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EDITORIALS

Justice!
Jessica killed, accused freed, judge promoted
T
HE process for the elevation of Delhi Additional Sessions Judge S.L. Bhayana to the Delhi High Court must have started a long time ago. Possibly, he has the requisite merit and seniority. But coming as it does at a time when he has delivered a highly controversial judgement in the Jessica Lall murder case which has shocked the whole nation, this promotion has raised many eyebrows.

Towards lower taxes
Survey paints a rosy picture of economy
T
HE 2005-06 Economic Survey paints a rosy picture of the economy, but cautions the government against possible hurdles in achieving the 8.1 per cent growth target: fiscal deficit, hardening interest rates and inflation. The survey does indicate the general direction the Union Budget for the coming year may take.



EARLIER STORIES
Retrial is the only option
February 27, 2006
SYL issue can be resolved amicably, says Soz
February 26, 2006
Lalu on right track
February 25, 2006
Murder of justice
February 24, 2006
Truth as defence
February 23, 2006
French perfume
February 22, 2006
Teachers as vultures
February 21, 2006
Firmness on Iran
February 20, 2006
US and India: Time to think
February 19, 2006
The President speaks
February 18, 2006
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

The great railway leak
Punish those responsible for it
I
ronically, within three days of the Railway Budget presented to Parliament, the recruitment process for over 10,000 Group D posts in the Indian Railways got derailed following the leakage of the question papers at Lucknow on Sunday. The Uttar Pradesh police have arrested 18 people reportedly involved in the racket.

ARTICLE

Living with secularism
Political parties must look within
by S. Nihal Singh
S
ecularism in India comes in many shades and colours, but the manner in which the concept is being abused across the political spectrum should set alarm bells ringing. Nothing illustrates this better than the public speech of an Uttar Pradesh minister, Mr Yaqoob Qureshi, offering Rs 51 crore to anyone who beheads the Danish cartoonist who drew an insulting cartoon of Prophet Muhammad — in fact there were several cartoonists.

MIDDLE

Thank you, Air New Zealand!
by P. Lal
A
S I slipped my hand into the breast-pocket of the jacket, I froze. I had intended to take out the passport, instead, the fingers felt the plastic key card — the swipe-and-open device with a coded magnetic strip, used widely nowadays to unlock the rooms in modern hotels.

OPED

Nuke deal: country’s interests first
Scientists should drop we-know-all attitude
by Premvir Das
T
HERE is a segment of our political spectrum and scientific community which, for good reason or bad, feels that the country’s march towards nuclear capabilities will be severely constrained by the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

India offers better returns than China
by Sudhir Hindwan
D
UE to the pressure of all-round competition inspired by globalisation and liberalisation, comparisons between the economies of China and India have gained an overriding emphasis.

Delhi Durbar
Budget for ‘aam aadmi’?
N
O hike in passenger fares. No change in the income tax slab rate. These now seem to be a cliche. The “aam aadmi” doesn’t figure in the Budget at all. All the numbers in the Budget documents are aimed at appeasing the corporate world.

From the pages of

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Justice!
Jessica killed, accused freed, judge promoted

THE process for the elevation of Delhi Additional Sessions Judge S.L. Bhayana to the Delhi High Court must have started a long time ago. Possibly, he has the requisite merit and seniority. But coming as it does at a time when he has delivered a highly controversial judgement in the Jessica Lall murder case which has shocked the whole nation, this promotion has raised many eyebrows. The decision to acquit all the accused, to say the least, is disturbing. The judge appears to have gone strictly by the evidence given, without making any attempt to get the evidence that was actually needed. This may have been passable according to the letter of the law but missed the spirit by a wide margin.

Alarm bells should have started ringing in his mind when witness after witness was turning hostile. In such circumstances, a judge is very much within his right to steer the case in such a way that the possibility of influencing the witnesses through terror or inducement is ruled out. The conduct of the prosecution too should have alerted him, particularly in the light of the lead shown by the Supreme Court in the Gujarat riots cases. Had that happened, the questions now agitating the minds of the whole nation about the Jessica murder case would have never arisen.

