proposals for 30 new fighters got thwarted as Vienna’s Parliament selected Eurofighter Typhoon, a decision which though was immediately suspended.

Gripen virtually received a potential Brazilian acceptance for 24 aircraft in 2002 only to find the programme suspended in 2003. In 2001 the Swedish aircraft officially got confirmation from the Czech Republic for 24 aircraft only to find that the programme was abandoned in 2002 and replaced by a quest for 12 to 14 aircraft, with Gripen still among contenders like Sourav Ganguly in the India cricket XI.

The agony of Gripen continued as negotiations with the Polish, begun in 2000 for 60 new fighters, ended with Poland ordering US Lockheed Martin F-16 in December in 2002.

The only two successful missions so far for the Swedish aircraft have been in Hungary and South Africa. Seen in this light, this author finds it hard to visualise as to how good or fruitful is going to be the efforts of Saab JAS 39 Gripen in convincing the actual users and decision-makers both of which are located in the South Block of the Raisina Hills, New Delhi.

Of all the bidders for the Indian sky, the most aggressive appears to be that of the US Lockheed Martin F-16, which had entered service on January 6, 1979, with the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at the Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

With a huge total of 4,417 production aircraft ordered or requested to date by 21 countries, including the planned US Air Force procurement of 2,230 and 28 embargoed Pakistan Air Force, a total of 64 F-16 was delivered in 2003, leaving a backlog of about 300 at the start of 2004 against a backlog which had fallen to 265 on May 01, 2004.

The Americans certainly are an enterprising and entertaining lot. Otherwise they would not have attained the standard, status and stardom of the sole super power. Their manufacturing skill and marketing strategy go very well with their military might and money matters.

Hence, they have been the winners so far in the global arms bazaar. And this author is convinced that in case the Capitol decides to go forward to hardsell the F-16 to the IAF, there would be little or nothing for any one to express his choice, irrespective of its being “I am in agreement” or “I dissent” scenario.

Today F-16 sees Europe and Latin America as potentially lucrative markets for new and additional sales of the aircraft, with particular efforts being directed towards the re-equipping of the ex-Warsaw Pact air forces, which were once the exclusive users of Russian-made fighters.

However, with the stiffest competition for the F-16 in recent years coming from Swedish Gripen JAS 39 in Czech Republic and Hungary, and the dual threat from French Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon, understandably Lockheed Martin has opened its office in New Delhi to get the share of the pie in the Indian Air Force’s sky.

And why not? When armament is business and countries are consumers, what is the harm in marketing the flying machines in new areas in the midst of rising rivals and reduced customers and cash?

Thus the choice of 126 fighters for India is fraught with pitfalls. The line pilots are bound to prefer the time-tested machines and the commander-in-chief may agree with his boys; but for the manufacturers the best aircraft is their “own product”.

Some senior retired officers will plead the cases in accordance with the pay packets of their “employers” and a section of the Press may publish the “best fed” information as the “best bet” for the Indian sky.

At the end of the day, however, only a political decision for the 126 aircraft with geo-economic consideration may blend with the geo-politics of realpolitik. The ball squarely is likely to lie with the South Block. The rest could follow.

Top

 

Russia aghast as red tape causes vodka shortage
by Andrew Osborn

Stocks of vodka, Russia’s national tipple, are running dangerously low because of a Soviet-style bureaucratic blunder that has brought production to a halt. Hardly a bottle of the grain-based spirit has been made since the beginning of the year, and as the mercury hovers around minus 20C, many vodka warehouses across the country are empty.

“Could Russia completely run out of vodka in 40 days?” was the apocalyptic front-page headline of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper yesterday, which published advice from a panel of politicians and celebrities on how to live without vodka and a cartoon of a man wringing a bottle of vodka as if it were wet laundry so as to extract every last drop. Although supermarket shelves are not yet denuded of the Russian national drink, manufacturers have warned that people are rapidly drinking what is left over from 2005, and that stocks will not last indefinitely. They have also warned that supplies of bootleg vodka, which has a record of poisoning, blinding and killing people, are increasing as black marketeers rush to fill the vacuum.

The cause of the chaos is an anti-counterfeiting law which came into force on 1 January, stipulating that every bottle of vodka must carry an excise duty stamp. Not enough of the new labels were made, and most of those that were have not yet made it to factories. It is, manufacturers complain, a typical case of gross incompetence on the part of the chinovniki (officials) who run the country.

Pavel Shapkin, head of the National Alcohol Association, has derided the situation as “absurd”, and called for the guilty officials to be deprived of their bonuses and dressed down. Given the uncertainty, distillers say they have had no choice but to halt production.

Though factories say they have been producing tiny quantities of vodka for export, normal production for domestic consumption has been completely halted.

If the problem persists, cheap brands of vodka are predicted to disappear from shelves in the near future and the price of the remaining premium brands is expected to rise sharply.

The Russian state has been the big loser. It collects the equivalent of £3.4bn in taxes on spirits every year, but has had no vodka to tax so far this year.

Russians’ love of strong spirits purportedly stretches back to the 11th century, when the then ruler, Prince Vladimir, reportedly said: “Russia’s mirth is drinking. We cannot live without it.”

