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PERSPECTIVE

A Tribune Special
Buy the best for armed forces
The acquisition system should be transparent, says Admiral Arun Prakash (retd)
W
ITH two military campaigns on his hands, and with the economy in dire straits, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is reportedly stalking the corridors of the Pentagon, seeking to axe high cost weapon systems. This has sent shivers down the spines of the US Service Chiefs, because there are unlikely to be any holy cows, and any programme, including the F-22 Raptor fighter, a new class of 100,000-ton aircraft-carriers or the army’s Future Combat System could qualify for the chop.

OPED

Unrest in Tibet
Its neutrality can be guaranteed by neighbours
by Madhuri Santanam Sondhi
D
ESPITE 50 years of occupation and pacification, Tibet remains a cauldron of unrest. The Chinese with several glitzy development projects (primarily for their settlers) and ‘smile campaigns’ have failed to win the gratitude of the local people. After the dizzying heights of pre-Olympic publicity, when the extent and depth of discontent got internationally showcased by men and women of extraordinary courage and desperation, China retaliated with ‘strike hard’ policies, and the Dalai Lama now describes Tibet as a veritable ‘hell on earth’.



EARLIER STORIES

Jail for Telgi
March 21, 2009
Threat to security
March 20, 2009
Punish Varun
March 19, 2009
Marxist manifesto
March 18, 2009
Restoration of Chief Justice
March 17, 2009
Deepening crisis in Pakistan
March 16, 2009
Manifesto of an unborn party
March 15, 2009
Third Front
March 14, 2009
Pakistan on the brink
March 13, 2009
Army’s warning
March 11, 2009


Profile
Man who fought for Pak judiciary
by Harihar Swarup
W
HEN everything appears to be failing in Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent, civil disobedience ‘mantra’ appears to be succeeding. This was reflected in the success of the lawyers’ movement for restoration of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court.

On Record
Sensitise students against ragging, says Raghavan
by Kamlendra Kanwar
D
EEPLY concerned over the increasing incidence of ragging in educational institutions which takes bizarre forms, a committee was set up on the Supreme Court’s directions to recommend measures to tackle the menace. Headed by former CBI Director R.K. Raghavan, the committee has given some significant suggestions which have been accepted by the apex court.





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A Tribune Special
Buy the best for armed forces
The acquisition system should be transparent, says Admiral Arun Prakash (retd)

WITH two military campaigns on his hands, and with the economy in dire straits, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is reportedly stalking the corridors of the Pentagon, seeking to axe high cost weapon systems.

This has sent shivers down the spines of the US Service Chiefs, because there are unlikely to be any holy cows, and any programme, including the F-22 Raptor fighter, a new class of 100,000-ton aircraft-carriers or the army’s Future Combat System could qualify for the chop.

India’s defence appropriation of Rs 141,000 crore (US $28 billion) voted on account for the coming fiscal year may be dwarfed by the US defence budget of $611 billion, but it is said to mark a notional increase of 34 per cent over last year’s funding. While we do not know exactly what proportion will remain for modernisation after meeting the post-Pay Commission revenue demands, no hatchet-wielding specter should haunt our Service Chiefs.

While India’s strategic community will inevitably lament that defence spending should have received a higher proportion of GDP, the armed forces are unlikely to be overly perturbed. The frustration and quandary of the Service Headquarters (SHQ) resides in their inability to persuade the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to shed bureaucratic attitudes, and emerge from its state of stasis so that the annual budgetary allocations can be spent on vitally needed equipment for our fighting forces. However, unbeknown to the tax-payer as well the law-maker, there are anomalies in defence acquisition which go well beyond this problem.

The first issue relates to the absence of institutional scrutiny and objective oversight of the force planning processes routinely undertaken by the SHQ. In the absence of a cogent articulation of national interests and security objectives by the Indian state, the armed forces, left to their own devices, have for the past 60 years, tended to plan in strategic vacuity.

This has often resulted in weapon-systems being acquired capriciously; either because they were foisted on us at “friendship prices” (or even as gifts), or because we wanted to “keep up with the Joneses” in the technology domain.

