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EDITORIALS

Consensus is welcome
Office of profit has to be clearly defined
W
hat should have been done a long time back is finally being attempted now. A consensus is sought to be built to bring a Bill in the reconvened Budget session of Parliament for clearly defining what constitutes an “office of profit”.

Pitfalls of PIL
Cannot be misused for private interest

D
elhi High Court Chief Justice Markandeya Katju has rightly asked the judges to admit public interest litigation petitions “with great care and circumspection”.

Bull’s-eye!
Now, on to Delhi
I
ndia has much to cheer for, and much to look forward to, at the end of the XVIII Commonwealth Games at Melbourne. As thoughts turn to New Delhi, which will host the Games in 2010, the nation can take stock of its haul of medals.







EARLIER STORIES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
ARTICLE

Sonia wins her spurs
Congress, BJP not in the pink of health
by S. Nihal Singh
I
t is ironical that the two main political formations in the country, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, are suffering from sclerosis. Take the Congress. In their wisdom, the party’s managers thought it best suddenly to adjourn the two Houses of Parliament even as the air was thick with reports of an impending ordinance retrospectively to redefine the term office of profit.

MIDDLE

Platform No.1
by Manmohan Kaur
O
n the dot of 10 a.m. Rajdhani Express from Bombay arrived at the New Delhi railway station. There were a few hours at my disposal before I could board the train for my onward journey.

OPED

Govt gets a human face
by Shubhadeep Choudhury
C
ompared to his predecessors, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is different in many respects. Some of his predecessors were known for being wily, arrogant and greedy.

Coping with sleepless nights
by Oliver Duff
A
survey research provides reassurance for those who toss and turn in the early hours, rearranging bed clothes, counting sheep or drinking hot milk. But it also supports doctors’ concerns about the health implications of sleep deprivation.

Delhi Durbar
Sahib Singh’s baggage

Having being given charge of the BJP unit in Himachal Pradesh, former Union minister Sahib Singh Verma has taken his job too seriously.

  • Uma Bharati at it again

  • Soz takes up water issue

  • A compromise in Kerala

From the pages of


 REFLECTIONS

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EDITORIALS

Consensus is welcome
Office of profit has to be clearly defined

What should have been done a long time back is finally being attempted now. A consensus is sought to be built to bring a Bill in the reconvened Budget session of Parliament for clearly defining what constitutes an “office of profit”. Had the party managers responsible for parliamentary affairs been careful, they would not have ended up with the Sonia Gandhi resignation egg on their face. She and Mrs Jaya Bachchan are not the only ones caught up in the avoidable mess. There are over 40 MPs alone holding offices of profit, besides MLAs belonging to various parties. That will ensure that the Bill will have a convenient passage. In any case, that is how things should be in a parliamentary democracy. Parliament is very much within its rights to delineate what constitutes an office of profit and what posts are exempted from this definition. It has stepped in many times in the past, but in a piecemeal manner.

The result is that there is utter confusion. The Centre has its own list and the states have their own. Since there is so much variation, there are no effective checks and balances. The list should be drawn so clearly and comprehensively that there is no scope whatsoever for any vagueness and the resultant loopholes. Uniformity will also make sure that there are no accusations of partiality.

The curbs on those who occupy offices of profit should be applied before they take oath as MPs or MLAs. The presiding officers or the Home Ministry can take an undertaking from the incumbent representatives that they are not occupying any such position. There are reports that the Home Secretary conducted such a check in the case of Shyam Benegal before his induction into the Rajya Sabha. The amended law should make such a check mandatory before a new MP takes his seat in the House. In the case of special contingencies where an exemption becomes absolutely necessary, a more satisfactory system should be evolved than the present arrangement which can lead to controversies.
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Pitfalls of PIL
Cannot be misused for private interest

Delhi High Court Chief Justice Markandeya Katju has rightly asked the judges to admit public interest litigation (PIL) petitions “with great care and circumspection”. There is no doubt that the time the courts are spending on hearing PILs these days could be utilised judiciously in the disposal of genuine cases. Very recently, the two-member Bench consisting of Justice Katju and Justice S.N. Dhingra quashed a PIL from a general surgeon against the appointment of another doctor as secretary, Medical Council of India. Terming this petition as “curious”, the Bench said that the petitioner did not have any locus standi to file PIL. There is no denying that PILs have induced a sense of accountability in the executive. However, deplorably, most of them are filed by vested interests either for political or private gains, and sometimes for cheap publicity. In a ruling last year, the Supreme Court minced no words in maintaining that several PILs are “nothing short of blackmail”.

