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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped | Reflections

EDITORIALS

Planned, not sporadic
There’s method in terrorist madness
S
ELDOM does a day pass without a terrorist attack reported from Jammu and Kashmir. During the last one month, there were at least 15 major incidents in which dozens of people were killed or injured.

Steely resolve
Mittal gets Arcelor in a global contest
I
N the end, Laxmi Mittal proved so keen on Arcelor that he was willing to raise his initial offer by 34 per cent, translating to several billion dollars, to persuade a reluctant Arcelor board to agree to one of the most watched and commented upon corporate mergers in recent times.


EARLIER STORIES
Secrets on sale
June 26, 2006
Bane of reservations
June 25, 2006
Fatal debts
June 24, 2006
Belated wisdom
June 23, 2006
Courage under fire
June 22, 2006
Nathu La calling
June 21, 2006
“Aaj ka MLA”
June 20, 2006
Maoists in the mainstream
June 19, 2006
Reform school education
June 18, 2006
A surgeon insulted
June 17, 2006
The road not built
June 16, 2006
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS



ULFA’S moves
Government has to remain on guard
WITH the Centre promising to “favourably consider” the release of five top leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), direct talks with the banned militant group finally seem a probability.
ARTICLE

Danger signs
Karzai faces a challenging situation
by Anita Inder Singh
A
merican and EU forces must stay in Afghanistan to counter extremism and help the government of President Hamid Karzai to forge security which is a prerequisite for state-building and human development.

MIDDLE

Across the Nathu La
by Lieut-Gen Baljit Singh (retd)
T
hree sovereign nations, China, India and Bhutan, have a common meeting ground at Nathu La - Jelap La. The trijunction straddles one of the most ancient cultural and trade routes between India and Tibet-China. When this link is formally re-activated on July 8, China and India would have created several new benchmarks in the history of mankind.

OPED

Plug the leaks
Revive the best of service culture
by Premvir Das
*
he Navy, traditionally called the Silent Service, is in the news and for all the wrong reasons. A spate of accidents, one of them leading to the sinking of a warship, has dogged the sailors and if that were not enough, along comes the ‘War Room Leak’ case.

Parichu river crisis brewing again?
by A.K. Vashishit
W
hen the Parichu dam burst last year, almost 80 per cent of defence establishments from Sumdho to Karcham in Kinnaur of Himachal Pradesh, including strategic bridges on the Hindustan-Tibet Road, were washed away. The prestigious Nathpa Jhakri project constructed at the cost of more than Rs 1500 crore was rendered useless for several months due to silt.

Delhi Durbar
Kitchen museum
R
ashtrapati Bhavan now has the first ever kitchen museum showcasing artefacts from the collection of the President’s household. Inaugurated by President A P J Abdul Kalam recently, the objects chosen go back to the pre-independence period. They have been displayed sequentially, starting from items for food preparation, cooking, serving, dining, post-dining as well as equipment for outdoor picnics.

  • Women power

  • Trickling down

  • Broken glasses

  • Shudhikaran at Amarnath

From the pages of

Editorial catroon by Rajinder Puri



 REFLECTIONS



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Planned, not sporadic
There’s method in terrorist madness

SELDOM does a day pass without a terrorist attack reported from Jammu and Kashmir. During the last one month, there were at least 15 major incidents in which dozens of people were killed or injured. To presume that they are sporadic incidents unrelated to one another is to misunderstand terrorism in the Valley. Instead of attacking high-security areas or personnel, they are now targeting the common people by lobbing bombs in public places or at pilgrims on their way to religious shrines. The idea is to spread terror and provoke the security forces so that public anger can be turned against the latter, rather than the terrorists. That they are succeeding in their attempt is borne out by Sunday’s strike in Pattan to protest against the police firing in which a student and a woman were allegedly killed. Incidentally, the protestors tried to provoke the police further by attacking the Pattan police station.