Since forces built on such principles are not underpinned by a vision of our long-term national interests (which must include shaping of our future strategic neighbourhood), they may lack the capability, doctrinal as well as material, to combat all threats that emerge.

The second issue is that of the huge parochial pressures (largely professional in nature), generated by the service constituencies, on their respective Chiefs. Such pressures tend to reduce the Service Chiefs to “Chieftains”, battling relentlessly to safeguard the perceived interests of their own service, rather than focusing on the common weal of national security as members of the collegial Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).

There was a time, not too long ago, when one service would openly snipe at another, especially if it considered that its “roles and missions” were being encroached upon; aviation assets being the most frequent casus belli.

Currently, a gentleman’s agreement, is in force; which forbids one service from commenting on the acquisition plans of another, provided there is no mutual interference. The natural consequence of this unstated truce is that service acquisition proposals, no matter how profligate or illogical, rarely receive the ruthless scrutiny and inquiry obligatory for requisitioning such large expenditures. The Chairman, COSC, being merely the first amongst equals, seldom presumes to undertake this hazardous task, which is then left to the less than knowledgeable mandarins of the MoD.

This leads to the third issue relating to a concept known as “effect-based operations” or EBO, adopted by the more advanced and economy-conscious armed forces. EBO is explained by the following simple example. Should we want to undertake a limited precision strike on a terrorist training camp in our neighbourhood, the “effect” desired would be the delivery of “X” tons of high explosive with a specified accuracy on target.

Under the EBO concept, this mission could be accomplished with equal dexterity by air force strike aircraft, army missile or artillery units, naval carrier-borne fighters and even cruise-missile armed submarines. The actual choice of weapon system would be dictated by a variety of factors including effectiveness, economy of effort and surprise etc, but the conceptual flexibility bestowed by EBO enables wider discretion in weapon acquisition choices.

Such a concept remains alien to the Indian system because currently, each service is accustomed to demanding and getting what it thinks is best for itself. For example, India must be unique amongst military powers, in that we can embark upon the acquisition of major weapon-systems like fighter aircraft, tanks and artillery in huge numbers, or nuclear submarines, and aircraft carriers costing billions of rupees without the semblance of public discussion.

Neither politicians nor Parliament, and not even the MoD, have the time or inclination to dwell on many vital issues of contention: the evolving threat-environment, the technology versus numbers or technology versus manpower conundrums that exist in this context. So hardware continues to be demanded arbitrarily by our SHQ, or imposed on us imperiously by foreign governments.

Finally, perhaps the worst kept secret in the country is the predatory interest that the politician takes in every substantive arms acquisition deal that is concluded, and the hypocritical mud-slinging that follows in its wake. Unless a bi-partisan “hands-off” agreement can be reached between major political parties, the MoD will remain in a state of stasis, on this account, and defence preparedness will continue to suffer.

We cannot live in this fool’s paradise forever. Defence budgets are going to start shrinking; and the people will demand accountability of Parliament, MoD and the SHQ, sooner than later. The answer lies in opening up the defence acquisition system and making it as transparent as we possibly can.

Enlightened political involvement must be invited and encouraged in matters of force modernisation, which have a vital bearing on national security. Above all, we must reform our archaic and dysfunctional higher defence organisation.

Little Sri Lanka, next doors, has demonstrated brilliantly, the benefits to be garnered from integrated planning and joint-service synergy in operations. Even if the politicians and bureaucrats continue to nurture irrational antipathy to a Chief of Defence Staff, let the new government, post-elections, operationally integrate our armed forces and merge the SHQ with the MoD without further ado.

The recent displays of blatant praetorianism across our eastern and western borders have served to confirm that the Indian armed forces are truly the sole sub-continental inheritors of the priceless apolitical tradition bequeathed by their British progenitors.

Armies are sent into battle only when statesmen and diplomats have been unsuccessful in ensuring peace. Our Armed forces have not only fought gallantly on the battlefield but consistently and impartially upheld India’s integrity and secular democratic tradition, when all others have failed the nation.

Their darkest hour occurred in the wake of Operation Blue Star; an unseen internal crisis which threatened to rend the taut fabric of discipline and loyalty which binds together our magnificent Army. The manner in which it contained and defused this calamity will remain another (untold) saga of outstanding military leadership.

