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EDITORIALS

Not by lathi blows
Medicos’ strike needs humane response

U
nion
Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh has debunked the medicos’ agitation as “propaganda”. One wonders what name he will give to the police atrocities on these young men and women protesting against the reservations.

Agni-III
If ready, go ahead with the test
I
ndia’s nuclear deterrent, with a declared no-first-use policy, rests on our ability to survive a nuclear attack, and the certainty of delivering a nuclear payload in a punitive, second strike.




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Powerless in the North
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Punish the guilty
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Chautala & Sons
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Bloated babudom
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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Lost in dust
Rare manuscripts need better care
P
UNJABI University, Patiala, has the rare distinction of having been named after a language. It would thus seem to be a fitting repository of the manuscripts of Prof Puran Singh, whose passionate verses have fired the imagination of generations of Punjabis.
ARTICLE

Policy vs dogma
Can Budha always have his way?
by Amulya Ganguli
T
here is an uncanny resemblance between Mr Budhadev Bhattacharjee’s line in West Bengal and some aspects of the BJP’s recent formulations, although the Chief Minister and the party of Hindutva are poles apart in political terms.

MIDDLE

Excel and suffer
by Syed Nooruzzaman
H
E was busy reading a book in a corner of his shop. It was a public call office (PCO) in that small UP town. We were there in connection with some family problem and wanted to make a phone call. But we thought the call could wait; it would be interesting to talk to the young man first.

OPED

No compromise on Siachen
Withdrawal without authentication would be a monumental folly
by Lt Gen (retd) Vijay Oberoi
T
he countdown for the next round of discussions between India and Pakistan, later this month, has started. Perhaps the biggest issue exercising the minds of political pundits, defence analysts and the media is the question of demilitarising Siachen.

Record opium harvest in Afghanistan
by Tom Coghlan in Grishk, Helmand Province
T
WO hours drive from the Afghan city of Kandahar, in Helmand province, a combination of factors have conspired to produce what is probably Helmand’s biggest ever opium harvest.

Delhi Durbar
Dynastic imperative
T
HE record win by Congress President Sonia Gandhi in the by-election from Raeareli, and son Rahul Gandhi’s triumphant performance as her campaign manager, has again galvanised sycophantic Congressmen to demand that the Nehru-Gandhi family take centre stage.

  • Ministerial reservation

  • Path to future glory

  • A judge and a lady

From the pages of


 REFLECTIONS

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Not by lathi blows
Medicos’ strike needs humane response

Union Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh has debunked the medicos’ agitation as “propaganda”. One wonders what name he will give to the police atrocities on these young men and women protesting against the reservations. The way lathis were rained on them reminded one of a similar shocking incident in Gurgaon not too long ago when Honda workers were meted out a similarly barbaric treatment. If the agitation by the doctors is “one-sided” in Mr Arjun Singh’s wisdom, what has his government done to make it an issue that by the very nature of it requires wider discussion and approval. Any frank and sympathetic dialogue would have prevented the state of affairs from taking such an ugly turn. Instead of clearing the mess, men like Mr Arjun Singh — for reasons known to him — stoked the fire by dubbing the agitation as a drama enacted for the benefit of TV cameras. This is an exercise in cynical politics being resorted to by one of the seniormost members of the Manmohan Singh government.

Ironically, he and former Union Minister Sharad Yadav have been venting their spleen at the National Knowledge Commission also for having opposed the reservations. Here too they have taken recourse to hyperbole by alleging that the commission was “trying to be more powerful than the Constitution”. They need to be reminded that the reservation for the OBCs in institutions of higher learning is yet to become a law and, like everyone else, the commission is very much within its right to express its views on its pros and cons. In fact, it is its duty to apprise the Prime Minister of the likely consequences of introducing it. It is the HRD Minister’s bad luck if an important commission like the Knowledge Commission is opposed to his views that are yet to become a policy decision of the Cabinet of which he is only one member.