There are certainly no motives attached to the judgement, but it does not enhance the prestige of the promotion policy. A person has been murdered in the presence of hundreds of people and still all accused stand acquitted. Ends of justice are not met merely by declaring the prime suspects not guilty. If the police is hell-bent on saving the culprits, it becomes the duty of the judge to play an active role and ferret out the truth. Unfortunately, that has not happened in this case. Given the lopsided investigation and shoddy prosecution, perhaps the judge’s decision was unexceptionable. But the question uppermost in everyone’s mind is whether he should have at all swallowed the lies that were being told by the police and the witnesses in his court. At stake is not only the question whether ends of justice have been met, but also the image of the judiciary.

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Towards lower taxes
Survey paints a rosy picture of economy

THE 2005-06 Economic Survey paints a rosy picture of the economy, but cautions the government against possible hurdles in achieving the 8.1 per cent growth target: fiscal deficit, hardening interest rates and inflation. The survey does indicate the general direction the Union Budget for the coming year may take. For instance, the survey advocates lowering of taxes and an end to distortions in exemptions that have not helped the industry. At the same time the revenue mop-up exercise may gain momentum. The service tax net is expected to be spread wider. Incidentally, the 18.8 per cent growth in tax collection during April-December 2005-06 has been the highest in the last five years. There is good news from the farm front: due to a good monsoon the foodgrain output will be higher this year, which makes the wheat import decision somewhat questionable.

The survey’s concern at the fiscal deficit, budgeted at 4.4 per cent of the GDP, is valid. Given the large spending proposed for the rural job scheme and Bharat Nirman, it can rise to worrying levels. Interestingly, the fiscal risk has led the Centre and states to expenditure compression of the wrong kind. That the interest rates were set to harden became clear after the RBI unfolded its monetary policy recently. The SBI has effected one hike in the interest rates for housing loans and hinted at another. This can impact growth in construction. Inflation, commendably managed by the UPA government so far, is in danger of an upswing, global oil prices being uncertain.

In the annual economic snapshot, the Finance Ministry outlines a road map. However, the governments are not bound to follow it, thus reducing the elaborate exercise to a ritual. Year after year the surveys have been pleading for user charges on public utilities, yet states dole out free power for political expediency. The advice on controlling unproductive expenditure, removing the power mess, simplifying taxation, raising the tax-GDP ratio and better targeting subsidies is conveniently ignored. Significantly, the survey warns of an adverse fallout from the Sixth Pay Commission on the Central and state finances.

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The great railway leak
Punish those responsible for it

Ironically, within three days of the Railway Budget presented to Parliament, the recruitment process for over 10,000 Group D posts in the Indian Railways got derailed following the leakage of the question papers at Lucknow on Sunday. The Uttar Pradesh police have arrested 18 people reportedly involved in the racket. However, many more people, including some officials too, seemed to be involved in the well-organised leak. Only a thorough inquiry by the CBI will help bring all those involved to book. No doubt, the authorities have cancelled the examination and said that a fresh examination date will be announced soon. However, one has to understand the grave agony — and not just inconvenience — caused to over six lakh candidates who were aspiring for a job in the railways.

What makes the leak particularly galling is the fact that the railway authorities do not seem to have learnt any lesson from a similar leak of question papers for the recruitment of railway gangmen in Bihar last year. No one knows what happened to the CBI probe ordered into that incident and how many were punished for the leak. Surprisingly, there is no accountability in the system and there is an impression that anybody can get away scot-free by committing any crime. As question papers get leaked with sickening regularity, people’s confidence in the system is getting eroded. Of what use are these tests if foolproof examination systems are not put in place?

Disturbingly, question paper leaks have become too common these days. The menace is not confined to the Railways alone. It has afflicted many institutions, including the IIMs and universities. Remember the leak of the Common Admission Test question papers in 2003? In this electronic age, is it difficult for the authorities to evolve a foolproof system? Considering the railways’ resources, it should not be difficult for them to adopt it. What is at stake is the image and credibility of the Indian Railways and their recruitment policy.