Significantly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while commending the mechanism of PIL as a weapon of social justice, has also voiced concern about its misuse by vested interests. Addressing the Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts in New Delhi recently, he called for a “balanced approach” in taking up PILs so that these, instead of becoming tools for “obstruction, delay and even harassment”, could be used as instruments for “rectifying public ills”.

In the light of the PIL’s increasing misuse, the courts need to regulate its use by following the Supreme Court’s guidelines in letter and spirit. They must ensure that the petitioner is acting really in public interest and prevent its misuse by politicians and others to delay legitimate administrative action. Even while admitting a letter as PIL, the courts must ensure that it is addressed by an aggrieved person, a public- spirited individual or a social action group for enforcement of the constitutional and legal rights of, say, a person in custody. It is indeed an effective remedy available at a cheaper cost to citizens, but it ought not to be used as a substitute for normal litigation or as a means to file frivolous complaints.
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Bull’s-eye!
Now, on to Delhi

India has much to cheer for, and much to look forward to, at the end of the XVIII Commonwealth Games at Melbourne. As thoughts turn to New Delhi, which will host the Games in 2010, the nation can take stock of its haul of medals. The final tally of 50 at fourth position is not bad; though we are way behind the leader, Australia, with 217. But that does not tell the whole story. The way our shooters were going, as bull’s-eye after bull’s-eye was ripped up and clay discs shattered in the Australian sun, it looked as if they might snap up every medal in sight.

The star was of course one sharp-shooting CISF inspector, Samresh Jung, with five Golds, and it was fitting that he became the first Indian to receive the outstanding athlete of the games award. He may not have broken the all time record for maximum gold medals, but that can be something to look forward to when competing on home territory. Team mates like Vijay Kumar, Gagan Narang, and Chandigarh boy Abhinav Bindra, not to mention a certain Mrs Anuja Jung, were an equally trigger-happy lot. Olympian R. S. Rathore showed that excellence is no fluke. Doping scandals again marred India’s performance at the weight lifting competitions, but fans can take heart at Kunjarani’s terrific lift.

We are not doing as well as we should be in the athletic events, and that is something which calls for a rededication of effort from our sporting fraternity. The process should begin now, and the aim should be to identify potential medal-winners from across the country, and institutionalise a network that would take them into its fold and groom them to compete with the best. India’s showing at the closing ceremony was an emotional moment, and New Delhi should seize the momentum and make sure that infrastructure shortcomings do not mar the 2010 games. At current growth rates, in 2010, India would have truly arrived. With a little vision, the XIX Commonwealth Games in New Delhi can be India’s event in every way.
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Thought for the day

A mere copier of nature can never produce anything great. — Joshua Reynolds

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ARTICLE

Sonia wins her spurs
Congress, BJP not in the pink of health
by S. Nihal Singh

It is ironical that the two main political formations in the country, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, are suffering from sclerosis. Take the Congress. In their wisdom, the party’s managers thought it best suddenly to adjourn the two Houses of Parliament even as the air was thick with reports of an impending ordinance retrospectively to redefine the term office of profit.

The Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Bachchan had lost her Rajya Sabha seat on the technical ground of holding an office of profit, and her mentors in the party and the BJP trained their guns on Mrs Sonia Gandhi on the same ground without anyone being sure that the chairmanship of the National Advisory Council attracts the disqualification provision. The BJP, of course, believes that her foreign birth is sufficient ground for targeting her.

Apart from the Samajwadi Party, the Telugu Desam and others climbed on to the BJP bandwagon. The fat was in the fire — or so they believed. Like pulling a rabbit out of the hat, Mrs Gandhi was ready with her renunciation act, less dramatic than her declining the office of Prime Minister some two years earlier, but potent none the less.