Actually, it is Mr Arjun Singh himself who has jumped the gun by uncorking the reservation genie without taking the Cabinet approval. Since his personal agenda does not have the societal acceptance and rather has the potential to cause a nationwide crisis, it will be pragmatic to defer the entire debate for the time being. Leave alone increasing the quota, there is need for taking a dispassionate look at how the reservations already in place have helped the downtrodden. 

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Agni-III
If ready, go ahead with the test

India’s nuclear deterrent, with a declared no-first-use policy, rests on our ability to survive a nuclear attack, and the certainty of delivering a nuclear payload in a punitive, second strike. While advanced aircraft like the Sukhoi-30 constitute one means of delivery, for a truly credible second strike posture, long-range missiles are a must. This is why it is important that India goes ahead and tests Agni-III. Having been in development for quite some time, and building on the earlier versions, one would indeed expect the DRDO to be ready and waiting for Agni-III to be fired up at the earliest.

As a policy, nuclear weapons are intended for deterrence. Such deterrence is entirely about credibility – of the nuclear payload and its delivery systems. While Agni-II has a range of about 3000 kilometres, thus qualifying as an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), given our regional security context, we do need an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Agni-III is intended to have a range in excess of 5000 kilometres. Range is not just about which country we want to hit. It is also about dispersal of assets, in order to ensure that enemy strikes do not take out our ability to hit back, and the ability to defend the length and breadth of the mainland, and the far-flung islands. We should put the enormous strategic depth that we are lucky to possess to good use to give our nuclear deterrent greater credibility.

Some reports suggest that Agni-III/IV, or at least associated technologies, are also about possessing a submarine launched-ballistic missile (SLBM) capability. Moreover, in any missile, technologies for propulsion, guidance systems, the re-entry vehicles, and so on need physical tests to validate. Certainly, its political fall-out, both regional and global, should be managed with care. Peace talks with Pakistan and the negotiations on the Indo-US nuclear deal in the US Congress are unlikely to be affected, as both countries know that India has been developing Agni-III for quite some time.

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Lost in dust
Rare manuscripts need better care

PUNJABI University, Patiala, has the rare distinction of having been named after a language. It would thus seem to be a fitting repository of the manuscripts of Prof Puran Singh, whose passionate verses have fired the imagination of generations of Punjabis. The university has acquired similar documents from other great Punjabi men of letters. Unfortunately, there is a problem when access to such archival material is sought.

Many rare books have been donated to various institutions, including universities and public libraries. Unfortunately, most of them are not cared for properly, many are just wrapped up and kept after some rudimentary means are employed to combat the mites and fungi that bedevil such manuscripts. Since they are not accessed often, the damage comes to light only when it is too late.

There is no doubt that many libraries that these manuscripts are housed in are suffering from the paucity of funds and trained staff. As a nation, we show sheer callousness towards our historical artifacts. Only a change of the mindset will bring in the resources and discipline needed to take care of our heritage.

It is unfortunate that initiatives such as the National Mission for Manuscripts have not brought about the required awareness among the citizens. Manuscripts are not dusty tome stored in forgotten corners. They are fabulous journeys into the thoughts, passions and knowledge of the past. They have to be preserved better and digitised urgently to make them accessible electronically. There have been some private-public initiatives, in this connection, but much more needs to be done. 

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Thought for the day

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. — H.G. Wells

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Policy vs dogma
Can Budha always have his way?
by Amulya Ganguli

There is an uncanny resemblance between Mr Budhadev Bhattacharjee’s line in West Bengal and some aspects of the BJP’s recent formulations, although the Chief Minister and the party of Hindutva are poles apart in political terms. Mr Bhattacharjee is clearly trying to distance himself from the follies of his party’s past policies, especially those relating to trade union militancy, which led to the flight of capital from the state in the sixties and the seventies. Similarly, the BJP’s recent stint in power at the Centre seems to have convinced sections within it that the party must tone down its virulent anti-minority philosophy in order to widen its appeal.

It is clear that Mr Bhattacharjee’s stance has enabled the CPM to regain its lost ground among the upper and middle class voters in the urban areas and thereby increase the party’s tally of votes well beyond the “200-plus” predicted by it. It is well known that a party generally quotes a higher figure than what it normally expects. Since the election results show that its victory margin has exceeded its hopes, the “plus factor” is evidently due to the Chief Minister’s personal popularity, which has garnered the extra votes over and above the party’s rural base.