This monastic devotion to discipline is the reason that Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army and the Free Indian Legion are, till today, spoken of in hushed tones in the service environment. The exact details of the 1942 Royal Indian Navy mutiny (even though it imparted a decisive impetus to the freedom movement) will forever remain confined to confidential volumes kept under lock and key on board every warship.

Similarly, public expressions of defiance like hunger-strikes, dharnas, marches and demonstrations by civilians cause acute discomfort to the soldier, sailor and airman because they run contrary to the essence of all that he has been ever taught: unquestioning respect and obedience of lawful authority.

Once he doffs his uniform, an ex-Serviceman (ESM) is technically liberated from the restraints of military discipline, and is free to adopt the demeanor and behaviour of any civilian on the street. But deep inside, his soul cringes at the very thought of conducting himself in a manner which would have brought disrepute to his uniform, unit or service.

Why then did our ESM start resorting to demonstrations about 10 months ago, in the heart of the national capital as well as in many states? Why did they thereafter graduate to relay fasts at Jantar Mantar? And why are they now surrendering their precious medals to low level functionaries in Rashtrapati Bhavan?

Though they have conducted themselves in a most dignified and orderly manner, the very fact that veterans ranging from Generals to Jawans have been marching on the streets and squatting on footpaths has sent shock waves throughout the services community; even if the media and our fellow citizens have largely ignored this disturbing development.

This writer is not about to argue the case of the ESM, but a brief summary of events would help to orient the reader. In early-2006 when the Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC) loomed into sight, the Service Chiefs, individually and collectively, through the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), appealed to the Defence Minister, on the basis of bitter past experience, that a service member be included in the CPC. This request having been declined, when the CPC Report was released in 2008, the services found to their dismay that the recommendations expectedly contained many glaring anomalies impacting adversely on serving personnel as well as ESM.

At the persistent urgings of the Service Chiefs, a Review Committee was constituted; ironically yet again bereft of a service representative. The Review Committee aggravated the anomalous situation by arbitrarily making some further unwarranted modifications.

A series of instructions were issued by the Defence Accounts and pension disbursing authorities which were self-contradictory and compounded the prevailing confusion as well as unhappiness. While the Chairman, COSC, took up the issues relating to serving personnel with the Government, the ESM became convinced that since no one was listening to them, they had no choice but to adopt agitational methods. They have, therefore, taken to the streets since April 2008.

Military veterans, world-wide are objects of spontaneous respect, affection and admiration because they are national symbols of courage, patriotism and sacrifice; a segment deserving of special consideration by the government. The grievances of our ESM, should, therefore, have been handled with far more sensitivity and responsiveness, than they actually were.

The current ESM movement has been able to mobilise opinion country-wide and gather self-sustaining momentum, mainly due to connectivity provided by the Internet and cellular phone networks. While the MoD seems to have adopted a disdainful and detached stance towards their grievances, the ESM roll-on agenda now encompasses canvassing political support for their cause, and even the formation of an ESM political party which will put up candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Thus it is now obvious that, while the nation slept, the process of “politicisation” of our armed forces is well under way, if not complete. The Sixth CPC has also inflicted serious collateral damage by deepening the existing civil-military chasm and thereby further slowing down the languid functioning of the MoD.

As a former Army Chief has pointed out, the ESM retain “an umbilical connection” with the serving personnel; they hail from the same regions or neighbouring villages and often belong to the same family. In any case, the Services and ESM are one big family. No one should have any doubts that the essence of whatever happens at Jantar Mantar or India Gate will slowly but surely filter back by a process of “reverse osmosis” to the men in uniform.

Were this to happen — even by default — it would constitute the most grievous injury to be needlessly inflicted on itself by the Indian state. India’s democracy requires that the armed forces must be restored to their original pristine apolitical state at the earliest.

The surest way of doing this is to remove the ESM from the streets, and the best means would be to constitute a Blue Ribbon Commission to examine and address their grievances. This can be done right now, because the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct does not come in the way.

