SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

Democracy alive and well
Determined voters brave blasts, bullets
I
t is a tribute to the Indian voters that they came out in droves, braving even blasts and bullets in some states during the opening phase of the polling on Thursday. At least 18 persons, including five election officials and 11 security personnel, had to pay with their lives, but still the average voter turnout in 124 constituencies across 15 states and two union territories, was a healthy 60 per cent.

Enforcement is the key
Violent protesters must be made to pay
Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling against those indulging in violent agitations and destroying public and private property is timely and needs to be enforced scrupulously. The Bench consisting of Justice Arijit Pasayat, Justice L.S. Panta and Justice P. Sathasivam has not only put the onus on the leaders (even if they are not present on the spot during the protests) but also laid down guidelines for recovery of the cost of damaged property from the delinquent protesters.






EARLIER STORIES

Polls now, tie-ups later
April
17, 2009
A state within a state
April
16, 2009
Not by violence
April
15, 2009
Heed the EC
April
14, 2009
Criminal cases on the rise
April
13, 2009
Filmstars and elections
April
12, 2009
Belated, but right
April
11, 2009
Fighting Taliban
April
10, 2009
Abuse of language
April
9, 2009
ULFA at it again
April
8, 2009

Inflation near zero
But poor consolation for people
Inflation has fallen to 0.18 per cent, the lowest since the maintenance of inflation records began in 1977-78. This has intrigued common people. Since low inflation should mean low prices, people see no link between newspaper reports of slumping inflation and soaring prices they pay for day-to-day necessities in the market.

ARTICLE

Polls and promises
How economic policies are distorted
by Vijay Sanghvi
E
lections are a season of war of words among political parties. Words are woven not to criticise ideologies and policies of opponents but to run down their characters, their positions and their relations. Accusations are easily hurled at opponents even while realising that they were not true but only because they suit political needs. What is justified on the self-side is condemned in opponent as anathema.

MIDDLE

How tall he stands
by Roopinder Singh
M
any Happy Returns of the Day, Sir!” I said. Subconsciously, I stood erect, practically at attention, early in the morning while making this call and this brought a grin on the face of my significant other.

OPED

A Tribune special
A maverick as President
The world outside South Africa feels uneasy
Ashis Ray writes from Pretoria
O
ne of the most delightful developments of the 20th century was the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. Yet, people ponder on whether this country of great potential will live up to expectations of being a beacon of example for the rest of Africa.

Russia ends operations in Chechnya
by Shaun Walker
R
ussia’s decade-long war in Chechnya came to a symbolic end on Thursday as restrictions labelling the region a “zone of counter-terrorist operations” were lifted.

Health
A wide-awake look at insomnia
by Kathleen Megan
I
t’s 1 a.m. You have to get up at 6. You’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep. What do you do?
You may find yourself slurping a spoonful of NyQuil or taking a Tylenol PM. Is that the best approach?


Top








 
EDITORIALS

Democracy alive and well
Determined voters brave blasts, bullets

It is a tribute to the Indian voters that they came out in droves, braving even blasts and bullets in some states during the opening phase of the polling on Thursday. At least 18 persons, including five election officials and 11 security personnel, had to pay with their lives, but still the average voter turnout in 124 constituencies across 15 states and two union territories, was a healthy 60 per cent. What was all the more remarkable was that even in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Orissa, where there were concerted attacks by naxals, people did come out to vote in defiance of boycott calls. The administration will have to mount stricter vigil in the future phases to ensure that this kind of violent disruption does not take place. Those who swear by the gun cannot be allowed to browbeat people who are clearly committed to democratic ways.

What has been most heartening is the active participation in the election process by the electorate of north-eastern states, particularly those in Nagaland, which registered a remarkable 84 per cent voting. Even a disturbed Assam went as high as 62 per cent, as if to underline the fact that these states have an equal stake in democracy. Another positive sign was the active participation in polling by upper middle-class voters in urban areas. The well-heeled are normally apathetic towards the poll process, but this time they went out of their way to queue up to vote. Apparently, the numerous awareness campaigns have shown good results. Each party would want to believe that the higher turnout was in its favour, but the voter may have many a surprise up his sleeve.