His advantage apparently lies in the perception of his intellectual honesty, which has made him go to the extent of describing as “rigid” the kind of Marxism which the state experienced earlier. He has also asked the trade unions to act responsibly, a direct criticism of their conduct which won’t amuse them. Since most of what the Chief Minister has been saying is virtual heresy where traditional Marxism is concerned, one can presume that he has become disillusioned about his creed.

But it isn’t so. In his post-victory interaction with the media, he has reiterated his complete faith in the dogma which he has been modifying in practical terms in recent years. What is more, he has expressed his belief in the “historical inevitability” of the ultimate triumph of socialism. There are contradictions involved in this position unless he clarifies that in mellowing the rigidities of Marxism, he is only eliminating the distortions that may have crept into it and restoring the doctrine to its original pristine form.

However, Mr Bhattacharjee has made no such claim. Instead, his assertions about his socialistic credentials can only confirm the suspicion that his present line is no more than a reluctant, and perhaps even opportunistic, concession to the pressing concerns of the time. True, he has been honest enough to acknowledge that he is “doing capitalism” because there is no alternative in the present day and age when it is out of the question to implement what he and this party perceive as genuine socialistic policies. Even then, it is clear that his heart is not behind what he is attempting to do; only his rational mind has realized that the Marxist aversion to private capital is a dogmatic hurdle which he has to cross if the state has to find employment for its seven million unemployed.

The classical Marxist response to this problem has been articulated by economist Ashok Mitra when he wrote recently that the Bhattacharjee government should set up more and more public sector units with hefty monetary assistance from the financial institutions. But it is a prescription which the Chief Minister’s experience in office must have already ruled out. He knows that no financial institution in its senses will pour money into such a project in view of the abysmal track record of scores of PSUs. This is the reason why Mr Bhattacharjee himself is keen on relinquishing official control over many of the loss-making state enterprises.

The only wayout is to seek private capital. Even Mr Mitra has suggested the formation of joint ventures with the private sector, which is a remarkable concession on the part of such a hardliner considering that he regards the business world as unmitigated evil. If anything, it shows how communists are changing. If Mr Bhattacharjee is a lot more adventurous in the matter of wooing the purported “class enemy”, it is evidently because his years in power as a minister in Mr Jyoti Basu’s Cabinet and then as Chief Minister have convinced him that only private initiative can take the state out of its present industrial stagnation.

But preference for capitalism is making him enter a danger zone. The reason is that capitalism carries the warning: conditions apply. The first and foremost of these is a stable work environment. Any sign that the trade unions are not willing to listen to Mr Bhattacharjee’s advice about responsible behaviour will create panic among the investors. The chances that the Chief Minister may not always be able to have his own way in this regard are considerable. After all, the trade unions, and particularly the CITU and AITUC owing affiliations to the CPI and the CPM, respectively, have been extremely edgy about his suggestion that the employees of the IT sector should be kept out of the purview of strikes because of the 24-hour nature of their work.

It is in this context that the similarity between Mr Bhattacharjee’s position and that of the BJP becomes apparent. Just as the Chief Minister takes pride in calling himself a socialist, the BJP leaders, too, are avowed followers of the one-nation, one-people, one-culture policy of Hindutva. Yet, like Mr Bhattacharjee, their experience in governance has convinced many of them that a no-holds-barred approach to implementing their policy of cultural nationalism, let alone usher in a Hindu rashtra, will be counter-productive.

As Mr L. K. Advani has pointed out, “a country as vast and pluralistic as India cannot be ruled only by an ideological party such as the Jan Sangh … to rule India, we have to be inclusive”. Where Mr Advani is making a concession by favouring a retreat by the BJP in the matter of a polity dominated by the party’s version of Hinduism, Mr Bhattacharjee’s retreat is from the anti-capitalist Marxist doctrine. Yet, neither will admit that they are abandoning their original faith. Instead, they will claim their infallibility while acknowledging that the time is not yet ripe for them.