It is difficult to believe that there is no pattern in all these attacks. They are all orchestrated attempts to pit people against the police and communities against communities. Search operations show that the terrorists are armed with sophisticated weapons and communication gadgets. All this point to the logistic, moral and material support they get from across the border, which means that a drop in the level of infiltration is nothing much to write home about. Obviously, the master strategists operating from the other side of the LoC have thought up ways in which they can cause maximum damage with minimum risk. The security forces have to square up to the challenge by identifying the outfits enjoying extraneous patronage and eliminating them.

For all its protestation of peace, Pakistan is yet to show proof that it has tackled the organisations masterminding terrorist attacks from the safe havens in its territory. One reason why the peace process has not made much impact on the people on this side of the LoC is that the terrorists have not allowed them to live in peace. While they can wait for the two governments to thrash out their bilateral problems, they cannot wait for peace to return to the Valley. The central and state agencies should pool their resources to nip terrorist plans in the bud while pressuring Pakistan and its Western friends to stop patronising terrorism, directly or indirectly.

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Steely resolve
Mittal gets Arcelor in a global contest

IN the end, Laxmi Mittal proved so keen on Arcelor that he was willing to raise his initial offer by 34 per cent, translating to several billion dollars, to persuade a reluctant Arcelor board to agree to one of the most watched and commented upon corporate mergers in recent times. In business, big is beautiful, and Arcelor Mittal will count for around 10 per cent of the world’s steel output. It will be three times the size of number two, Nippon Steel. The other associated numbers are humungous too. Sixtyone steel plants in 27 countries, with 3,20,000 employees. Arcelor’s shareholders still have to approve the deal, and they will meet on June 30.

The Mittal-Arcelor deal turned out to be more than just about big business. It turned into a debate about national identities, cultures and national corporate endeavour. About racism, and about “us” and “them.” France opposed the bid after it was announced, as did the Luxembourg government, where Arcelor is headquartered. While globalisation and the emergence of almost borderless, trans-national corporations have been known to provoke counter-reactions and agonised bemoanings of loss of sovereignty, there is no denying that there was an extra edge to this takeover by an “Indian.”

Laxmi Mittal had to agree to keep the headquarters of the new merged company in Luxembourg, and the Luxembourg government will get two seats on the board. The “Minister of Economy” at Luxembourg could not resist declaring “a beautiful victory”, noting that their city will now host the largest steel company in the world. But even while identities and borders remain relevant to big business, there is no doubt what the bottomline is. A “sweetened” higher offer did the trick. So one can be sure that Mittal will be celebrating too. Getting the two entities to work together well and overcome any “cultural factors” may take some time, but there is no doubt that the steel industry will be watching closely. Wherever Laxmi Mittal may function from, the man who grew up in Kolkata, has done India proud.

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ULFA’S moves
Government has to remain on guard

WITH the Centre promising to “favourably consider” the release of five top leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), direct talks with the banned militant group finally seem a probability. There was some pressure on both the People’s Consultative Group (PCG) and the government, ahead of the June 22 talks, given the outbreak of violence which preceded it. The government cannot afford to lower its guard. Since 2004, ULFA has shown itself interested in peace talks, but has never failed to up the ante with acts of violence in the run-up to parleys. Truce has been used to regroup and rearm, making a mockery of the very existence of ceasefire negotiations.

The pattern was repeated after the June 22 PCG talks were announced. A wave of violence was unleashed, including the Guwahati market bomb blast and attacks on railway lines and oil installations. The usual denials have been issued. There is a real danger that the government’s decision to consider the jailed leaders’ release can be seen as a victory for the group’s strategy of unleashing killings before talks.ULFA has not given up its “sovereignty” demand. The PCG is supposed to have conducted an exercise recently to ascertain the Assamese people’s views on sovereignty. ULFA’s selfstyled commanders would have been dismayed with the reported results — less than 1 per cent of the people support such an idea.

