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EDITORIALS

It’s the pits
Time the BJP distanced itself from Modi
T
HE Election Commission has done the right thing in asking Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to explain his questionable conduct in the run-up to the polls in the state. What has raised the hackles of the commission is his open justification of the killing of Sohrabuddin. Not only that, his campaign speeches have been highly provocative and are intended to create fissures between Hindus and Muslims.

Missile defence
The interceptor is a worthy achievement
IN a creditable display of advanced technology, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully tested a hypersonic interceptor missile, which tracked and destroyed a Prithvi launched as an incoming enemy missile. It was only December last year that DRDO first tested what it calls the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile, successfully intercepting a dummy missile over the Bay of Bengal, with the “kill” taking place 50 kilometres above the earth.




EARLIER STORIES

Politics of lynching
December 7, 2007
The way of Buddha
December 6, 2007
Vendetta against Venugopal
December 5, 2007
Reforms on hold
December 4, 2007
The case of Dr Venugopal
December 3, 2007
Taking shelter under RTI
December 2, 2007
Portrait of appeasement
December 1, 2007
Give N-deal a chance
November 30, 2007
It is too little and too late
November 29, 2007
Anger in Assam
November 28, 2007
Taslima on the run
November 27, 2007
Terror in courts
November 26, 2007


Custody killers
Cops learning a bitter lesson
EVERY time a police officer responsible for a custodial killing is punished, it sends an unmistakable message to all concerned that even the law-keepers are not above the law. Unfortunately, far too many of them have gotten away either scot-free or with minor punishments and the general feeling in the police ranks is that they have the licence to kill.

ARTICLE

Moral realm in politics
Corruption is a major challenge
by Hamid Ansari
The Indian society of today, despite its moorings in religion and tradition, is increasingly prone to be amoral in the behaviour of its individual and group components. A good instance is the case of corruption in public life.

MIDDLE

ABC of news
by Navjit Singh Johal
ONE day, while coming back from Punjabi University, Patiala, to Chandigarh, I was waiting for a bus at the university gate. My waiting session came to an early end as within minutes a Chandigarh Transport Undertaking bus, with a Mansa-Chandigarh board, made a screeching halt.

OPED

Dismantle the border fence
by Lt Gen (retd) Harwant Singh
Ineffective against smuggling and infiltration, the fence is a source of harassment for farmers whose lands lie on the other side
After so many years, the political leadership has woken to the plight of farmers, whose land actually falls on the far side of the fence on the Punjab border. Parkash Singh Badal, the chief minister of Punjab, has finally and formally lodged a protest with the home minister of India against the harassment and inconvenience caused to the farmers at the gates at the fence.

Employment guarantee scheme is flawed
by S.S. Chahar
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was based on the philosophy propounded by the Independent International Commission for Peace and Food, 1994, in its report titled ‘Prosperity 2000 – Strategy for India’.

Inside Pakistan
Aitzaz Ahsan’s formula
by Syed Nooruzzaman
The opposition parties in Pakistan have been faced with a dilemma: should they participate in the January elections with a pliant judiciary ready to put its stamp of approval on anything that President Pervez Musharraf does? Should they ignore the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the pre-November 3 Supreme Court and High Courts being supported by different sections of society?

  • Lawyers in the lead
  • PPP poll manifesto

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It’s the pits
Time the BJP distanced itself from Modi

THE Election Commission has done the right thing in asking Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to explain his questionable conduct in the run-up to the polls in the state. What has raised the hackles of the commission is his open justification of the killing of Sohrabuddin. Not only that, his campaign speeches have been highly provocative and are intended to create fissures between Hindus and Muslims. Any resort to communal propaganda by a candidate is unacceptable and, if proved, can disqualify him from contesting elections. Mr Modi’s argument is that he has been provoked to do so by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who called him a “merchant of death”. By responding in this manner, he has proved that he is worse than a merchant of death. It is unimaginable that a person holding such a responsible post as chief minister would stoop so low.