The problem of believing in one dogma and acting in a manner which is its exact opposite is that the inherent contradiction cannot be suppressed for too long. Just as the BJP will find that a champion of pluralism will run headlong into the wall of Hindu exclusiveness, which forms the basis of the party’s world-view, Mr Bhattacharjee, too, is seemingly courting the danger of being regarded as a renegade (as Mr Advani was over the Jinnah episode by the RSS) if he seriously stands by his no-strike pledge in the IT sector and continues to welcome capitalists with open arms.

If Mr Bhattacharjee has avoided any difficulties of the type faced by Mr Advani, the reason is that it is early days yet. So far, he has only delineated the outlines of his pro-market policies and extracted more assurances from the private sector than secured any actual investments. West Bengal is still far from undergoing the industrial regeneration which he has been promising. There has been little opportunity, therefore, of any serious confrontation between labour and capital. Besides, he is on a roll at the moment in terms of electoral success and the party hawks can hardly think of destabilizing him without doing themselves enormous harm. But he is still walking a tightrope and will continue to do so as Kolkata recovers its earlier glitter with its malls and multiplexes. A mishap, therefore, is only one step away.

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Excel and suffer
by Syed Nooruzzaman

HE was busy reading a book in a corner of his shop. It was a public call office (PCO) in that small UP town. We were there in connection with some family problem and wanted to make a phone call. But we thought the call could wait; it would be interesting to talk to the young man first.

“We presume the young man sitting in the corner is your son,” we enquired from the PCO-walah and expressed our desire to talk to the boy. We had come to know that his son was the best student in the area.

The PCO-owner, however, told us something unbelievable. “Yes, he is very intelligent. He is excellent in his studies. He has cleared his matriculation examination this year with distinction. But we are not happy! We understand that his educational achievements will be the cause for a serious problem as he grows up. It will be difficult to get him married.”

The child could hear what his father was saying. Perhaps, that is why the PCO-owner added: “But he will continue his studies uninterrupted. We will see later on how we can overcome our social disability.”

“What is this social handicap you are talking about? Will you please explain?” We became curious and wanted to know the exact story of his plight.

“See, ours is a family of barbers. But we are no longer in our traditional business. We want to get rid of our past. We don’t wish to be known as Nais (barbers). That is why we have shifted to this town from our ancestral village. But all in vain.”

The man, then, told us how his family had not been able to get over its social backwardness despite having excelled in education and being economically well-off. What follows is more significant at a time when the atmosphere is charged with the raging controversy over the reservations.

“I have two sisters-in-law and both are engineers. One is over 45 years in age and unmarried. We could not find a match for her. Ultimately, we have given up. The other sister-in-law is in her early thirties. She is employed in a company in Ghaziabad. We are desperately trying to get her married. Time is running out. Can you kindly help us? We are afraid she, too, may meet the fate of her elder sister.”

“But why is it so? May be, you people did not try properly. It is a strange case. Your sister-in-law is a professionally qualified person. Social disability should not come in the way of her marriage. You might have failed in one case. This does not mean that you will fail again.”

Our comments made the man lose his cool. His face reddened with anger. “Society is so wicked. Whenever we approach anybody for the purpose of marriage of the engineer-girl, the questions we are invariably asked are: ‘Please tell us about your family? Which village do you come from? Which biradari do you belong to?’ The moment we answer these silly questions, people lose interest in us. What is our fault? We don’t know what to do?”

This is the hard reality. The problem can be noticed in every section of society. The PCO-walah was a Muslim.

He requested us to note down his address and telephone number with a view to helping him find a match for his sister-in-law. But, at the same time, he gave us the impression that we could not properly understand the painful experience of his family. He was, perhaps, right. Only a person placed in a similar social predicament could truly have an idea about his agony.

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No compromise on Siachen
Withdrawal without authentication would be a monumental folly
by Lt Gen (retd) Vijay Oberoi

The countdown for the next round of discussions between India and Pakistan, later this month, has started. Perhaps the biggest issue exercising the minds of political pundits, defence analysts and the media is the question of demilitarising Siachen. Many have expressed their opinion about the pros and cons, but most analyses continue to be somewhat incomplete.