The BJP, playing draughts rather than chess, was taken by surprise and did not quite know how to react. It had made much of the impending ordinance, even dragging ailing former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Rashtrapati Bhawan to petition the President. The ordinance was left hanging in the air and the BJP was confused and spoke in different voices. It had personalised the issue so blatantly that it was left panting.

The Congress problem is its feudal character. The Independence movement had given the party a grassroots reach and following. But Indira Gandhi’s style of functioning, seeking quick results through wheeler-dealers and preparing to anoint her younger son Sanjay, had transformed the party. She split the party twice, the first time to assert her primacy and in the second case to announce the importance of being Indira Gandhi.

Whether Jawaharlal Nehru sedulously opened the way for family succession, as Morarji Desai and many others believed, or not, the Nehru-Gandhi family became the font of power, except for brief interregnums. The compact was — and remains to this day — that the leader will win votes for the party and propel it to power. In a sense, P.V. Narasimha Rao’s ability to be Prime Minister was determined in part by the sympathy vote following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

Despite widespread misgivings, Mrs Sonia Gandhi has astutely carried on the family’s legacy, first by single-handedly traversing the country in the campaign for the last parliamentary elections, then by decisively rejecting the office of Prime Minister, and now by saving the Congress party’s face by taking herself out of the target area fondly and vociferously prepared by the BJP and other opponents. She has earned her spurs.

The BJP, on the other hand, came to power on the strength of Mr L.K. Advani’s blood-curdling rath yatra in 1990, converting the evocative issue of the Ram temple in Ayodhya into votes from a Hindutva-fired electorate. The Babri mosque was demolished by charged crowds of BJP followers, but the BJP came to power for the first time at the Centre, the motley coalition presided over by the patrician figure of Mr Vajpayee, with his calculated benign approach.

The very fact of keeping the coalition together was an achievement. Obviously, the BJP’s Hindutva agenda had to be relegated to the backburner in order to make the coalition work. The greatest surprise for the BJP and perhaps many others was that it lost the election to the Congress, and the party’s six years in power proved such a heady mixture for the leadership that it has been trying to recover ever since.

The hardliners in the Sangh Parivar, in particular the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, sharpened their knives. Mr Vajpayee being given the status of leader emeritus, Mr Advani took centrestage, as the Leader of the Opposition and party president. Confidently, he set out on his emotional Pakistan journey and, in an effort to reinvent himself as Vajpayee Edition II, praised Pakistan’s founder M.A. Jinnah as a secular person.

The rest, as they say, is history. The RSS called him to account, stripped him of the BJP presidency although he retains the post of Leader of the Opposition for the time being. And in an effort to regain centre-stage, he announced two yatras, instead of the traditional one, to protest against the terrorist killings in Varanasi, blaming them on the government’s soft approach.

Mr Advani was perhaps living in the dream world of hope; since the 1990 yatra had proved so productive, the two yatras would also prove beneficial. Mercifully, the Congress-led government handed him an issue by adjourning the two Houses although the party remains mired in fighting loud dissenters of the likes of Ms Uma Bharati and Mr Madanlal Khurana. The second rung of the party is still clamouring for power, with the new party president, Mr Rajnath Singh, having failed to make an impression.

Given the state of the two main parties, where does it lead the country to? The Congress remains feudal in structure with The Leader calling the shots she or he wants to. Indeed, it is logical to assume that after Sonia, it will be Rahul Gandhi. Mrs Gandhi has announced her intention to contest from her old constituency in Uttar Pradesh again. Perhaps her second act of renunciation will give the party some more seats the next time around; its present strength in the state is embarrassingly small. The Congress is fortunate that Mrs Gandhi has developed a surprising degree of political astuteness to guide the party.

The future of the BJP is less easy to divine. Mr Advani’s political future is an area of diminishing return. If Mr Rajnath Singh’s elevation was determined by the forthcoming UP poll, he will probably step down after the assembly election, and it is uncertain whether the party will do spectacularly, given the caste and communal hold of parties such as the Samajwadi Party and Ms Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party. The struggle among the second rung leaders would then intensify.