By admitting indirectly that Sohrabuddin was indeed killed, the chief minister has reduced himself to the level of the Gujarat police officers who are in jail facing charges of killing him and his wife in a fake encounter. The brother of the deceased whose petitions led to the framing of charges against the police officers concerned has a point when he says that Mr Modi, too, should now be included in the case as a co-accused. Small wonder that the Supreme Court has decided to hear the petition against him as early as on Monday. One of his former ministerial colleagues has asked him whether he would have the guts to tell the court about the circumstances of Sohrabuddin’s death.

It’s unfortunate that the Bharatiya Janata Party has not dissociated itself from the communally surcharged election campaign Mr Modi has been mounting ever since he realised that the slogan of development has not been getting enthusiastic response. Far from that, the party has been actively supporting the beleaguered chief minister for fear that any other stance would result in the BJP’s defeat. Mr Modi knows this weakness of the party. In retrospect, had the party struck against him when he failed to live up to the expectations five years ago, the BJP would not have had to pay a heavy price in the last Lok Sabha elections. The party should realise that there are certain issues on which it is better to drop a leader than make compromises. Now is the time for the BJP to make such a choice in Gujarat.

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Missile defence
The interceptor is a worthy achievement

IN a creditable display of advanced technology, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully tested a hypersonic interceptor missile, which tracked and destroyed a Prithvi launched as an incoming enemy missile. It was only December last year that DRDO first tested what it calls the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile, successfully intercepting a dummy missile over the Bay of Bengal, with the “kill” taking place 50 kilometres above the earth. It was reported that the system was based on the Israeli Green Pine radar, with some other key components like sensors made in India. The software code, of course, was also written here. Earlier this week, the AAD had again been tested, this time targeting an electronic simulation of an incoming missile.

With Thursday’s successful test, where the Prithvi was destroyed at an altitude of 15 kilometres by the AAD-02, India can legitimately claim to possess the ability to defend itself against ballistic missiles. In fact, the missile was fired by the “user,” the Indian Army. Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) has been the holy grail of defence technologies sought by many advanced countries, including the United States.

The tests by no means constitute a comprehensive BMD capability, where everything from the tracking of ICBMs at launch to the challenges posed by nuclear warheads, enter into the picture. DRDO has indicated that the kill was achieved with both target and kill vehicle moving at hypersonic speeds. The AAD possesses advanced seekers and high manoeuvrability and more tests are planned. Any BMD system with some proven capability, like the later versions of the US Patriot, enhances deterrence as an enemy will think twice before attacking India with missiles. And if an attack is launched, an effective system can prevent some damage. Given the security environment, a BMD system can only be a stabilising factor in this region. DRDO has put its rich experience with missiles to good use, and come up with impressive results in a short time. It should keep going.

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Custody killers
Cops learning a bitter lesson

EVERY time a police officer responsible for a custodial killing is punished, it sends an unmistakable message to all concerned that even the law-keepers are not above the law. Unfortunately, far too many of them have gotten away either scot-free or with minor punishments and the general feeling in the police ranks is that they have the licence to kill. It will take some time for the perception to change and every guilty verdict like the one which has culminated in life imprisonment to five policemen, including one of DSP rank, for killing Balbir Singh, a resident of Shahpur village in Sangrur district, in 1996 will reinforce the majesty of the law and its capability to catch up with criminals. The way he was tortured and then killed was inhuman to the core.

Such incidents have taken place all over the country and had become routine in Punjab during the days of terrorism. But what happened in this particular case was all the more shocking. He had been arrested only on the complaint that he had stolen some utensils from the village gurdwara. What a disgrace that he had to pay with his life for this “heinous” crime! According to the CBI, he was tortured and taken to the Thuhi waterfall on the outskirts of Nabha the next day and dumped into it. The post-mortem report revealed that Balbir Singh had been tortured before being thrown into the canal and that he was alive at that time. The agency also said that as cover-up, the accused registered a report in the Sadar police station at Nabha claiming that Balbir had run away from police custody and jumped into the Thuhi canal, while he was being taken for the recovery of stolen goods.

What rankles is that it has taken so many years to bring the criminals to justice. But despite the delay, it is an encouraging sign. One shudders to think what would have happened if the custodial killing had taken place with the blessings of the political bosses. If the Gujarat experience is anything to go by, things might very well have unfolded in a different manner.