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Thought for the day

The lark’s on the wing;/The snail’s on the thorn;/

God’s in his heaven —/All’s right with the world!

— Robert Browning

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Living with secularism
Political parties must look within
by S. Nihal Singh

Secularism in India comes in many shades and colours, but the manner in which the concept is being abused across the political spectrum should set alarm bells ringing. Nothing illustrates this better than the public speech of an Uttar Pradesh minister, Mr Yaqoob Qureshi, offering Rs 51 crore to anyone who beheads the Danish cartoonist who drew an insulting cartoon of Prophet Muhammad — in fact there were several cartoonists.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, branded as communal by most other parties — less so today than in the past — was the only one that took issue with the minister in question. If the communist parties said anything louder than a whisper, it escaped me. The Congress did everything in trying to condemn it while not condemning it. The only party that took issue with the honourable state minister’s incitement to murder was the BJP, irrespective of the fact that it has its own agenda.

The UP Chief Minister, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, took the speech very much in his stride without losing his equanimity; the minister remains in his Cabinet. He left it to his party spokesmen to strike the minister on his wrist or to laugh it off as a frivolity. We have come to a sorry pass if a serving minister can incite a crowd publicly to ask for the execution of a cartoonist in a distant land, with the senior-most official of the state government hiding behind sophistry. There was the earlier stunning instance of the Central Cabinet Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, declaring from the housetops in Bihar that he would only favour a Muslim chief minister for Bihar. And he remains in the Central Cabinet.

This is dangerous for two reasons. It introduces permissiveness in political rhetoric that makes nonsense of the profession of secularism. Second, it seemingly validates the two charges the BJP makes against other parties that dismiss it as being communal: the Congress is pseudo-secular and it, together with other parties, treats Muslims as mere vote banks, instead of improving their lot.

It is well understood by one and all that with a substantial Muslim population and the historical memory of Partition, the country’s political parties need to be sensitive to the feelings and emotions of Muslims. India’s banning of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses did not invite much opposition, despite it being unjustified on purist grounds. But India has come to a sorry pass in dealing with Muslims or other minorities if most other political parties look the other way when a serving minister in a state Cabinet makes an outrageous statement in public without inviting retribution.

Mr Mulayam Singh’s, and other parties’, calculations are not difficult to decipher. He considers the Muslim vote in his state a mainstay for his party and other parties, including the Congress, do not want to ruffle Muslim feathers if they can help it. The Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Mrs Mayawati, was quick to get in on the act by demanding the recall of India’s ambassador to Denmark and asking the government to review its stand on the Iran issue. It suits the BJP to call a spade a spade — up to a point. Now in the opposition at the Centre, it is more interested in refurbishing its Hindutva credentials than in being all things to all communities and sects.

The Congress secularism has a hoary past. It was built on the belief that given India’s matrix, no other concept could bind the country. If Partition was a blow to the secularists, secularism did not lose its rationale because a partitioned India still possessed a bewildering variety of ethnic and religious diversity, including a sizable Muslim population. The BJP sought to rationalise its concept by defining Hindutva in philosophical terms and the compulsions of ruling the country for the first time, together with Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s persona, persuaded the party to seek uncomfortable compromises.

The blatant courting of the Muslim vote, in Uttar Pradesh, in Bihar or elsewhere, is a far cry from the concept of secularism. The Congress is the most culpable because it is the father of secularism and ever since the party lost the winning combination of Muslims, Harijans and the upper castes, it seems rudderless. True, caste, in addition to religious factors, has cast its long shadow on the electoral scene, but the Congress timidity in holding aloft the banner of secularism shows.

Where does the country go from here? Mr Qureshi continues to enjoy the perks of his UP ministership and Mr Paswan remains secure in the Central Cabinet, despite pronouncing religion as a badge of Bihar’s chief ministership. Historically, caste has served as a factor in elevating less advantaged sections of the population to leadership roles, with an accompanying baleful consequence of their being the new oppressors. But harking back to the religious divide to win votes will help us to arouse the demons of the past.