The irony is that the greater the hold of the RSS on the BJP, the farther it will be from power. And if the party’s mentor gives its blessing to Ms Bharati, who claims to embody the true spirit of Hindutva, it would remain in the wilderness a while longer. The overall scenario is hardly propitious for a healthy two-party system of governance.

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MIDDLE

Platform No.1
by Manmohan Kaur

On the dot of 10 a.m. Rajdhani Express from Bombay arrived at the New Delhi railway station. There were a few hours at my disposal before I could board the train for my onward journey. I had planned to visit a friend in the intervening period but the sea of humanity on the railway station and the fear of traffic jam and of hazardous road of Delhi made me change my schedule.

The coolie picked up my luggage and we moved towards the waiting rooms on platform number one. As we reached near the waiting rooms the coolie suggested that mahila (women) waiting room would be better for me.

Following his advice I entered the waiting room which, to say the least, was Mahila personified, where women of all ages and hues were seated waiting to board the next train. Some of them were with books and magazines while others were walking out of the room, their place being taken by the new arrivals.

Food was being brought by the men accompanying the women passengers. They, however, were not allowed to sit in the waiting room. The attendant immediately after the food was delivered asked the men to leave the room.

No sooner I tried to make myself comfortable with a book, a voice shouted: “Deposit the money before you go in. This is private and you cannot use it unless you pay”. This was an attendant sitting at the entrance of the toilets and baths attached to the waiting room. She would not let anybody step in till they had paid the money.

The attendant was not only rude to the passengers but was also crude in her behaviour. The rate list was hung on the wall of the toilets and one could only read it after entering the toilet block. Unmindful of the rate list which listed Re 1 for the use of toilet and Rs 2 for bath etc, the attendant had her own rates. She charged Re 1 from some and Rs 2 from those who were unaware of the rates and from the foreigners, she asked for Rs 4. It looked she was making at least upward of Rs 1000 a day.

Levy on the use of toilet, perhaps, was fixed to ensure cleanliness by the attendant. But she never moved from her chair. After two to three hours a boy came who wiped water around the wash basins and walked away. Passengers kept on grumbling that the toilets were dirty but this did not have any effect on the attendant who was only interested in collecting money.

As if the passengers were not harassed enough, there came an announcement by the attendant (at the entrance of the waiting room), another person who behaved like a jailer, to say that there were rats in the waiting room and the passengers should be careful. The rats were all over the place which made it difficult for women to have their meals in peace or to sit with ease.

Is it possible to make this prestigious New Delhi railway station, in the capital of the country, a pleasant place for travellers?
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OPED

Govt gets a human face
by Shubhadeep Choudhury

Mr Hooda puts the ball in the opponent's court
Mr Hooda puts the ball in the opponent's court.
— A Tribune photo

Compared to his predecessors, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is different in many respects. Some of his predecessors were known for being wily, arrogant and greedy. Mr Hooda, on the other hand, has given the government a human face which is arguably his most significant achievement since he became the Chief Minister one year ago.

For a change, stories about greed and arrogance of the Chief Minister or his family members are not part of casual conversations of citizens.

Hopefully, the culture brought about by the Chief Minister will be a lasting phenomenon and prevent future regimes from reverting to the autocratic mould characteristic of Haryana.

The Chief Minister, who took time off from his early morning badminton games to talk to this reporter, said the image change of the state government had been a key to attracting industrial investments in the state.

While the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to be set up by the Reliance group was already under way, proposals for three more SEZs are under consideration of the Commerce Ministry, Mr Hooda said.

The state government has also decided to set up four industrial townships like Manesar in Gurgaon district. The new townships will come up in Ambala, Faridabad and Rohtak districts, he said.

Industry was hesitant to come to a state where the political leadership would extort money, the Chief Minister said.

Haryana was having the locational advantage and it could attract investment if the government and its leadership acted in a fair manner.

“A tyrant is as much feared by people as he is feared by investors”, Mr Hooda said.