Some major aspects that have either not been mentioned or have only been mentioned in passing, include the need for asserting India’s sovereignty; the China connection, and the question as to why Siachen is being de-linked from the larger and more important issue of a settlement of the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir. I propose to briefly discuss these three aspects, so that the issue can be seen in its totality.

There should be no doubt in any one’s mind that the Siachen Glacier and more importantly the Saltoro Ridge, which is the highest watershed in the area and which towers along the western edge of the Glacier, are an integral part of the Nubra Tehsil of Ladakh and have been so for long

The Indian Army has been holding the Saltoro ridge since its occupation in April 1984, as a pre-emptive move to thwart the designs of the Pakistan Army, which had planned to occupy it in May 1984. The control of the Indian Army on the Saltoro has been total for the last 22 years, despite innumerable attempts by the Pakistani Army to dislodge our troops from these forbidding heights. So, why are we giving up these commanding heights, which are an integral part of our territory? What is worse is that we even seem to be diluting our long held position that the first step is authentication of the current location of troops of both sides.

According to speculation doing the rounds in the corridors of power in Delhi, spin doctors are busy trying to persuade the leadership that this would give a fillip to the peace process with Pakistan, which has been somewhat moribund for a while. However, not one of these worthies is able to answer the next obvious question — ‘why are we and not the other party, giving concessions all the time’?

The China factor operates at two levels. If the Saltoro heights had not been occupied by the Indian Army, the Pakistanis from the west and the Chinese from the east (they continue to illegally occupy the Chip Chap Valley, which they had usurped five decades back) would have long since linked up, with the strategic Karakoram Range under their complete control. It is only our occupation of the Saltoro, which has driven a wedge between the two. It would be a monumental folly if we now vacate the dominating positions we currently occupy.

The second level of the China factor is the Shaksgam valley, the area of Jammu & Kashmir illegally ceded to China by Pakistan in 1963. It lies directly north of the Saltoro and the Siachen glacier. If the line currently held by the Indian Army, called the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), is extended northwards beyond Indira Point, it would cut the area ceded to China in half. By our occupation of the Saltoro, we are retaining the option of negotiating with China about the Shaksgam valley at the appropriate time. The location of the Shaksgam valley is such that China has to be a party to any negotiations we have on the so-called Siachen issue.

The last and obvious point is the highly pertinent question as to why Siachen and the AGPL are being discussed in isolation, when the need is to view it as an extension of the LoC. We seem to have fallen for the Pakistani ploy of looking at Siachen as a separate issue, unrelated to the LoC, when de facto it is an extension of the LoC, commencing at Point NJ 9842 and going up to Indira Col in the north. We seem to have forgotten that even the current ceasefire, in force in Jammu & Kashmir for over two years, is as much applicable to the LoC as the AGPL. If I recall correctly, we had insisted on this. On this count too, even discussing the future status of the AGPL in isolation, let alone coming to an agreement, is in my view patently wrong.

It is my understanding that the view within the Indian Army is that there is no tearing hurry to come to a settlement on the so-called Siachen issue. The Army is well in control of the entire area; there is no inordinate high terrain or weather-related casualties and we can well afford the additional costs. So why are we even thinking of resiling from our well known earlier position of ‘no authentication-no withdrawal’?

The Army would be happy to negotiate the AGPL along with the LoC, whenever we reach a stage for that type of discussion in our dialogues with our neighbour. Till then, let us discuss more important issues, like why infiltration continuing in the state of Jammu & Kashmir; why the ISI has intensified its terrorist activities in the hinterland of our country; why the Pakistani establishment (read Pakistani Army) is doing its utmost to ensure that India does not become a permanent member of the UN Security Council; why land access to Afghanistan for trade and commerce continues to be denied to India; and many other negatives which are too well known to be repeated here?

The country has suffered greatly in the past for ignoring the professional advice of the armed forces, or treating it as an unnecessary irritant. Let us not repeat the same mistakes again.