The Congress is in a cleft stick because it has lost support in the major Hindi-speaking states, largely because of Muslim disillusionment and the realisation by the lower castes that they can leverage their numbers to the benefit of their own narrowly based parties by winning office. But the answer surely is not to embrace what the BJP calls “minoritysm” and give credence to a new form of communal politics.

The answer lies in the Congress taking the lead in condemning loud and clear the kind of outrageous declarations made by Mr Qureshi or Mr Paswan. The difference between the two is that while the latter played the communal card in his unsuccessful efforts to win Muslim votes in Bihar, the former has publicly broken the law and all forms of political propriety in seeking the execution of a cartoonist. Ignoring such outrageous behaviour might be the easier option, but it can hardly enhance the Samajwadi Party’s, or India’s, credentials as a secular state.

Perhaps, it is time for civil society to goad political parties into reassessing their stance on the theory and practice of secularism. Turning a blind eye to the promotion of communalism or disregarding a sitting state minister’s outrageous statement because he is a Muslim is the worst of all options.

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Thank you, Air New Zealand!
by P. Lal

AS I slipped my hand into the breast-pocket of the jacket, I froze. I had intended to take out the passport, instead, the fingers felt the plastic key card — the swipe-and-open device with a coded magnetic strip, used widely nowadays to unlock the rooms in modern hotels.

This one had been made available to me in a hotel in Sydney where I had stayed for a few days, I had checked out of it a couple of hours back and driven down to Kingsfordsmith international airport, to board the Air New Zealand flight NZ 104 — Sydney to Auckland. It was January 26, 2006, 10 a.m. the flight had to depart at 12 noon (local time), and I had moved up to one of the Air New Zealand counters, to check in. Evidently, I had forgotten to hand over the key back at the hotel when I had moved out.

“May I help you, sir?”, the voice sounded music to me I looked up; the lady at the counter was all smiles.

“Yes,” I mumbled out, holding the card before her, “I missed handing over this key back at the hotel; I am booked on flight NZ 104; I don’t have the time to drive back and return it.”

She took the key card from me, read the telephone number of the hotel and dialled.

“I am calling from Air New Zealand,” she spoke into the phone, “I have here a guy who had been your guest, and is now our customer. He checked out from your hotel a short while ago but didn’t return the plastic key card. He is short on time and can’t go back. What should he do?”

After hearing from the other end, she put the phone down and advised me: “You may mail it to the hotel.”

Then, she took out an envelope from the drawer, wrote down on it the address of the hotel in her own hand, put the card in it and taped it.

“Now, sir, go straight”, she said, “and you will come across a postbox out there and a bookshop beside it. Get a 50=cent postage stamp from the shop, affix it here on the envelope and mail it.”

“And, sir,” she added, “don’t worry about your flight; there is plenty of time; you may come back to collect your boarding pass after you are done with it.” She gave a smile which further reassured me.

I did as she had instructed; a great burden had been taken off my head; after all, the hotel staff would not accuse me of having decamped with the key to the room.

Later on, while waiting in the departure lounge to board the plane with the boarding pass in hand and the baggage checked in, I reflected over the chain of events and wondered how the staff of our airlines or for that matter of any other organisation would have acted, in a similar situation, back in my own country.

Thank you, Air New Zealand!

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Nuke deal: country’s interests first
Scientists should drop we-know-all attitude
by Premvir Das

THERE is a segment of our political spectrum and scientific community which, for good reason or bad, feels that the country’s march towards nuclear capabilities will be severely constrained by the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

The thesis is that the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has acquired skills and capabilities through sustained and determined efforts and that this work would suffer grievously if we accept the conditions inherent in the proposed agreement. It is argued that by putting several of our reactors and fast breeders under safeguards, this is exactly what would happen.