Contrary to the nationwide trend, there was relatively lower turnout in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This decline is rather inexplicable. Is it that the electorate is so disillusioned that it does not want to waste its effort on any leader because they are all perceived as chips off the old block who care little for the public’s poverty and misery? Or is it that the minorities have kept a low profile this time, not knowing who is the right bet for them? Either way, it is an object lesson for the leaders who think of the voters only at the election time.

Top

 

Enforcement is the key
Violent protesters must be made to pay

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling against those indulging in violent agitations and destroying public and private property is timely and needs to be enforced scrupulously. The Bench consisting of Justice Arijit Pasayat, Justice L.S. Panta and Justice P. Sathasivam has not only put the onus on the leaders (even if they are not present on the spot during the protests) but also laid down guidelines for recovery of the cost of damaged property from the delinquent protesters. The guidelines are based on the reports of two committees — one headed by Justice K.T. Thomas and the other by eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman — which the apex court has accepted. The Bench has ruled that the police will have to videograph “each and every” protest so that it can bring the hooligans and mischief mongers to book. Those destroying public and private property should be dealt with an iron hand, it said.

The Justice Thomas Committee has suggested radical measures to give teeth to the existing law — the Prevention of Destruction and Loss of Public Property Act. As this law is too lenient, it is unable to achieve the intended purpose, the committee said. The Nariman committee has recommended that the protesters must be made liable for the damage caused by their thoughtless action. Going a step further, the Bench has ruled that the protesters should be “saddled with exemplary cost”. Under the new guidelines, those seen indulging in violence and caught on video footage would be presumed to be the offenders and the onus would be on them to prove their innocence.

While the apex court guidelines are welcome, doubts may arise about their enforcement, pending the enactment of suitable laws by Parliament and the State Assemblies. The latter should hasten the laws for evolving a proper enforcement mechanism and ensuring time-bound punishment of those found guilty. The apex court is yet to hear the Shiv Sena-BJP plea against the Bombay High Court imposing a fine of Rs 20 lakh each for staging a bandh in Mumbai on July 30, 2003. Both parties have paid the fine, as directed by the court, pending adjudication of their appeal. The government should not be lenient towards violent protesters and must deal with them firmly on the lines suggested by the Supreme Court.

Top

 

Inflation near zero
But poor consolation for people

Inflation has fallen to 0.18 per cent, the lowest since the maintenance of inflation records began in 1977-78. This has intrigued common people. Since low inflation should mean low prices, people see no link between newspaper reports of slumping inflation and soaring prices they pay for day-to-day necessities in the market. The near-zero rate of inflation is because of the base effect, that is, last year inflation during this week was about 8 per cent and on a year-to-year basis the price rise has been negligible. It is expected to turn negative. Economists use the term “disinflation” for such a situation. If inflation remains low over a period of time, it gives rise to deflation. This means there is no demand, industrial activity has slowed, government revenue would suffer and the economy takes a hit.

Due to recession in the US, Europe and Japan and slowdown in India, prices of many commodities have plummeted. Metals have become cheaper. Oil is down to $50 a barrel or so from a high of $147 in July last year. However, food prices remain high. Recession or no recession, demand for food cannot fall beyond a limit. Demand-supply mismatches often contribute to price escalation. Sugar is ruling at a high because the area under sugarcane has shrunk. For pulses and oilseeds India depends on imports and global prices. If potatoes are hurting farmers, onions and tomatoes are fetching good returns but making life difficult for buyers.

Low inflation should normally lead the RBI to cut interest rates. But banks are not lowering deposit rates because a large number of pensioners depend on interest income. Besides, the government is on a borrowing spree, soaking out whatever liquidity the RBI measures have infused in the system. As a result, interest rates are not coming down and government/RBI efforts for stimulating growth have come a cropper.