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Thought for the day

Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living. — Anais Nin

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Moral realm in politics
Corruption is a major challenge
by Hamid Ansari

The Indian society of today, despite its moorings in religion and tradition, is increasingly prone to be amoral in the behaviour of its individual and group components. A good instance is the case of corruption in public life.

Political corruption is defined as the misuse of public office for private gain. Mahatma Gandhi’s outburst in 1939 is indicative of its presence even in the period before Independence.

In 1949 the Urdu poet Josh Malihabadi, in a poem entitled Rishwat, gave vent to public’s perception of the prevalent bribery. A quatrain portrays its extent:

Log ham se roz kahte hain yeh aadat chore ye

Yeh tejarat hai khelaaf-e-aadmiyat chore ye

Is se bad tar lat nehain hai koye, yeh lat chore ye

Roz akhbaroan main chapta hai ki rishwat chore ye

A couplet, towards the end of the poem, was cynically expressive of disgust:

Illat-e rishwat ko is dunya se rukhsat keej ye

War na rishwat ki dharalle se ijazt deej ye

In 1951 the A.D. Gorwala Report made specific observations on this count. In 1964 the Santhanam Committee noted the “widespread impression that failure of integrity is not uncommon among ministers and that some ministers, who have held office during the last sixteen years, have enriched themselves illegitimately”. It also talked of nepotism and “other advantages inconsistent with any notion of purity in public life”.

More recently, the published portions of the N.N. Vohra Report of 1995 spoke of “the nexus between criminal gangs, police, bureaucracy and politicians has come out clearly in various parts of the country. The existing criminal justice system, which was essentially designed to deal with individual offences/crimes, is unable to deal with the activities of the mafia; the provisions of the law in regard to economic offences are weak”.

An observation by a former Chief Justice of India, in 1997, is telling. “The element of deterrence”, he noted, “is almost non-existent. The public perception is that the machinery for enforcement of accountability is itself controlled by those whose accountability needs to be enforced. All institutions of law enforcement lack accountability, the difference between them is only in the degree of culpability”. He pleaded for “concerted efforts for infusion of ethics in public life”.

An official acknowledgement of the problem of corruption came from Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in August 2004. Addressing a conference of state CBI and Anti-corruption Bureau officials, he said:

“The problem of corruption in public life is a source of great concern for all those who are interested in building a new India, an inclusive society, progressive society and a dynamic economy and a compassionate polity. In my Independence Day address, I said that while the question of ethics in public life has repeatedly agitated our people, we have tried over a period of time, to find constitutional, legislative and administrative devices to deal with the challenge posed by growth of corruption to our body politic. I said in my address that the time has come for us to evolve consensually a code of conduct for all political parties, a code of ethics for all individuals in public life, and a code of best practices for the government at all levels”.

This statement, from the highest levels of government, is indicative of the seriousness of the problem. It can be supplemented, in ample measure, by civil society perceptions. The Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, based on public opinion and business community surveys, gave India in 2007 the score of 3.5 on a scale of 10 (highly clean). The corresponding figures for the preceding years were 3.3, 2.9, and 2.8. India was ranked 72 in a list of 179 countries.

This state of affairs has implications that are wide-ranging and multi-dimensional. The challenge is to comprehend, and confront, the question in its totality. Corruption is as much moral as a development issue. It tends to distort the decision-making processes on investment projects and other commercial transactions. It impacts at the foundations of the social and political fabric of society. It increases injustice and disregard for the rule of law. As such, it is to be viewed as a symptom of fundamental weaknesses in the institutions; the correctives, therefore, need to focus on a set of fundamental institutional determinants.

To what extent has the political system reacted to the malaise? A good example is the First Report of the Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha, in December 1998. It had this to say in its opening paragraphs:

“Moral and ethical concerns of society weigh a great deal with those in public life as their behaviour is keenly watched by the people. At concerned quarters views are being expressed over the general decline in moral and ethical standards in public life. The committee has itself noted the general decline in moral and ethical standards in public life. While the committee felt that it was a serious trend, it did not, however, fully share the despondency...

“There is a general feeling that all is not right with our political system which is functioning under a great strain. In such a situation, the representatives of the people have to set high standards of behaviour in public life. Members of Parliament have not only to represent the society but have also to lead it. Therefore, they have to function as the role models and this naturally casts on them a heavy responsibility...