In other words, Mr Hooda is happy to make a break with the highly feudal style of functioning that was the hallmark of some of his predecessors.

The Congress Chief Minister, hand-picked by the party President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, for the job, is laying the foundation of individual freedom and popular democracy in the state.

There is, however, one front on which the state government is facing a lot of criticism. The shortage of electricity in the state is giving fodder to the government’s detractors while ordinary people are also fed up with the problem.

Not that any of the previous governments of Haryana had a great track record so far as power availability in the state was concerned. For the present government also the power scene is definitely posing a challenge.

The Chief Minister said his plan was to make the state self-reliant in power by having enough generation capacity within the state. “For this we are trying to set up a number of plants using coal or gas and other materials as fuel”, Mr Hooda said.

He said last summer the situation was particularly bad because of problems in the northern grid. “Hopefully, this summer would be better”, the Chief Minister said and added that work on upgradation of the electricity distribution network in the state had been also stepped up.

His vision, Mr Hooda said, was to make Haryana a modern state with maximum employment opportunities and minimum social injustice. Rapid industrialisation would create employment in mother units as well as in the supporting units, the Chief Minister said.

He added that decisions such as the introduction of English at the primary level and roping in private industry for giving industrial training to students had been taken in view of the emerging situation in the state.

To make sure that agriculturists did not suffer from industrialisation, the government had enhanced the compensation to land holders for acquisition of their land by the government for requirement of industry.

“For instance, earlier the state government would have given only Rs 150 crore to landowners for acquisition of their land for the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal expressway. In the new rate, the landowners would get more than Rs 600 crore”, the Chief Minister said.

On the social justice front, the government had granted accelerated seniority to Scheduled Castes employees and initiated positive steps to empower women, including an all-women university in the state.

“A government must be democratic and compassionate so that ordinary people are not afraid of it”, says the Chief Minister.
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Coping with sleepless nights
by Oliver Duff

A survey research provides reassurance for those who toss and turn in the early hours, rearranging bed clothes, counting sheep or drinking hot milk. But it also supports doctors’ concerns about the health implications of sleep deprivation.

Insomniacs’ ailments include poor concentration, memory lapses, mood swings and the increased risk of obesity, diabetes, depression, divorce and bad car crashes. (Drivers falling asleep at the wheel account for one in six crashes resulting in injury or death.)

The survey for the British breakfast television show GMTV questioned 7,000 people about their nocturnal habits.

Just 19 per cent slept for the recommended eight hours, while four in five people said they did not feel refreshed when they woke up. Two-thirds complained their partner snored, but only two in five were prepared to admit to snoring themselves.

The most annoying (sleep-related) habit between the sheets was a partner snoring, followed by restlessness, sleep talking and teeth grinding. One per cent were unfortunate enough to be kept awake by their bedfellow breaking wind.

The new research is opportune. This week has been declared “National Nap at Work Week”, promoting the “health and productivity benefits” of a daytime power nap (defined as an hour or less of snoozing). Those tempted to pack a pillow in their briefcase may be interested to know that scientists at Harvard University found that catching 40 winks on the job boosted mental performance.

Fatigued New Yorkers have MetroNaps, which provides “midday rest facilities” on the 24th floor of the Empire State Building. Just $14 (Ł8) buys 20 minutes in a pod with headphones, herbal inhalers, sleep masks and “slumber bedtime milk”. Such facilities are expected soon in the UK.

Professor Fred Zijlstra, from Surrey University’s Sleep Research Centre, said the increase in those suffering sleeplessness was down to the office encroaching on home time. “People work ever-longer hours and then take files home or check their e-mails in the evening,” he said. “New technology means they are on call 24/7.”

The waking game

* Crying babies mean new mothers average three-and-a-half hours’ sleep a night - two less than their parents had.

* Sleeplessness may be hereditary: scientists have discovered the gene which allows some people to sleep for as little as three hours without ill effects.