Top

 

Thought for the Day

All love that has not friendship for its base, is like a mansion built upon the sand. — Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Top

 
ARTICLE

Polls and promises
How economic policies are distorted
by Vijay Sanghvi

Elections are a season of war of words among political parties. Words are woven not to criticise ideologies and policies of opponents but to run down their characters, their positions and their relations. Accusations are easily hurled at opponents even while realising that they were not true but only because they suit political needs. What is justified on the self-side is condemned in opponent as anathema. Those who justified pelting of stones by party workers at the police in anger against the arrest of Mr Varun Gandhi for delivering a series of speeches of communal hatred demand arrest of the opponent for his off-beat remarks. Abuses are hurled at the opponents only because their words do not confirm self-held opinions.

But the elections also usher in another kind of war. It is a war of promises of bribe to the poor but wrapped under a new policy framework of post-dated benefits of subsidised food, cheaper education for children, tax exemptions for salaried classes, cheap loans and waivers of unpaid debts. No party waits to consider the consequential burden on the economy if all these promises were to be genuinely delivered. These promises have an inbuilt character of introducing distortions to the national economy. They are double-edged weapons. They arouse passions and expectations. The wrath of disappointment and discontent caused by the non-delivery of promises can be devastating. The anti-incumbency factor that has come to play a dominating role in deciding the popular mandates in the last three decades is another definition of the aroused discontent.

The poor may not express their expectations. But its reflection can be gauged from the collapse of the electronics sales in Andhra Pradesh in this season because of the promise by the Telugu Desam Party of distributing a free colour television set to the poor when it comes to power. Most families put off buying a set this season that is a clearance sale period and prices are slashed to induce families to acquire one in a hope that soon they would have one at no costs.. The DMK had also promised a free TV set to poor families in the last assembly elections to influence poor voters to gain power.

But when these promises are not delivered, discontent rises at unfulfilled expectations. Indira Gandhi had promised two meals a day to everyone as a right. When she could not deliver it for various reasons, including the inability of the non-functioning state administrative structure, the wrath of the masses overthrew her in the next election. Neither the nuclear explosion in May 1974 nor the emergency in 1975 could stem the electoral defeat. Three governments at the Centre had failed to satisfy the masses on their electoral promises and were not voted back to power in the last 25 years. Corruption was not the core issue in these elections. Its existence is accepted as normal by people as a necessary evil and has been used as an efficiency factor to get their own rights by bribing the persons holding public offices to use their power to even do what is legally due.

Corruption is generally defined as the misuse of public power for private gains. It occurs when a private person bribes a public official to acquire an economic privilege worth far more than the bribe. It is inversely related to the rule of law as it becomes a kind of tax. Only that it is not deposited in the government treasury. The phenomenon of corruption is more prevalent in closed economies such as the one that India had pursued for nearly four and a half decades after Independence as public offices were exploited and used to license loot.

But the yearning to win elections added a new dimension of holding out a promise of using the public office to confer benefits to a favoured group or to create a favoured group which is known as the constituency of voters. Corruption diverts resources for consumption, but it is an individual aberration. However, the distortion in the economy that results in diverting large-scale, resources involves the state. Subsidies for food, fuel, fertilisers, energy and scholarships in the name of social justice have so far passed off as the need for social justice that the poor deserve.

Distortions always have undesired economic consequences as these retard growth. These involve a large-scale diversion of resources for non-productive usages. As election-oriented politics prompts the introduction of distortions, these also deprive the party in power of the will or the courage for making a concerted effort to mobilise resources through fresh taxation on other sectors. The fear of an adverse impact on other voters deters them from raising new taxes. It invariably leads them to withhold allocations from other social sectors to maintain deficits at the manageable level. It is all the more necessary now that the national economy is linked to the global economy and investing interests are keenly watching the performance.