ULFA’s recent threats to journalists, including the Sentinel’s former editor DN Bezboruah, can only be condemned. These highlight the dwindling support to the terror outfit. All these may well indicate desperation on the part of the outfit. But the Centre cannot afford to go slow on counter-insurgency operations. Interlocutor Indira Goswami has tried to strike a balance, as perhaps fitting for her role, but she will have to take a tougher stance while talking to ULFA. Her recent demand for withdrawal of security forces has clearly been shown to be misplaced. With even the Left endorsing a “talk-but-carry-a-gun” approach, the government should be ready to call ULFA’s bluff.

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Thought for the day

A new friend is like new wine; when it has aged you will drink it with pleasure.

— Ecclesiastes 9:10

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Danger signs
Karzai faces a challenging situation
by Anita Inder Singh

American and EU forces must stay in Afghanistan to counter extremism and help the government of President Hamid Karzai to forge security which is a prerequisite for state-building and human development. But recent reports that extremist violence is increasing, that an American military truck crashed into Afghan vehicles, and that Afghans attacked American soldiers in retaliation in Kabul raise questions about public support for American forces fighting terrorism and their ability to stabilise Afghanistan.

Since the US toppled the Taliban in 2001, presidential and parliamentary elections have been held, some militias belonging to the warlords demobilised and disarmed. And Afghanistan is the recipient of a generous aid package. But Karzai’s government needs both guns and butter. Post-conflict reconstruction, including demobilisation, democratisation, education, and the building of new political, legal and administrative institutions, is essential for a successful anti-terrorist strategy.

Why has anti-extremist violence increased over the past few months? The Pakistan factor is one reason. Inspired by the ideology of the religious nation-state, Pakistan uses extremism as a tool with which to destabilise its neighbours, Afghanistan and India. Karzai, UN officials, Zalmay Khalilzad, the former American ambassador in Kabul, have all accused Islamabad of training and sustaining the extremists who are responsible for the renewed violence in Afghanistan American State Department officials have tacitly admitted this when urging Pakistan to do more to stop terrorism.

The US has been unable — or unwilling — to deter Islamabad from supporting extremists, and President Bush has, on several occasions, lauded Pakistan as a steadfast ally. Yet Washington’s refusal to sign a nuclear deal similar to that signed with India in March because of Pakistan’s history stress its awareness that the country, defined as an Islamic nation-state, is unstable, unpredictable, and a destabilising factor in South Asia.

Support for extremism is institutionalised in Pakistan’s intelligence and military services, who have been educating and arming extremists for years. They threaten Musharraf himself, but he cannot dispense with extremists who have long been an integral component of Pakistan’s strategy to embarrass India, and since 2001, the government of Karzai. Lacking legitimacy, Pakistan’s rulers can only hope to shore up their domestic power and to influence developments in Afghanistan by promoting extremism.

Poverty is another cause of terrorism, but its role should not be exaggerated. Richer countries like Britain have had problems with the IRA, Spain with Basque ETA, Italy and Germany with the Red Brigades.

In fact terrorists in Afghanistan are part of a global terrorist network extending from Latin America, through Europe, especially the Balkans and Caucasus, into South and South-Eastern Asia. This international crime system sustains armed groups all over the word with some one trillion dollars annually. Drugs are a source of income for terrorists: about $ 322 billion changed hands on the international market for illicit narcotics in 2005. Terrorists and thugs have gained access to this money, which they use to buy weapons, provide food and housing to their families, and keep their groups together.

Kidnapping, theft and extortion are standard methods of stealing money. Trafficking in human beings, especially women and children, also “earns” money for the terrorist-narcotics network. Laundered money may finance anything from legal gambling to corrupting businessmen and officials. In this way the reach of terrorism extends into banks, companies, government departments, military and intelligence services.

Because terrorists need the money gained from selling drugs, opium cultivation is a major threat to Afghanistan’s security. According to UNODC figures, 87 per cent of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan, and two million of its 23-million inhabitants grow opium poppies. The UNODC put the export value of the narcotic at $ 2.7 billion last year — more than half of Afghanistan’s official gross domestic product of $ 5.2 billion. Some of the recent fighting has occurred in the Helmand province, which is Afghanistan’s major “opium poppy garden”, and where the Taliban have tried to win over poppy farmers and narcotics smugglers.