*****

The author is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff and is currently the Director of The Centre for Land Warfare Studies.

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Record opium harvest in Afghanistan
by Tom Coghlan in Grishk, Helmand Province

TWO hours drive from the Afghan city of Kandahar, in Helmand province, a combination of factors have conspired to produce what is probably Helmand’s biggest ever opium harvest.

Last year, it produced more than 20 per cent of the world’s heroin on its own.

A law and order vacuum has allowed an increasingly well organised drugs mafia, a corrupt local government and a resurgent Taliban to structure the poppy cultivation of the province as never before. That has combined with fine growing conditions this year to produce what, if these were wine producers, might be considered a memorable vintage. And country wide it is now clear that the poppy harvest will be close to record levels again. It is a dispiriting blow for the international counter-narcotics effort as 86 per cent of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan.

Amongst a gently swaying sea of poppy heads near the town of Grishk, Haji Shadi Khan, 50, squatted wearily on his haunches and drained a proffered bottle of water at a single draught. The harvest began last week and it is brutally labour intensive and skilled work. Every one of thousands of poppy heads must be lightly scored with a four bladed razor and then the opium ‘milk’ that oozes forth scrapped off and collected. Depending on the quality of the crop, the operation must be repeated three to seven times.

Behind him in the field his sons Gul Ahmed, 10 and Juma Jan, 7, were hard at work. Small boys have the advantage of working at the same height as the poppy heads. Though he is only a paid labourer and doesn’t own the land he is working on, Haji Shadi expects to make around $1,800. That represents one third of the value of the crop on a plot that is four fifths of a hectare large.

In April a UN rapid assessment which sought only to estimate broad trends in poppy cultivation offered an alarming picture of likely production when it suggested that cultivation was down in only three of Afghanistan’s thirty-six provinces and was increasing or strongly increasing in thirteen.

This then left the British led counter-narcotics effort (British troops in the country will spend the next three years here) relying on a massive eradication effort to make an inroad into the Afghan poppy crop. However, in the south at least efforts at eradication appear to have largely failed.

Haji Shadi chuckled merrily as he described how the provincial governor’s eradication team arrived at his fields, enjoyed a convivial cup of tea and then left again with a wink, $50 the richer. $50 is equivalent to a month’s wages for most government employees.

An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 hectares of poppy are being cultivated in Helmand this year, at least a 50 per cent increase on last year. The governor of Helmand Engineer Mohammed Daoud claims to have eradicated 7,000 hectares of poppy this year. But even this modest claim is disputed.

“The real figure is around 1,000 hectares,” one Western source said. “The district elders just followed the eradication teams around handing out wads of money. Sometimes the teams just drove a single tractor through the field and announced they had eradicated it.”

Another Western source described the shambolic progress of a central government eradication team also sent to Helmand. Backed by American mercenaries from the Dyncorp corporation, the force suffered endless delays as Afghan drivers refused to travel to dangerous areas of the province; a problem compounded when a number of Afghan police were killed by a roadside bomb clearly intended to send a warning to the force. The forces’ eventual impact was negligible. The central eradication force is said to cost $175 million this year.

Western officials admit to intense frustration in a war where so many Afghan officials are a part of the narco-criminal problem. Engineer Daoud, the Helmand governor, is widely respected as an honest man. But last summer almost 9 tonnes of opium was discovered in the offices of his predecessor Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, who claimed he had seized them and was on the point of handing them in. After intense British and American pressure to have him ousted, Akhundzada was given a seat in the new upper house of the Afghan parliament.

In his office in Kandahar the province’s director of drugs control, Gul Mohammad Shukran, shifted uncomfortably as The Independent ran through a list of well known millionaire drug smugglers in the province. “If I answer your questions I will be dead within three days,” he said, showing us to the door.

Meanwhile, a campaign of Taliban intimidation and assassination is targeting government officials working across the south. In Helmand it has been what one Western source called “a methodical slaughter”. Four out of twelve district police chiefs have been killed in six months, further undermining the effort to establish some sort of order.