“The committee notes that our freedom fighters and national leaders had set high ethical and moral standards in public life and they followed those principles scrupulously. This tendency, the committee painfully observes, is now on a decline”.

The report addressed the question of criminalisation of politics and felt it could only be tackled through self-regulatory mechanisms of political parties. It recommended a model Code of Conduct, of a general nature, for the members of the Rajya Sabha.

The third report of the Ethics Committee, in August 2002, opined that “ethical questions are mainly matters of one’s conscience” and therefore cannot be dealt entirely by legislation.

The argument thus returns to its point of commencement. The imperative of ethics in public life is eventually a matter of conscience, of morality, of a sense of values in relation to right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust, humane and cruel. The perceived dichotomy between public and the private behaviour of individuals, therefore, does not exist in ethical terms and must not exist in practice.

It follows that the individual, in relation to the State in any aspect of its functioning, must act in an ethical manner; it then becomes the duty of the State as well as of the civil society to ensure this through appropriate instrumentalities of law as also of social pressures. Only then would we see the day when the corrupt would not only be punished but also ostracized.

Conscience, in other words, may need to be jostled from time to time. The duty of the State, and of the civil society, is to be proactive in the matter. Only then would the moral realm in public life become meaningful and make India of the future truly free, just and humane.n

The article has been excerpted from the Haksar Memorial Lecture delivered by the writer who is Vice-President of India, at CRRID, Chandigarh, recently.

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ABC of news
by Navjit Singh Johal

ONE day, while coming back from Punjabi University, Patiala, to Chandigarh, I was waiting for a bus at the university gate. My waiting session came to an early end as within minutes a Chandigarh Transport Undertaking bus, with a Mansa-Chandigarh board, made a screeching halt.

As I got into it, my eyes started searching for a seat. Finally, I was able to locate one at the rear, adjacent to the conductor’s seat.

As I settled in, the conductor got up and issued tickets to the new passengers. Within minutes he finished his job and got into his seat with a big bang and uttered a great sigh of relief.

After completing some other formalities, he took out an envelope from his bag.

He took a paper out and started reading it. As soon as he finished the reading he threw the paper out of the window. Whispering to himself he said, “Eh ki bakwas hai” (“what is this rubbish?”).

What was he doing? As this question came to my mind, he took out another paper from the same envelope, looked at it for a while and threw it away too. This time, however, he was more “vocal” against the sender of the envelope. “Aunda janda kuchh nahin, bane phirde aa Pattarkar.” (They do not know anything about news reporting and still pose as journalists).” The word “Pattarkar”, alerted me, as I have had a very long association with this word. “Fortunately”, I have been teaching Journalism and Mass Communication, and “unfortunately”, I am married to a journalist, both for a long time now.

As my suspense increased he took out the third piece of paper, perhaps the last one and after going through it quickly, said “Eh tan pher vi theek hai,” (This is perhaps O.K.) and took no time to put the paper back in the envelope.

At this juncture, I could not restrain myself and asked: “Sardar ji eh ki maamla hai?” (What is the matter sardarji?”) “Ki kariye ji, aa pattarkar khabran de dinde aa, akhbar de deftar den lai, par inhan vich hunda kuchh nahin.” (Journalists hand over these news reports to me to deliver at the newspaper office, but there is hardly any content in these.)

“Tusin roz hi aisian khabran lai ke aunde ho?” (Do yo bring such news every day?) I asked.

“Lag bhag har roz hi” (Almost every day”), he replied.

“Te tusin har roz edan hi karde ho?” (And you do the same thing almost every day?”) I asked.

“Te hor ki?” (And what else?)”, he replied with great confidence.

I could feel from his body language that he was very proud of his act.

For the first time in my life, I realised that journalism does not belong only to journalists. In this age of superfast communication technologies, it was not necessary that a news editor needs to have computers, fax machines, scanners or ever-ringing mobile phones at his disposal. Even a matriculate, carrying a small green bag, can also be a man with a great “nose for the news”.