They meet with some success, given that the returns from opium cultivation make it hard to persuade opium growers cultivate alternative crops. In 2005 farmers earned $5,500 from a hectare of opium poppy, 10 times more than a hectare of wheat.

At another level, uncoordinated development aid puts farmers into hardship as it makes no arrangement for replacing opium with other crops.

The US and Britain are leading the anti-narcotics campaign. Washington has allocated about $700 million, Britain around $100 million. Another $300 million is being sought from other countries in the American-led antiterrorism coalition. In 2005 a mere 5,000 of Afghanistan’s 104,000 hectares of opium poppy were destroyed. There are no easy cures: efforts to eradicate opium cultivation have caused raw opium prices to jump from about $100 per kilogram in October 2005 to a current black market price of about $180 per kilogram.

But farmers are not the only people making money out of opium. The influence of extremist ideology and poor governance mean that officials and businessmen, among others, are involved in the drug-terrorist network. Afghanistan’s fragile administration, rule of law and system of criminal justice are weakened further by political and military insecurity, making it hard to tackle the corruption which facilitates drug trafficking and terrorism.

The strengthening of institutions of governance is necessary to ward off drug criminals and the corruption which they exploit. Their supplies of money and arms — notably from Pakistan — have to be cut. International cooperation in reducing drug trafficking should be stepped up.

Last but not least, counterterrorism can only succeed if it engages the minds and hearts of ordinary people. The goodwill American troops earned by overthrowing the Taliban in 2001 is being dissipated by careless or arrogant behaviour. They are now being perceived as gung-ho overlords. This does not imply that the Taliban are more popular, but at a time when extremist violence is reportedly rising it is vital that the Afghan public cooperate fully with the anti-terrorist campaign.

The writer is Ford Foundation Fellow, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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Across the Nathu La
by Lieut-Gen Baljit Singh (retd)

Three sovereign nations, China, India and Bhutan, have a common meeting ground at Nathu La - Jelap La. The trijunction straddles one of the most ancient cultural and trade routes between India and Tibet-China. When this link is formally re-activated on July 8, China and India would have created several new benchmarks in the history of mankind. For instance, this will be the first time that mechanical transport coming from India would trundle over Tibetan soil!

The Chumbi valley across the Nathu La is a prominent “green” oasis in the trans-Himalayas on the otherwise tree-less roof of the world. After a sharp drop of some 2000 feet from Nathu La, the valley levels out at about 11000 ft up to Yatung, the first human habitation. Chumbi township is a bit farther and a bit higher and signals the northern limit of the green oasis.

Modern day commerce is one of the great disturbing agents of Nature’s quiet and tranquility. What for the past was a noise and smoke-free zone in the world, will now reverberate with the revving of vehicle engines at extreme RPMs and consequent dense clouds of engine exhausts. And the valley will have new ugly scars of transport servicing garages, etc. Not that there was not a fairly substantial amount of commerce in the past. In fact, Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, is on record that for the period 1898-1903 the officially tabulated trade ex-Chumbi valley stood at £ 6,70,000.00. But goods were carried almost exclusively on yaks.

The yaks neither needed roads and associated infrastructure nor stabling and stall feeding. After 2-3 days from Yatung, the yaks would arrive at their destination in India in the general area of Channgu. Having offloaded their cargo, they would be left to graze for may be the next 10-15 days, when traders would strike barter bargains. Perhaps that is how this grazing area, a vast open conglomeration of gently rolling ridge tops, got its name “Kyang Nosa La”. Literally translated, it means the “Meadow of Thousand Yaks”!

Of course in the strict zoological terminology the Kyang is the Tibetan wild ass but in common parlance, the yak goes by the same name too.