Additionally, our strategic deterrent would be compromised as enriched uranium or plutonium from the reactors and facilities put under safeguard would not be available for the weapons programme. DAE Chairman Anil Kakodkar has himself stated something to this effect in an interview given to a newspaper.

The first thing to be conceded is that people like Dr Kakodkar did not get to become heads of the DAE simply by playing marbles. They are men of undeniable competence in their chosen professional expertise and know what they are talking about. Their loyalty to the nation and, indeed, to their vocation is also beyond doubt.

The question only is which of the two takes precedence should there be a conflict of interest. Since the early 1970s, the DAE and the Navy have been involved in a project which would lead to the development of a nuclear reactor suitable for powering submarines.

These, for obvious reasons, have to be much smaller than land-based power plants.This project, named 932, functioned under the DAE with some naval officers thrown in. Progress was slow when, in 1979, the naval officer assigned to the project, one Capt Subba Rao, reported to the Navy that the design being developed by the DAE was flawed and wholly unsuited for the purpose.

Subba Rao was no nuclear scientist and his knowledge of reactors was self acquired and, in the beginning, no one took him seriously. However, his arguments became persuasive and Adm Ronnie Pereira, the Naval Chief, took him to Dr Raja Ramanna, the Scientific Adviser to the Raksha Mantri, and, himself, a former head of the DAE. Dr Ramanna promised to have Subba Rao’s views examined by the DAE but the department made no change in its approach.

The CNS remained convinced that the objections raised by Captain Rao were valid and, thereafter, took little interest in Project 932. The DAE man controlling the project was one Dr Anil Kakodkar. Time was to show that the development of the reactor was, indeed, flawed. It had to be abandoned with great loss of money and time and a new approach had to be adopted.

For his efforts, Subba Rao was arrested by the Mumbai policy when leaving the country with some documents on nuclear reactors earlier published in a foreign magazine. The DAE certified that these documents could be ‘harmful’ to national security. The poor man languished in prison for over a year. He learnt law, argued his own case and was acquitted honourably with severe strictures being passed on the authorities.

Today, when we talk of the ATV project and its delays, it is easy to overlook that more than a decade was lost because the DAE, smitten by its we-know-all philosophy, failed, possibly refused, to objectively analyse the deficiencies highlighted to them by somebody outside the establishment.

The inability to shed the ‘I can do it cocoon’ at some time when it becomes clear that capability just does not exist, is the greatest bane and weakness of our scientific community. It has done India proud many times and in different fields, space being a prime example, but has left the country staggering at other times. The DAE falls in this latter category.

With less than 4000 MW of power generated today against a promised target of 10,000 MW by 2000, the DAE is unable to admit that there are factors which are preventing it from making the desired progress.

Clearly, skill and knowhow are not in short supply. The constraint lies in the availability of the required materials, the technology and the desired fuel. These are just not available, given the constraints of the non proliferation regime.

So, what is to be done? Do we keep on hoping against hope that someday some miracle will happen and these constraints will go away or that we will suddenly have access to all the fuel that we need indigenously, or should we look for opportunities and ways and means to overcome them so that the country begins to move forward at greater speed to create the nuclear energy that it needs?

We have to get access to technologies and material that are presently denied to us. This is a vital national interest and if this means placing our civilian power reactors under safeguard, this has to be accepted. Independence of the scientific community is good but is not a national interest. This is, assuming that it may be lost, which hardly seems likely.

As for the impact of the agreement on our strategic deterrence capabilities, the question is simple. The Cirus facility has been producing weapons grade fuel for close to 40 years. The Dhruva is more efficient and also produces weapons grade fuel.

What numbers and types of weapons can the stocks already available and being produced on a continuing basis, meet our needs of minimum deterrence, is the real issue.

If the answer is “enough”, then all other reactors and facilities can be put under safeguard to get us what we need desperately and without any adverse impact on our strategic concerns.

This is the crux of the matter. Everything else is hyperbole. And the truth, and Dr Kakodkar knows it better than most, is that what we have is much more than what we need for the type of deterrence that we want to create.