The writer is a former Chief of Naval Staff

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Unrest in Tibet
Its neutrality can be guaranteed by neighbours
by Madhuri Santanam Sondhi

DESPITE 50 years of occupation and pacification, Tibet remains a cauldron of unrest. The Chinese with several glitzy development projects (primarily for their settlers) and ‘smile campaigns’ have failed to win the gratitude of the local people. After the dizzying heights of pre-Olympic publicity, when the extent and depth of discontent got internationally showcased by men and women of extraordinary courage and desperation, China retaliated with ‘strike hard’ policies, and the Dalai Lama now describes Tibet as a veritable ‘hell on earth’.

Still a protesting grassroots movement mourned rather than celebrated Tibetan New Year, and aimed to boycott ‘Serf Emancipation Day’, Chinese newspeak for the 50th anniversary of the March 10 Uprising. Having failed to woo the populace through paternalistic Confucian slogans of ‘harmony’, China has now declared the more menacing goal of (an enforced) ‘wall of stability’ in Tibet.

To some extent despite the China earthquake, the post-Olympics return to ‘normalcy’ and even the global recession, European leaders continue to meet with and honour the Dalai Lama. At the recent presentation of China’s Periodic Review to the UN Human Rights Council, Australia, Canada and some European countries raised uncomfortable questions about Tibet. Yet the conscience of the world rarely translates into effective political and economic action. Indeed for the international community anything that smacks of the political is off the table.

The contrast with Palestine moves young Tibetans to attribute this indifference to their non-violence; the Dalai Lama wryly suggests a lack of oil in Tibet, but it is also the case that land imperialism, especially of contiguous territories, attracts less censure than overseas imperialism — to wit the Soviet Union’s Central Asian and East European empire which she successfully camouflaged behind her leadership of an international campaign against western imperialism!

Against all recognised history, the world community accepted the myth of China’s ‘sovereignty’ over Tibet, and ‘engagement’ with China for almost four decades has offered tantalising opportunities for investment and trade. The US awarded the high honour of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama, but is locked with China in a restrictive symbiotic economic embrace demonstrated by Hilary Clinton’s recent Beijing visit which confirmed the dispensability of Tibetan human rights.

Similarly, many countries have significant economic ties with China including India whose recent burgeoning trade might be an added excuse for her silence on Tibet, but whose congenital fear of China has dogged her since Independence. While hosting the Dalai Lama conveys a certain Gandhigiri message, India’s initial unsolicited ‘recognition’ of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet had no legal basis and its consequences have been harmful to both Tibet and India.

It is sometimes said that international interest in Tibet and the unity of its pluralistic polity depend on the person of this Dalai Lama whose mesmerising charisma keeps his flock together and opens diplomatic doors quite astounding for a monk ‘with no divisions’. (When Stalin was warned his actions might antagonise the Church, he quipped: And how many divisions has the Pope? The Papacy however, outlasted Stalinism.)

He has proven an intractable impediment to Chinese control over Tibet, and China now awaits his passing armed with a new law to appoint his successor and other high incarnate lamas with followings amongst the exiles. However the Fourteenth and his advisers are equally seized of the problem. For the Chinese to get acceptance for a puppet Dalai Lama will not be easy as attempts at legitimising their choice for the Panchen have shown, and if the Fourteenth upends them by putting in place a stable succession process for the Fifteenth beyond their reach, they will face trouble indeed.

If the stalemate over Sino-Tibetan negotiations induced some demoralisation, Chinese policies, according to a Tibetan functionary, have ‘reignited nationalism’ inside Tibet. Indeed the Dalai Lama has injected a sharper edge by expressing disappointment in Chinese good faith, and even more by his expectation of a change of regime in China.

In China, anti-government demonstrations in their thousands regularly occur in the countryside, the unemployment figure is today over 20 million, and the relatively deprived recently affluent urban bourgeoisie are now also discontented. Limited religious freedoms led to a resurgence of interest in Christianity, Buddhism and birth of the Falun Gong sect (now persecuted) while according to the Dalai Lama’s estimate, Tibetan Buddhism has about two million followers in the mainland. Internet facilities and relaxations on international travel have, despite official controls, opened up horizons for citizens previously at the mercy of ideological indoctrination.