As I looked at him again, I could see the same satisfaction on his face that could be seen on the faces of news editors when they get first edition of their newspaper around midnight and do not have to make phone calls to make corrections or even to rush back to their offices to look for ABCs of news i.e. Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity.

I was thinking about the complaints that the desk journalists make against the ever-increasing flow of “lesser news” or “no news” to the newsrooms of the newspapers. Why don’t they have an agreement with the state transport corporations to solve this problem?

Many months have passed since my Patiala visit, but I am still searching for a proper answer to this question.

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Dismantle the border fence
by Lt Gen (retd) Harwant Singh

Ineffective against smuggling and infiltration, the fence is a source of harassment for farmers whose lands lie on the other side

After so many years, the political leadership has woken to the plight of farmers, whose land actually falls on the far side of the fence on the Punjab border. Parkash Singh Badal, the chief minister of Punjab, has finally and formally lodged a protest with the home minister of India against the harassment and inconvenience caused to the farmers at the gates at the fence.

Fencing of the Punjab border resulted in thousands of acres of land being left on the Pakistan side. The fence itself, due to its width and the track alongside, has taken a few thousand more acres. The fence could not be erected right on the border, because of the objection and interference by Pakistani Rangers.

The fence cost hundreds of crores of rupees to erect and the recurring cost of maintaining it (in fuel and generators, both initial cost and subsequent repair and replacement) and keeping it lit at night also runs into a tidy sum. The proposal and the erecting of the fence relates to the troubled times in Punjab during the eighties to check infiltration of terrorists from across the border. The secondary purpose was to prevent smuggling of narcotics and the like. How much it succeeded in checking infiltration is purely a matter of conjecture. As far as smuggling goes, it is business as usual.

The Tribune has exposed the extent of smuggling of narcotics into the state and how well-connected people in Punjab are involved in drug trafficking. The state government is planning to go in for a special drive to check this menace, by sealing “suspected drug supply routes” on all borders. The fact that the maximum number of drug addicts are in the border districts is indication enough of the main routes along which drugs are being brought into the province.

While the usefulness of the fence will continue to be debated, it has placed the farmers whose land falls on the far side at a great disadvantage and put them to enormous amount of inconvenience, because the gates are widely separated. The first and foremost problem is one of watering, because of the problem of keeping the water channels functional, especially across the width of the fence, and watering at night.

Pakistanis often drive their cattle at night to feed on the crop and there is no way a farmer can guard his fields. There is considerable amount of harassment in getting across these gates at the fence. Often passage is allowed after some periodic consideration in cash or kind and the fixed timings for gate opening and closing works against the convenience of the farmers.

With Indian bunkers behind the fence, Pakistan, at most places, has moved its bunkers right on the border and these intimidate farmers working in their fields: right under the shadow of Pak machineguns. Overtime some of these farmers are cajoled, threatened and enticed to take to smuggling.

There is also connivance and cooperation at some of the gates on a share basis or plain consideration. Consequently, drugs have been pouring into India across this very fenced border and resulted in wide spread use of drugs in the border districts of Punjab. It is on Punjab police’s own admission that fifty two percent of its personnel are addicted to drugs. This compulsively points to a nexus with the smugglers.

Though Mr Badal has directed the Police Chief of the province to break the nexus between the smugglers and the well connected, the police will first have to clean up its own house.

The massive infiltration of Bangladeshis into India has taken place as part of a political move to create vote banks and with the complete connivance of border and the state police as well as the civil administration. The estimate of Bangladeshis who have infiltrated into India varies from 1.5 to 2 crores. This has been a more convenient route for the insurgents to come to the North Eastern states and some times even into J and K. Now there is a proposal to fence the Bangladesh border too. Obviously some people seem to gain from such projects!

To any right thinking person it was clear that the inflow of misguided youth called terrorists (young Indians who had crossed over to Pakistan due to the then prevailing situation in Punjab) from across the border into Punjab was a temporary phase, because the causes for their alienation lay within the country and these terrorists had no support base as such.

Therefore, erecting this fence was not a well-thought out plan. There was an attempt to have a similar fence in the Jammu sector too, but we opposed the proposal, as it was no solution to the problem of infiltration. We had pointed out that infiltrators come across from, Nepal, Bangladesh and Rajasthan. Those are safer routes compared to the risk of being intercepted and shot while crossing the border in J and K.