Scientists whether of the DRDO or DAE must rise above parochial fixations and seek to coalesce with the country’s interests. The DAE, particularly, has lived and flourished in an environment of total secrecy and permissiveness, with no scrutiny or check, even by a constitutional authority like the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, indeed, of the Parliament.

When dismissed Naval Chief Vishnu Bhagwat spoke of the need to audit the ATV project, a big noise about national security was made by many, including then Defence Minister George Fernandes, but the motivation and the prompting came from the DAE. Because Bhagwat was questioning, with good justification, the manner in which the Navy and, therefore, the country was being taken for a ride, without much scrutiny and without any accountability.

It has cost us dear at sea but let this not be repeated. Let us, by all means, ensure that our core national interests are secured and fight for them.

But let us not confuse them for the interests of the scientists in the DAE. The two are not synonymous. This should be the bottom line as we negotiate the nuclear agreement minefield. Running away from it will not help.

The writer is a former Director General, Defence Planning Staff.

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India offers better returns than China
by Sudhir Hindwan

DUE to the pressure of all-round competition inspired by globalisation and liberalisation, comparisons between the economies of China and India have gained an overriding emphasis.

Owing to competition, we witness today a syndrome of “perform or perish”. Surely the syndrome is affecting public sector enterprises and businesses the world over. A recent article by Dan Bilefsky in International Herald Tribune encourages one to think differently with an open mind.

It is not fair to treat India and China in one category of economic reforms because changes in these countries have followed strikingly diverse and varied courses.

China has been extremely aggressive in its economic reforms and started creating export-oriented special economic zones way back in 1978.

According to a World Bank Annual Report quoted by Prof Charan Wadhwa, a leading Economist, China had captured about 4 per cent of world trade share till year 2000. India could hardly manage to get about 0.7 per cent.

But India has strengthened its medium term export strategy for the period 2002-2007. Whereas India launched its economic reforms in 1991, China had started such reforms way back in 1978.

Although foreign direct investment is considerably higher in China than in India, investment returns are better in India due to its superior corporate pattern of clean governance and the high quality of commercially driven companies.

Besides, India’s indigenous entrepreneurs and industries will certainly give it a huge advantage over Chinese FDI. Chinese export-led manufacturing progress is mainly based on FDI, which is hardly a substitute for home-grown entrepreneurship.

Financial dealings are not as simple as they appear to be and require constant monitoring by the competent authorities. The malfunctioning of the financial system in Japan during the last couple of years or so turned out to be pernicious. This problem can be compounded by the lack of matured markets which are at times depressed and sometimes buoyant for no apparent reasons.

Undoubtedly, China’s high saving rate, good infrastructure and manufacturing forte are way ahead of India but this cannot be compared with India’s services-driven aggrandisement and institutional stability deeply interwoven in pluralism and democracy.

On the other hand, India has an extensive web of operational and support network, ranging from the rural to urban areas that ensures a much higher rate of return on assets.

During the post-1991 era economic reforms in India made significant strides in a number of areas, including knowledge and skill-based intensive services such as telecommunication, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, professional services of doctors, teachers and management professionals etc.

According to a report prepared by Goldman Sachs published in April, 2004, in the next couple of decades or so, India and China would certainly emerge as major economies in the world.

The report also concedes that in the long run India will emerge even bigger and gradually overshadow China. The transformation of India into one of the world’s leading economies is a phenomenal achievement.

Foreign investors have already pumped in a huge amount, more than $ 23 billion in the Indian stock markets and about 245 new foreign investors have registered with the stock market regulating body (SEBI) during the last three years.

In addition to this as many as 600 new investors were granted permission to trade on the Indian stock exchanges consequently leading to a 125 per cent growth in the Sensex and a 148 per cent rise in Bombay Stock Exchange.