Though demand for beer has grown rapidly since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, vodka remains tremendously popular.

Each Russian is reported to consume 14 litres of alcohol a year, much of it in the form of neat vodka, traditionally tossed back in small shot glasses, swiftly followed by nibbling on a savoury snack such as a salted tomato, a pickled gherkin, or black bread.

Imbibing large quantities in sub-zero temperatures has proved lethal. More than 50 people have frozen to death in Russia this year. Many of them were drunks.

“The situation (of shortages) only cheers me up,” Dima Bilan, a popular singer, was quoted as saying. He added: “It means that fewer people will freeze to death from being drunk in the street.”

However, shortages of vodka, which can be bought for as little as £3 a bottle, are unlikely to deter those whose lives revolve around the transparent spirit.

“We’ll go to the chemist,” Aleksei Makarov, a handyman from Chelyabinsk, told Komsomolskaya Pravda.

“In our town the shelves are loaded down with berry-flavoured spirits —100g costs 14 rubles (30p). You can drink them neat or you can dilute them.”

Though President Vladimir Putin has cultivated a “hard man” image for himself and is occasionally photographed having a vodka shot, he said recently that he did not drink spirits.

— The Independent

Top

 

Delhi Durbar
Power game in Congress

New power brokers have emerged in the Congress. After the exit of Ambika Soni from the party, Janardan Dwivedi is the person being watched. He is tipped to be the contender for the post of Congress media cell chairman. Dwivedi became close to Sonia Gandhi by writing her Hindi speeches.

Minister of State without portfolio Oscar Fernandes is a key Sonia Gandhi loyalist and considered to be her emissary at large. It might not be long before the man from Karnataka is made General Secretary of the Congress. Ahmed Patel, meanwhile, retains his pre-eminent position.

Narayan Rane eyes CM’s post

It is no secret that Narayan Rane, who quit the Shiv Sena to join the Congress, is keenly eyeing Maharashtra’s top job, causing discomfiture to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

After winning his stronghold Konkan for the Congress in the recent byelections, Rane is clearly on a high. Rane’s camp insists that the leader has the ears of those close to 10 Janpath.

There is no ambiguity in Rane’s political gambit. He switched political loyalties because he had his eyes on being the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Meanwhile, Deshmukh’s critics are waiting for Rane to take the next step.

Bush to address Parliament?

Some would have us believe that President George Bush, who is scheduled to visit India in the first week of March, has not shown any interest so far in addressing Parliament. However, others tell us that the Left parties are not keen that Bush should be granted this privilege. The Left had staged a few demonstrations against Bill Clinton when he had come calling, but did not boycott his address to Parliament.

No to credit cards

New Non-Conventional Energy Secretary V Subramanian has set an example of how officers can save money for the government by using credit cards for air travel.

This officer has been using his credit card which offers a 25 per cent reduced fare and claims to have saved nearly Rs 2 lakh in a year for the Rural Development Ministry where he was posted till last month.

Ironically, the Department of Expenditure has refused to reimburse his expenses on air travel for government work on the unimaginative ground that credit cards are not covered in the list of amenities allowed to the government staff.

Communist dilemma

The battle in the Samajwadi Party between Raj Babbar and Amar Singh has put the Communist parties in a piquant situation.

Days after having supported Amar Singh on the issue of phone-tapping, Communist parties were called upon to lend a sympathetic ear to Raj Babbar, who accused the Samajwadi Party General Secretary of promoting “middleman culture.”

Refusing to be drawn in the battle, the Communist parties, however, did say that the issues being raised by Raj Babbar merited attention.

—Contributed by R Suryamurthy, S Satyanarayanan and Prashant Sood.

Top

 

From the pages of

September 26, 1926

Fine example by Nehru

It was a fine example which Pandit Motilal Nehru set when in the course of his Cawnpur speech he resolutely refused to take any notice of a leaflet attacking him and his party which had been circulated at the meeting. The Pandit was actually challenged to answer the allegations made in the leaflet. “No,” he said, “I will not answer them. They will be answered by pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Lala Lajpat Rai who, I understand, will soon be here and to whom I am sending a copy of this leaflet.” In our opinion this is exactly the way to do it. Our leaders are never tired of declaring that they are fighting for principles and not for any personal ends. They are never weary of saying that they do not believe in personal recrimination and in that spirit of intolerance which is often displayed by a section of their followers. Why should not the leaders on one side, then, leave it to the leaders on other to sternly rebuke their followers when the latter deviate from the path of propriety and indulge in personal attacks?

Top

 

Blessed is the bride who merges herself in the being of her spouse.
— Guru Nanak

The senses are to the body as horses to a chariot.
— The Upanishadas

The king listens to the voice of the people as they greet his sons. When the voices rise high like the crescendo of ocean waves, he must pay greater 
attention to the qualities of the prince.
— The Mahabharata

For fear of another’s derision man indulges in outward pretension like bathing at dawn, smearing ash on his forehead. He, however, fails to understand the real importance of self-knowledge... that God dwells in him. 
— Kabir

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 |