The British expeditionary force to Lhasa in 1904 remains the least justifiable event of the “Great Game” involving Great Britain, Czarist Russia and Manchu China. Be that as it may, one of its upshot was that second to Lhasa proper, the Chumbi valley became the most written about place in Tibet. Because of its comparative moderate altitude, the rich forest cover and proximity to Gangtok and Kalimpong, it became a coveted rest and recreation spot with the Army officers. These officers and the correspondent of The Times, London, and Lord Curzon himself have left graphic accounts of the Chumbi valley. And now a hundred years later both in the official biography of Col Sir Francis Younghusband and in the book “Duel on the Snows” by Charles Allen, Chumbi valley again comes into limelight.

How much of the old charm and natural wealth of the Chumbi valley has survived the purges of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and will survive the hitherto absent elements of noise and smoke pollution and the inevitable related human implosion within the narrow confines of the valley, remains to be seen.

Are the modern times truly civilising? Can there be no middle-path approach as preached by the great Master?

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Plug the leaks
Revive the best of service culture
by Premvir Das

The Navy, traditionally called the Silent Service, is in the news and for all the wrong reasons. A spate of accidents, one of them leading to the sinking of a warship, has dogged the sailors and if that were not enough, along comes the ‘War Room Leak’ case.

Dismissing three officers by getting the President to withdraw his ‘pleasure’ to their continuation in service has not helped. A case has been registered with the CBI, which has made some arrests, and most recently, raided the houses of several officers including some quite senior. It is not surprising that concern is being expressed in many quarters about this state of affairs.

War Rooms are the control centres from where activities are coordinated. In the military, they are repositories of all kinds of operational data of our forces such as their combat readiness, weapon and sensor capabilities, fuel state, preparedness of crew, present and impending deployments and the like.

Similar information, to the extent that it is available, is also maintained about potential adversaries. In the event of hostilities, they will be the hubs from where the higher direction of war would be coordinated. At Command Headquarters, these same hubs are referred to as Operations Rooms. Crisis management during natural disasters like the Tsunami, or in other emergencies in peacetime where the military may need to be used in aid of civil power, are also coordinated from these centres.

In short, War Rooms or Operations Rooms deal with present or short term scenarios, military or civil. The data stored is militarily sensitive and can, often, be of great use to a potential adversary.

Procurement of new ships, aircraft, submarines and equipment falls in a different category. These are long term issues which have little to do with the ‘immediate’ environment, and War Rooms have little to do with such activity. In the course of their functioning they may be exposed to future plans, but only peripherally. It is not in their purview to take or even influence decisions regarding future inductions, or of their capabilities. This is the domain of the Policy and Planning departments of the Service Headquarters and not of Operations.

This distinction is being made so that the relevance of the ‘leaks’ may be better appreciated. In media discussion of this matter there is considerable confusion about what has actually happened. Some talk of a ‘conspiracy’, while others have brought in the purchase of Scorpene submarines as an associated element. The issue is serious and must not get submerged in disjointed discussion.

If the information that has been leaked out of the Navy War Room relates to possible procurement of hardware, it is unlikely to have substantive content for reasons highlighted earlier. Further, details of the type of ship or weapon system planned to be inducted are not all that classified as several vendors who are in the bidding chain are, themselves, aware of what is wanted. Price issues are in the domain of the procurement authorities and things are reasonably transparent.

So, while moral turpitude and lack of integrity is implicit in any information disclosed by these officers, and this is a serious enough issue by itself, such leaks cannot, possibly, cause much harm. On the other hand, if what has gone out is operational information about the capabilities and limitations of our own forces, then the matter is grave. Such information provides a potential adversary with many advantages and acts to our great detriment. It must be treated with the utmost seriousness.

There are, therefore, two issues. One is the very act of passing on classified information entrusted to one’s charge to a person or persons who are not authorized to have it. Whatever be the degree of sensitivity of the information, the offence is inexcusable and needs to be punished in a sufficiently deterrent manner so that a clear message is sent out to the community. Three officers have already been dismissed and more should be sent out if found wanting in their integrity.

The other and more serious element is the nature of information that has been leaked out. If it concerns operational data or combat capabilities then dismissal, clearly, is not enough. The offence is traitorous and must be recognized and treated as such. It merits the most severe punishment and the guilty must face it.