According to the recent Nasscom report, quoted by Stephen David, India controls 44 per cent of global offshore outsourcing market for software with a revenue of $17.2 billion in 2004-2005. The stupendous progress of India in the IT industry has opened a new era of Indian companies aggressively capturing overseas markets.

Notwithstanding its limitation, in all fairness it should be acknowledged that overall the Indian economic reforms represent a move in the right direction, but to leave an indelible mark across the globe we must attempt to expand the network of economic liberalisation and emerge from the shadow of criticism but of course with caution.

Economic reforms with a humane and receptive approach involving educational facilities, jobs and development of new channels of communication and FDI will certainly give birth to a new system of status evolution as an economic giant of the world.

The writer teaches political science at Panjab University, Chandigarh.

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Delhi Durbar
Budget for ‘aam aadmi’?

NO hike in passenger fares. No change in the income tax slab rate. These now seem to be a cliche. The “aam aadmi” doesn’t figure in the Budget at all. All the numbers in the Budget documents are aimed at appeasing the corporate world.

The man on the street, with inflation rising and salaries not keeping pace with it, finds his burden increasing with each passing day.

“Aam aadmi” finds it difficult to reconcile his balance sheet as debit and credit do not tally. The zooming sensex may invoke awe among investors, “aam aadmi” is concerned abut skyrocketing prices of vegetables. Will the “aam aadmi” figure in the UPA Budget?

Lalu Yadav Bihar-centric?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appreciates Lalu Prasad Yadav’s earthy sense of economics and keeping the “aam aadmi” at the core of the country’s lifeline.

Presenting the railway budget for 2006-07 in Parliament on Friday, Lalu singled out the Prime Minister for his support and accused a highly agitated Opposition of being jealous of him.

Lalu was quick to point out after the budget that all East-bound trains had necessarily to traverse through his home state. He claimed care had been taken to cater to the Hindi heartland, Western, Southern, Central and Northeastern regions.

Lalu was indeed perturbed at the charge of his being only Bihar-centric.

Naidu loses, regains room

Former BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu is quite annoyed at being divested of his room at the party’s headquarters in the national Capital.

Naidu was excluded at his own request from the new list of office-bearers but found to his chagrin that he had been divested of his room at 11 Ashoka Road as well. His room had been allotted to party Vice-President Bal Apte, who found it far more spacious than the previous one.

Without wasting time, Naidu drew pointed attention to all concerned that he was still part of the numerous top-level BJP committees and fully deserved the room he used to occupy.

Embarrassed, the BJP office administrative staff hastily restored his room to him. However, no one seems to know how and why the decision to divest Naidu of his room was taken in the first instance.

Left, BJP coming closer?

Are the Left leaders trying to build bridges with the BJP, which they have always categorised as communal? Just the other day the BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi shared the stage with the CPI’s AB Bardhan.

Then in the Rajya Sabha, the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury keen to hear President A P J Abdul Kalam’s speech found no place other than the one next to the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj. A seemingly uncomfortable Yechuri sat next to Swaraj and got deeply involved in conversation with her. The experience did not bring about any change in the perceived stripes of the Left leaders.

Contributed by R Suryamurthy, S Satyanarayanan and Prashant Sood.

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From the pages of

June 15, 1929

Assembly bomb case

THE judge who heard the Assembly Bomb case appears, from the summary of his judgement in the case, to have taken particular pains to prove the heinousness of the offences with which the two accused were charged. Whatever the requirements of law in such a case might be, the general public were in no need of being satisfied on this point. Regarding the seriousness of the charge against the accused, namely, that they threw live bombs into an occupied building with the intention of causing death, there could, indeed, be no two opinions. The sole questions for determination, in the opinion of the man in the street, were whether the two accused where guilty of the offence with which they were charged, and, secondly, if either or both of them were guilty, what sentences could appropriately be inflicted on them.

The fact that the case was heard with the aid of assessors and not jurors was more or less accidental, and could not materially affect the requirements of justice and equity. The public is bound to attach substantially the same importance to the opinion of the assessors as would have been attached to the opinion of jurors, had the case been tried by a jury.

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