The UPA government introduced the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and also wrote off unpaid debts of farmers. The two measures involved a sum of nearly Rs 100,000 crore. But it did not create any productive assets nor did either of them empower the recipients of the benefits to limp out of the poverty syndrome. It merely postponed their plight to a future date. The BJP has now promised to introduce a similar scheme for the urban poor as well. Both national parties also promise the availability of cheaper loans to farmers without ensuring that they would be used for creating sustainable alternative sources of income for them.

A study by the Reserve Bank of India through a private agency had revealed that most farmers who committed suicide in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra did not possess cattle wealth like other farmers. They had no supplementary means of life. Their unpaid debts have been written off without educating them on the need for rain-water harvesting to bring the water-table up so that they would not suffer scarcity conditions in the future.

All governments ought to have a powerful economic interest in reducing such distortions that cripple the economy and retard the growth rate. Yet political compulsions restrain them from delivering bitter pills necessary for a better economic future because of an inbuilt resistance from the vested interests — those who would be threatened of their income, privileges and jobs.

How the parties are oblivious and even insensitive to the harsh realities of the economy can be seen from the fact that the current economic slowdown resulted in the collapse of the diamond trade in Gujarat and textile trade elsewhere. Nearly a million families were rendered jobless in the two sectors. However, neither the Central Government nor the state government could provide an alternative scheme for them, but it could write off huge sums in unpaid debts. The jobless is these industrial clusters would have been easy to handle as they were not spread out in their location to far off places. But they were merely a million voters spread only in two constituencies. So, their existence could be ignored. That is another kind of distortion.

Top

 
MIDDLE

How tall he stands
by Roopinder Singh

Many Happy Returns of the Day, Sir!” I said. Subconsciously, I stood erect, practically at attention, early in the morning while making this call and this brought a grin on the face of my significant other.

I was talking to Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh DFC, the only Field Marshal of the Indian Air Force as he turned 90 on Tuesday. Even though 250 km separated us, I could picture him, tall and handsome, with the gentle smile on his face as he accepted my greetings and asked me about my family.

“We show our respect for others in various ways, and my instinctive posture reflected the deep respect for the person I was speaking to,” I retorted in answer to the grin, even as my mind went to the tea I had with the Marshal of the Indian Air Force in his well-appointed study in 2002 when this honour had been announced.

“What will you write about me? There is not much to write about,” he said when I broached the subject. “There is much, Sir,” I replied, and he graciously agreed to be interviewed for his biography.

I would motor down from Chandigarh to Delhi early in the morning and report by 10 am for the interviews, conducted over tea and savouries served by the gracious Teji, his childhood sweetheart and wife. We went over how he had won his Distinguished Flying Cross, which was pinned on him by Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma when his squadron defended the Imphal valley from the Japanese.

Characteristically, he would not stress on the medal he got, but would always recollect with pride how his squadron got eight DFCs—a record among all squadrons, whether Indian or British.

During my visits, he would sometimes receive calls from ex-servicemen, especially those from the other ranks, who would talk to him about their financial distress. “I must do something for these poor men, they need help,” he said once. Little did I realise that an idea was germinating his mind, and that he would characteristically act in a decisive manner.

Two years later, I received a call from him. “I am no longer a Jat, as you wrote in the book. I have no land now,” he said, recalling a comment made in the biography that the Jat in him was kept alive by a farm he owned near Delhi.

He told me that he had sold the farm and set up the “Marshal of the Air Force & Mrs Arjan Singh Trust” by donating Rs 2 crore towards the corpus. The interest earned on this corpus amount, and now other donations that have added to the corpus considerably, is distributed as grant/assistance to ex-service personnel. Answering my query about what his family’s reaction was, he said he had come to this decision with their support and participation.

Exemplar (one that serves as an ideal model or an example) is the word that immediately comes to mind when one thinks of India’s only five-star general who towers over others effortlessly with his accomplishments and deeds.

Top

 
OPED

A Tribune special
A maverick as President
The world outside South Africa feels uneasy
Ashis Ray writes from Pretoria

One of the most delightful developments of the 20th century was the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa. Yet, people ponder on whether this country of great potential will live up to expectations of being a beacon of example for the rest of Africa.