There have also been repeated references to the fact that one of the persons to whom the leaked information was passed, a former naval officer himself, is related to the Navy Chief, Admiral Arun Prakash. All of us would hate to have such relatives but that does not give us any control over who we should or should not have as our kith and kin, much as we might want to.

It would be a different matter if there was credible evidence that Admiral Prakash was, himself, personally involved in some way. But to repeatedly bring him into the discourse whenever the nephew’s name is mentioned is not only grossly unfair but also trivializes the main issue which, as has been pointed out, is a very serious one.

Whichever way one looks at it, the Navy’s image has been tarnished greatly by these developments. It would be simplistic to brush them aside as mere aberrations. There is something churning within the naval and, indeed, military community which makes some, even if not all, take to devious paths. Even allowing for the fact that military men come from the same society which throws up all manner of people, good and bad, there is need for naval leadership to introspect and to see if its own conduct is wanting in any way.

There is some truth in the adage that leaders must lead by example and be in touch with those they lead. It could be that somewhere, albeit not everywhere, this piece of wisdom is being lost. The leaks must be plugged, and not just in the hull. In such hours of stress, it is best to go back to the famous ‘Laws of the Navy’, which have stood the test of time. “For, the strength of the ship is the Service-and the strength of the Service the ship.”

The writer retired as Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command

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Parichu river crisis brewing again?
by A.K. Vashishit

When the Parichu dam burst last year, almost 80 per cent of defence establishments from Sumdho to Karcham in Kinnaur of Himachal Pradesh, including strategic bridges on the Hindustan-Tibet Road, were washed away. The prestigious Nathpa Jhakri project constructed at the cost of more than Rs 1500 crore was rendered useless for several months due to silt.

A man made disaster was let loose on the innocent people of Kinnaur whose lives were made miserable for more than a year. More than 36 army persons died while rebuilding one of the bridges on this route.

One year after the Parichu lake burst things have come back to square one.

As per the statement of Virbhadra Singh, Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, a lake has again been formed on the Parichu river in the Tibetan highland. Sources say it is larger than the previous one. Yet, the union government has kept silent over this issue. Unlike the previous year, this time no satellite pictures of the lake were released in the press and every one in the government seems to be tight lipped over it, at least officially. But the recent statement of the Chief Minister speaks volumes of the intensity of the threat perception due to the formation of another 
artificial lake on the Parichu river.

It is high time we find a permanent solution to this recurring problem, as co-operation from the Chinese side is almost nil. We have to take a pro-active stance on this matter. The following suggestions can go a long way in containing this problem urgently.

We must airlift 40 tonnes of stones to the Sumdho Airfield immediately. These stones can be packed into blocks of meshed wires and these blocks, tied together by metallic wires, can be used to dam the Parichu river near the Kaurik Point. Here the width of the river is about 50 to 60 metres, with mountain ranges on both sides. Thereby a 60 metre long and about 50 metre wide earth-dam of stone filled with mud, sandbag and bajri (crushed stones) can be formed at three points between Sumdho and the point of entry of the Parichu river into India.

As the flow of water at this point is very scant, less than 20 cubic metre per second, it will be not a difficult task to dam this river on this stretch between Kaurik and Sumdho, before it merges into river Spiti.

Besides this, a steel frame of an alloy of steel and tungsten, with several small holes of approximately one centimetre diameter, can be placed in between the stone blocks. This will provide a solid base to prevent flow of water from Parichu and thereby create a new lake, to contain the flow of water in case of another dam burst in the Tibet region.

The purpose is not to create a permanent solution but to act as a stop gap arrangement, so that if the artificial lake on the river is blown up by the Chinese, we are not caught napping. These blockades will act as water barriers which will break the force of the water and create an artificial lake. For sometime thereafter, the water will seep through the stones and holes in the steel frames in a gradual manner; thereby minimising the threat perception to most the vital installations on this strategic route of the Hindustan-Tibet Road. A joint action team of civil engineers from Rourkee College, Army Sappers and GREF, with technical help from IIT. experts in civil engineering, and the Indian Air Force, can execute this job in 15 days time.