Moreover, in the event of hostilities, the fence had some tactical disadvantages for India and it would work in favour of Pakistan. Some years later the fence came up in J and K too, where again we have lost effective control over thousands of acres of land. It has been a repeat on the problems encountered in Punjab.

It is difficult to conclude weather the fence in J and K has resulted in decrease in infiltration or not, because insurgency has its own phases of highs and lows. Though going by the figures of terrorist acts in J and K and infiltration figures, no one seems convinced that the fence has reduced infiltration into J and K. Moreover a fence induces a sense of complacency and the more effective and viable methods to check smuggling and infiltration are overlooked and not effectively deployed.

Overtime, Indian land across the fence will be laid waste: lost to India, over grown with tall grass and ‘sarkanda.’ It will then provide convenient shelter to smugglers etc and in J and K to infiltrators. In any case, packets containing drugs can be thrown across the fence and picked up by couriers on the Indian end. So even against smuggling a fence is no great deterrent or check.

Nowhere in the world are borders sealed in this manner, because such methods are not cost effective, nor very efficient. Even ‘high tech’ American equipment by itself has not helped in checking infiltration of terrorists into Iraq from across the borders with Iran and Syria. Good and effective intelligence cells in villages along the border, appropriate deployment of security forces coupled with detection equipment, sniffer dogs, regular patrolling etc is the best combination to counter this menace.

Therefore, there is a case for dismantling the fence and deploying more effective means to check infiltration and smuggling.

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Employment guarantee scheme is flawed
by S.S. Chahar

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was based on the philosophy propounded by the Independent International Commission for Peace and Food, 1994, in its report titled ‘Prosperity 2000 – Strategy for India’.

While the concept is good, NREGS is to be implemented by the existing machinery, which has failed to deliver the goods during the last sixty years.

The entire responsibility of implementing the scheme has been handed over to a Programme Officer, a post which is a colonial legacy. Further, its implementation has been made optional for the state government, in case schemes of similar nature are already under implementation by them. These and other shortcomings raise some doubts about the success of the scheme.

NREGS guarantees no social security. With the advancement of the industrial sector and social security provided therein in the face of accidents and illness, at child caring and in old age, the rural poor too want jobs outside the agricultural sector.

No permanent infrastructure is to be raised under the scheme, which means funds will be doled out for only temporary works like, kachha roads, digging and filling ditches etc. under political pressure or otherwise. This means no socially useful purpose will be achieved. Instead, such temporary works have enough scope for corrupt practices.

Then there is the intricate, mutually supportive web of corruption involving the representatives of the local bodies and officials. It is this web of corruption which siphoned off about 70-80 per cent of the funds (i.e. Rs. 12,800 crores) allocated for rural development during the 10th five year plan.

Lack of will always paves the way to failure. The scheme is still a non-starter in many states, which shows the lack of will on the part of the state to implement it. In many states where the scheme is under execution, a very insignificant percentage of the annual funds allocated has been utilised. For instance, Bihar could spend only Rs. 51 crores out of Rs. 403 crores.

There are only a few states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where utilisation of funds under the scheme has been reported to be very high. The scheme hasn’t been given wide publicity by the state governments to educate the people, and the panchayat representatives, of its objectives and advantages.

Then there are various mal-practices such as discrimination in selection of the beneficiaries and the payment of wages, refusal to pay employment allowance in clear violation of the basic provision of the scheme, delay in providing employment, providing employment for 10-25 days only against the envisaged average of 100 days, rampant corruption in issuing job cards, execution of the scheme totally with machines and fraudulently showing the wages as paid to the workers, delay in payments, attendance on loose-sheets with no muster-rolls, demand of commission by engineers, lack of mandatory facilities like medical aid, drinking water, shades and crèches etc.

What is needed is a periodic review of the scheme with a view to find out the weaknesses in its implementation. Manning of the scheme by persons of proper ability and integrity, identification of districts for the scheme on the basis of poverty incidence instead of unemployment rates, integration of all other poverty allocation scheme with the NREGS, intensive awareness generation campaign in local languages about the scheme and training of the members of the gram panchayats, will undoubtedly give better results with lesser funds and lesser efforts.