* The old adage about not letting the sun go down on wrath is apt: anxiety about work, relationships or money is a common complaint by insomniacs to their GPs

* Scientists found that men’s sexual stamina may be directly related to genes that control the body clock.  — The Independent
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Delhi Durbar
Sahib Singh’s baggage

Having being given charge of the BJP unit in Himachal Pradesh, former Union minister Sahib Singh Verma has taken his job too seriously.

With nearly 100 of his staunch and raucous supporters in tow, Verma proposed making a beeline to the hill state to take stock of the party unit which is yet to recover from its defeat in the last elections.

This put the HP leaders of the BJP in a quandary over making arrangements for nearly 100 people tagging along with Verma.

Without wasting any time, the HP unit of the party rushed to the national Capital and alerted BJP President Rajnath Singh that it was not possible for them to cater to such a huge delegation descending from the party headquarters.

Word was quickly conveyed from Rajnath Singh’s side to Verma that it would be advisable to shed the excess baggage and travel a trifle light.

Uma Bharati at it again

Uma Bharati, expelled from the BJP last year for anti-party activities, has named former party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu for betraying the temple agenda.

The former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister said They floated the idea that if the temple issue was raked up, it might lead to disintegration of the NDA and feared that it could lead to losing the general election.

Uma Bharati said the stalwarts in the BJP such as L.K. Advani and Vajpayee were dominated by "political managers". This, she said, had led to the weakening of the party.

Indicating that she would launch her new party on April 30 in Varanasi, she said: "Based on our basic principles, I am confident that in 10 years time we would be on the centrestage of Indian politics, and those who have given up the party ideology would be wiped out from politics."

Soz takes up water issue

Even in the best of times it is not easy dealing with the highly contentious issue of sharing river waters. Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz has taken the lead in water conservation activities. He hails from Jammu and Kashmir which is one of the richest states in water resources.

And that means he will also have to deal with Pakistan with problems arising between the two neighbours on the Baghliar dam and the larger Indus Water Treaty. While being felicitated at a meeting of former foreign secretaries and diplomats, Soz appealed to them to keep him posted with their suggestions.

Considering the fact that there were more than one score erstwhile career diplomats at the meeting, Soz will definitely have plentiful reading material on water.

A compromise in Kerala

When it was almost certain that the Communist backed-LDF was certain to come back to power, the ugly face of power struggle raised its head in the so-called disciplined cadre of the red brigade.

One would not have imagined that Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan would not even get the party ticket to contest the poll.

But the CPM is different. The people in the highly literate state did not take the diktat lying down and mandarins of the A.K. Gopalan Bhavan had to take note of the popular perception.

As a compromise, both Achuthanandan and the party’s state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan were asked to contest the poll.

Who will be the next CM is a vital question as the party’s theoreticians in Delhi would decide, not the people of “God’s own country.”

Contributed by Prashant Sood, S Satyanarayanan and R Suryamurthy
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From the pages of

November 24, 1935

Ban on Hindi & Gurmukhi

Sargodha, Nov 22: A public meeting of the Hindu and Sikhs of Miani, District Sargodha, was held on the 17th of November, 1935, at 5 p.m. Lala Shiv Das Mal, retired Judge, was in the chair. The meeting condemned the circular of the Frontier (N.W.F.P.) Government regarding the ban on Hindi and Gurmukhi as medium of instruction in the Primary classes and requested the said Government to withdraw the same as soon as possible.
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The senses are said to be superior to the body, the mind is superior to the senses, the intellect is superior to the mind, knowledge is superior to the intellect, and the Self is superior to knowledge. Thus, knowing the Self to be superior to the intellect, and controlling the mind by the intellect, and controlling the mind by the intellect that is purified by spiritual practice, one must kill lust.

— Bhagvad Gita

A person who shows honesty in some of his dealings, but is not scrupulous about it to the minutest degree and does not observe all good rules, is not gifted with the moral quality but acts out of habit in obedience to the natural inclination and without applying the faculty of reason.

— Islam

Karma is what the soul undergoes in one of two ways, according to whether its actions are virtuous or not; but both kinds subsist until the end of enjoyment in this world.

— Sanatana Dharma

Material objects have symbols; not so the spirit. The how can we see it with our physical senses?

 — The Upanishads
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