In November, members of the academic and professional elites announced Charter 08, a manifesto for civic rights and freedoms (publicly endorsed by Vaclav Havel), rapidly enrolling a membership of thousands until the movement was gagged.

Amongst the ‘engaged’ nations, there is a general expectation that China’s one-party system will adapt and recover, but were the regime to loosen at any time, then interesting new possibilities could emerge. One might be the achievement of the Dalai Lama’s ‘meaningful autonomy’ within China. But the strategic and environmental problems between India and China would not easily go away.

In addition to containment by China’s Indian Ocean ‘pearls’, India is militarily threatened by her occupation of the ‘commanding heights’ of the Tibetan plateau and territorial claims on Himalayan territory including Arunachal and parts of Sikkim and Bhutan. Conversely, Tibet is China’s strategic ‘soft underbelly’: given her historical memories of vulnerability from that quarter, China would feel equally insecure and threatened were Tibet outside her control. Environmentally, especially with regard to diminishing water availability, both China and India (and other Southeast Asian countries) depend for their water sources on Tibet.

To get out of this zero-sum situation towards a regional modus vivendi, one would need some out-of-the-box answers. The Dalai Lama gave a call for a regional peace conference at Strasbourg in 1988 to discuss his proposal for a zone of ahimsa comprising the entire Tibetan areas of Kham, Amdo and U-Tsang, a proposal he has never repudiated. It would entail assuaging the security and environmental fears of China, India and concerned neighbours while securing the aspirations of the Tibetan peoples through neutralisation and de-nuclearisation of the plateau and guarantee of genuine political, cultural and religious freedoms for the Central Asian peoples. This zone could even be extended to include certain contested areas of the Himalayas.

If this sounds utopian one need only remember the patient diplomacy extending into almost 350 meetings that resulted in Austria’s neutrality, guaranteed after World War II by the UK, France, the USSR and the US. Any attack on pacified Austria immediately brings the other contracting parties to her defence. Similarly, Tibet’s neutrality and security could be guaranteed by her concerned neighbours and the world’s big powers, and Tibet could guarantee the region’s environmental security.

As for ethnic Chinese settlers, one may learn from the newly independent Baltic States which after seven decades of occupation did not expel their Russian citizens. Bolder and larger re-structuring might establish a real Tibetan ‘wall of stability’ for China, India and the region.

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Profile
Man who fought for Pak judiciary
by Harihar Swarup

WHEN everything appears to be failing in Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent, civil disobedience ‘mantra’ appears to be succeeding. This was reflected in the success of the lawyers’ movement for restoration of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court.

The moving spirit behind the peaceful agitation has been Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan who has become a sign of resistance to anti-democratic moves. His speeches and command over law has made him the most recognisable politician of Pakistan today.

Sixty-four-year-old Ahsan comes from a family background steeped in politics. He was an infant in 1946, when his mother was among a group of political activists imprisoned by a British-appointed administrator in colonial India. The prisoners kept up their call-and-response sloganeering. Someone would shout Khizr Wazirat (Minister Khizr’s rule). The rest would respond Tordo, Tordo (Break it, Break it). Soon little Ahsan was joining in with the chorus.

Over six decades later, Ahsan was still trying to break the authoritarian rule. As President of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, he led tens of thousands of lawyers and other pro-democracy activists in nation-wide demonstrations after former President Pervez Musharraf sacked Chief Justice Chaudhry.

Years ago, when President Reagan treated Pakistan’s dictator, Zia ul-Haq, to a White House state dinner, Ahsan, a promising young lawyer out of Cambridge University, languished in jail. He had protested too loudly, and too often, about the lack of democracy in Pakistan. During Gen Zia’s rule, he became an active leader of the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in his country and rejoined the PPP during the Martial Law. During this period he was jailed several times as a political prisoner without trial for active participation in the MRD.

A writer, human rights activist, politician and former Federal Minister, Ahsan was born in Murree in Rawalpidi district. After early education from Aitchison College and Government College, Lahore, he studied law at the Cambridge University and was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn in 1967. On return from Cambridge, Ahsan stood first in Pakistan’s prestigious Central Superior Services Examination. Protesting against the rule of Gen. Ayub Khan, he refused to join government service.