Instead of executing temporary works only, creation of sustainable assets such as construction of buildings for animal care, schools, hospitals, water harvesting and the like must be taken up. Creation of such assets can help in generation of long term employment opportunities. Promotion of labour intensive factories in rural areas requiring unskilled and semi-skilled labour may also be brought within the domain of the scheme.

The writer is a Professor of Public Administration and Director, Centre for Haryana Studies, M.D. University, Rohtak

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Inside Pakistan
Aitzaz Ahsan’s formula
by Syed Nooruzzaman

The opposition parties in Pakistan have been faced with a dilemma: should they participate in the January elections with a pliant judiciary ready to put its stamp of approval on anything that President Pervez Musharraf does? Should they ignore the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the pre-November 3 Supreme Court and High Courts being supported by different sections of society? Or should they boycott the polls even if that means allowing pro-Musharraf parties to capture the legislatures easily?

The opposition parties have also been afraid of the fact that people will never forgive a party that ignores the sacrifices made by judges and lawyers for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

These questions have so far prevented the opposition parties, including those led by the two most popular leaders - Ms Benazir Bhutto and Mr Nawaz Sharif - from taking a joint stand. Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Aitzaz Ahsan, under house arrest, has come out with a formula to end their dilemma.

In an open letter to the SCBA, Mr Ahsan has suggested that if pragmatism dictates participation in the elections, then all candidates should come to their local district bars and take an SCBA-prescribed oath, requiring them to swear that, if elected, “they will move the necessary motion/resolution/law/ amendment required to ensure reinstatement of the ousted judges”.

This “will bind them, morally and politically, to take up this cause in the next parliament. The process of this oath, as suggested by Mr Ahsan, would galvanise the lawyers’ movement with candidates coming to the bar and taking this oath in public and in full view of the media”, as The News says in an editorial.

“This formulation should defuse the tension growing between civil society and the politicians as well as break any potential deadlock between the parties in the ARD and the APDM over the issue of judges”, Daily Times added.

Lawyers in the lead

No section of society has contributed as much as the lawyers to the cause of restoration of democracy. This remains an undisputed fact. They are on the forefront of the protest against the forcible retirement of most of the senior judges who had refused to take the oath under the so-called Provisional Constitutional Order. That is why no political party has the courage to ignore their movement and participate in the elections. Leaders of such a party are bound to be declared traitors.

According to Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad (The Nation, Dec 6), “there is a wide recognition that the decisions taken by the independent-minded judges and the eight-month-long protest by lawyers have, in fact, weakened the hold of the Musharraf establishment and created conditions that forced him to allow the exiled politicians to return, doff the uniform and announce the elections. Foreign pressure that was subsequently exerted on President Musharraf might not have been there in the absence of the movement of the lawyers and civil society.”

Former SCBA chief Munir A. Malik says in an article in Dawn (Dec 6), “The continuing protests, in the legal community and beyond, are taking their toll on the regime… Despite the Supreme Court’s declaration that the issue of sacked judges is a past and closed transaction, it is being conveyed unofficially that the regime is amenable for a partial restoration of judges. The legal community shall not brook compromises on this issue. Each and every judge must be restored unconditionally.”

PPP poll manifesto

Interestingly, while Ms Bhutto’s PPP talks of boycotting the elections if its demands, as included in the charter being finalised with Mr Nawaz Sharif’s PML (N), are not accepted, it has released its election manifesto too. The manifesto, which elaborates on its strategy for employment-generation, promoting education and equality of opportunities, also focuses on Pakistan’s foreign policy if a PPP-led government is formed. It must be made clear here that no single political party is expected to be in a position to set up its own government.

The PPP manifesto promises support for “the right of self-determination of all people.” It says that the PPP “supports the rights of the Kashmiri people and will pursue the composite dialogue process agenda that it initiated with India.”

On the question of relations with India, the manifesto has it that “The Simla Agreement of 1973 provides a framework for relations between the two countries. It seeks to reduce tensions with India through peaceful negotiations on outstanding disputes and issues…”

However, what it will actually do will be known only when it is in a position to implement its promises.

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