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Delhi Durbar
Kitchen museum

Rashtrapati Bhavan now has the first ever kitchen museum showcasing artefacts from the collection of the President’s household. Inaugurated by President A P J Abdul Kalam recently, the objects chosen go back to the pre-independence period. They have been displayed sequentially, starting from items for food preparation, cooking, serving, dining, post-dining as well as equipment for outdoor picnics.

The exhibits include Star of India crockery, silver cutlery, kitchenware, crystal glass ware, silver dishes, coffee makers, fruit stands, picnic boxes and so on. The display units are at low height to facilitate viewing by children and wheel chair users. Braille translations and specific design details make the museum accessible for the visually impaired also.

Women power

No longer dismissed as a mere “ladies club”, the Indian Women’s Press Corps facility, acknowledged for its good food and ambience, has managed to stay in the news for all the right reasons. After playing host to dignitaries including the Prime Minister and the British PM’s wife Cherie Blair, the favourite haunt of the city’s women scribes has now found a place in the Limca Book of Records. The IWPC, inaugurated in 1994, finds mention in the latest edition as the first women journalists’ organisation.

Trickling down

The noise over the land transfer to Reliance Industries Limited has quietened in the Punjab Congress, following the strong PR exercise by the state government and the high command telling party men not to issue public statements. There is concern, however, among a section of the party leadership over the possibility of the Opposition making it an issue during the run-up to the assembly elections early next year.

While being supportive of the agreement of the state government with RIL, central leaders are mainly worried about its timing. They feel the Amarinder Singh government has gone for such an agreement a little too late in its tenure and the promises to farmers may not start fructifying by the time of the assembly elections.

Broken glasses

The growing number of TV channels and the resultant competition among them is getting reflected in the rude and aggressive behaviour of camerapersons and their crew in the field. A case in point was the joint press conference of ULFA representatives and Union Home Secretary V K Duggal a few days ago. Even as Duggal was making a request to them to do their job in a peaceful manner, one of the TV chaps, in a bid to install the mike, broke two glasses kept on the table.

Shudhikaran at Amarnath

Incensed by the allegations that the Shivalingam at Amarnath has been created artificially, members of the Amarnath Yatra Welfare Organisation had dashed off protest letters to the shrine board members including the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. They have now written to the four Shankaracharyas and Mahant Deependra Giri, the custodian of the Holy Mace, to perform a shudikaran (cleansing) prayer at the holy cave.

Urging these religious heads to reach Amarnath at the earliest, the organisation claims that masked men who have been caught on camera trying to erect a Shivalingam from fresh snow at the holy spot were wearing shoes. The organisation is piqued that not only did these people tamper with nature and religion thereby hurting the sentiments of millions of Hindus, they also desecrated the holy shrine.

Contributed by Smriti Kak Ramachandran, Prashant Sood and S Satyanarayanan.

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From the pages of

July 26, 1960

KAIRON OPPOSES DIVISION

Kharar, July 24; Sardar Partap Singh Kairon said today that, left to himself, he would welcome the merger of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan with Punjab. The sturdy peasants of Punjab would have a chance to cultivate larger holdings of land at present lying uncultivated.

“So long as I am in power, I will not allow further vivisection of Punjab. These are the days of expansion and not narrowing down the boundaries,” he added. Punjab had already suffered a great deal on account of partition. Its further vivisection would only prove suicidal.

He sounded a note of warning to all those who wanted to exploit the people in the name of Panth and language. They created a rift between Hindus and Sikhs, and were the worst enemies of Punjab.

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If you must have a tangible symbol of the vast immanate, look to Om.

— The Upanishadas

Honour is a touchy thing. If all be honoured equally and simultaneously, those with greater self opinion feel humiliated. Yet if one be honoured first, many of the others feel neglected.

— The Mahabharata

Listen to me, my inside—the greatest spirit— the Teacher is near, wake up, wake up!

— Kabir

There are many more earths besides this; beneath and beyond them are more still.

— Guru Nanak

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