Ahsan started his political career in the 1970s. When Chaudhry Anwar Samma, a Provincial Assembly PPP member from Gujarat, was murdered in March 1975, Aitzaz was elected unopposed to the Punjab Assembly and inducted in the Provincial Cabinet as Minister for Information, Planning and Development.

During demonstrations against alleged rigging of elections by the PPP government in 1977, the police opened fire on a lawyers’ rally in Lahore. Aitzaz quit as Punjab minister in protest. Soon he was expelled from the PPP. After Gen Zia’s coup, he rejoined the PPP during Martial Law.

Ahsan believes that Pakistan’s political system will remain incomplete so long as the country lacks an independent judiciary.

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On Record
Sensitise students against ragging, says Raghavan
by Kamlendra Kanwar

R.K. RaghavanDEEPLY concerned over the increasing incidence of ragging in educational institutions which takes bizarre forms, a committee was set up on the Supreme Court’s directions to recommend measures to tackle the menace. Headed by former CBI Director R.K. Raghavan, the committee has given some significant suggestions which have been accepted by the apex court.

Raghavan speaks to The Sunday Tribune about the scourge of ragging and gives an insight into what can be done to combat it. His views are noteworthy especially in the backdrop of the tragic Aman Kachroo incident in Himachal Pradesh recently.

Excerpts:

Q: Mr Raghavan, your committee gave a very worthy report to the Supreme Court on the menace of ragging and ways to curb it. Don’t you think the follow-up to that by state governments is too tardy?

A: Absolutely. This is not very high on their agenda because a tough anti-ragging policy is not exactly going to help get votes for the ruling party.

Q: In the Aman Kachroo case in Himachal, it emerged that an ordinance issued by the then State Government in 1992 was neither revalidated by the Government nor replaced by a legislative enactment in the past 17 years. How do you think state governments can be called to account for not legislating against ragging?

A: This revelation is itself indicative of what I said in reply to your earlier question. The Apex Court alone can ensure some imaginative and practical legislation.

Q: Do you support the move to amend the IPC to make ragging a punishable offence nationwide?

A: I welcome it wholeheartedly, if there is no support for a special legislation.

Q: You had recommended that educational institutions must lodge an FIR immediately against those students who they find prima facie guilty of indulging in ragging. Wouldn’t a fresher be fearful of complaining against his seniors and of getting embroiled in a court case?

A: What we had actually said was that if a victim was not satisfied with the action taken by the college authorities, the latter should assist him or her in filing an FIR with the police. I agree that fear of further victimisation is a deterrent. But this is true of every other form of victimisation in society. This is where the media should play a positive role in exposing apathy of college managements and unruly conduct of some sections of students.

Q: Do we have enough deterrent in law against perpetrators of ragging?

A: The existing provisions of IPC which deal with criminal intimidation are satisfactory, if not wholly adequate.

Q: Other than punitive legal measures, what other steps would you suggest to curb the growing criminal tendency among the youth?

A: As in the case of the West, the family as an institution has nearly broken down in India. The excessive accent on freedom and modernism has played havoc. The need for parents and teachers to mentor the youth is felt more than ever before. If they don’t play their role, we are heading towards perdition.

Q: Is the media doing enough to sensitise people about the menace of ragging? Do you subscribe to the view that the increasing depiction of crime and sex especially in the electronic media is fuelling the menace?

A: Undoubtedly, part of the cause is the crudity we see on TV channels and movies. The rest of the media has not done very badly. But in my view it can do a lot more to put down bullying in campuses. It should do stories which expose the callousness, if not downright connivance, of college managements.

I can speak with some authority on Tamil movies which glorify sex and violence among the youth. I suppose Bollywood is equally culpable. If the Union Health Minister is carrying on with a successful campaign against smoking being depicted in films, why not the Union Home Minister and State Chief Ministers appeal to the film industry to play down violence and vulgarity in films. Opinion leaders in society will also have to come out in a big way for the same cause. This is not difficult to achieve if there is a will.

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