The smugglers and the Taliban are increasingly close, with the Islamic fighters suspending their operations during the poppy harvest to ensure it is safely out of the way before the Taliban’s promised campaign of summer violence. The Taliban have a vested interest as they take a tax on opium produced in the region, which could be worth tens of millions of dollars this year.

By arrangement with The Independent

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Delhi Durbar
Dynastic imperative

THE record win by Congress President Sonia Gandhi in the by-election from Raeareli, and son Rahul Gandhi’s triumphant performance as her campaign manager, has again galvanised sycophantic Congressmen to demand that the Nehru-Gandhi family take centre stage.

Though Ajit Jogi was also in the forefront with 24 MPs demanding that Soniaji respect the mandate of the people and assume the country’s leadership on Raisina hill, the Congress president was quick in chiding him. This, nevertheless, caused embarrassing moments for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has repeatedly stressed that Soniaji has been a great source of strength to him in the discharge of his responsibilities. Prior to that there was speculation that the economist-Prime Minister might be in contention for the United Nation’s Secretary General’s job along with Prime Minister Tony Blair. Is the speculation coming from within the Congress party itself?

Ministerial reservation

Even as reservations for OBCs in institutions of higher education, as proposed by HRD Minister Arjun Singh, has stirred a controversy, Republican Party of India (A) leader Ramdas Athawale has added a new dimension to it. He not only endorsed Singh’s proposal but has demanded that there should 25 per cent reservation in the Union and State Cabinets for SCs, STs and OBCs. Athawale has made his intentions obvious. The lone MP of the RPI (A) had been lobbying hard with the Congress for the past two years for a berth in the union council of ministers. It has been no go so far.

Path to future glory

Fiery Sanyasin Uma Bharti, who floated her political outfit on April 30 in the holy city of Ujjain, has announced yet another, 2500 km long, pada yatra from Rameswaram in the south to Kedarnath in the North. While the avowed purpose of her undertaking is to save the country from the rule of people of foreign origin and foreign economic domination, the real objective is to turn her into an all India figure. A little bird tells us that an astrologer has predicted that her chances of becoming the Prime Minister are bright. Unable to keep the prediction to herself, she has been telling her confidants that they should start investing in her and her party if they want to reap the harvest later.

A judge and a lady

The Supreme Court will again have no representation from the fair sex with the only woman judge Ms Justice Ruma Pal retiring after putting in over six years of distinguished service. Known for high integrity, expertise in civil laws and special interest in environment matters, she handed down several historic judgements including the one on the controversial Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal.

Justice Pal would be demitting office on June 3 but she was given a warm farewell by her colleagues and the Supreme Court Bar Association on Friday, the last working day before the summer vacation.

*****

Contributed by Prashant Sood, S Satyanarayanan, Satish Misra and S S Negi.

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From the pages of

June 24, 1947

Punjab to be divided

THE question of partition of the Punjab has been finally settled. The members of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, representing the constituencies in the non-Muslim majority areas of the province, have decided by a majority of 50 against 22 votes that the Punjab should be partitioned. This decision was a foregone conclusion. For, after the tragic happenings of the last few months no non-Muslim could venture to vote for an arrangement under which the whole of the Punjab would have been handed over to Pakistanis. Those who voted for the partition of their dear province were at one time staunch champions of the unity of their province as well as their dear province were at one time staunch champions of the unity of their province as well as their country. But the political and communal developments of the last few months left no choice for them but to demand and finally vote for the division of the Punjab. Even today, when the question of partition has been finally decided, they are not happy, for they realise that their cherished dream of a united glorious Punjab is a united glorious India has remained unfulfilled.

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He who has realised God here in this life shall have realisation of him hereafter too; All other consideration of being a Hindu or a Muslim, is vain and useless.

— Guru Nanak

The Supreme knowledge is as much for households as for monks.

— The Upanishads

When the princess is beautiful, competitors forget their brotherhood. Each looks on the prize as his own and marks his own brother as foe-man. When the prize is a beautiful princess, the contest becomes a deadly strife.

— The Mahabharata

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