The freedom struggle of the African National Congress (ANC) was fortunate in being inspired by an extraordinary human being like Nelson Mandela; indeed, in being injected a stability in its new incarnation by his calm, un-acidic and visionary leadership.

Yet, only 15 years into an era of institutionalised racial equality, concerns have arisen about South Africa’s future, now accentuated by the virtual certainty of Jacob Zuma, a 67-year-old maverick, assuming the country’s executive presidency in a scheduled election on April 22.

The ageing Mandela hand-picked the erudite Thabo Mbeki as his successor; but withdrew from ANC politics thereafter. Zuma, a Zulu and a quintessential man of the masses, was elected deputy leader of the ANC and then appointed deputy president by his 30-year friend and associate, Mbeki, before they fell out.

A majority of South Africans of Indian descent live in Zuma’s home state of KwaZulu-Natal; a fact perceived to have been of mutual benefit. He was only four years old when he lost his policeman father.

Somewhat directionless, he grew up as a herd-boy who never went to school, but taught himself to read and write. He joined the ANC at 17 and the South African Communist Party at 21.

The same year, 1963, he was arrested while attempting to cross the border into Botswana for armed training; and imprisoned for 10 years. In 1974, he went into exile, only to return after the end of racist rule.

Zuma has been accused of having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman and raping another; and no less seriously, faced criminal charges ranging from corruption to fraud, money laundering to racketeering to tax evasion. Three years ago, his “financial adviser”, Schabir Shaik, was convicted in connection with an arms procurement deal.

Charges against Zuma, though, were dropped last week, not on the merit of the prosecutor’s case, but on the ground that the National Prosecuting Authority and the investigator conspired over how to obtain political mileage from the issue. This removed the last obstacle in Zuma’s progress towards the presidency.

Zuma is said to possess a half a dozen wives. Sacked as deputy president by Mbeki in 2005, he turned to the ANC Youth League and his communist and trade union comrades to plot a comeback.

By December 2007, he had secured the presidency of the ANC. An isolated Mbeki was, thus, compelled to resign as the country’s president in September 2008, ushering in a caretaker in Kgalema Motlanthe.

In the three elections since 1994, the ANC has never attracted below 62 per cent of votes. Such support could slightly erode in the wake of the Congress of the People, an anti-Zuma breakaway faction of the ANC, contesting the election in addition to the Democratic Alliance, white-dominated opponents of the ANC. What appears to be certain, though, is that Zuma will triumph on a canter.

His undoubted popularity among the underprivileged stems from his opposition to Mbeki’s alleged “neo-capitalism” and the promise of employment for the poor, regardless of his or her colour or tribal lineage.

Zuma’s asset has been his approachability as compared to Mbeki’s noticeable aloofness. But even the former’s friends admit he has limited grasp of the intricacies of ideology and a conversion of this into policies.

He cryptically maintains he will follow the ANC manifesto. But is yet to expand on what he proposes to deliver on crime, education, the economy and infrastructure, all of which have become a challenge.

He is explicit, though, on wanting to restore the death penalty, which Mandela dispensed with because of its brutal misuse during apartheid.

A gaffe-prone, spin-free politician, Zuma’s middle name is “Gedleyihlekisa”, which equates to a phrase coined by his father: “I can’t keep quiet when someone pretends to love me with a deceitful smile.” His favourite lyric, chillingly, is: “Bring Me My Machine-gun,” which his dancing supporters now echo with fervour.

The world outside South Africa is, thus, uneasy about Zuma’s elevation to an all powerful position. His supporters believe he will make an impact on poverty alleviation; but his critics think it will only be jobs for his boys.

What’s indisputable is that he will enter office under a cloud of not having proved his innocence in court and consequently lacking moral authority. Given the disintegration of Zimbabwe, once the granary of Africa, it is crucial that he keeps South Africa united and on a course of inclusive growth.

Last June, as ANC president, Zuma was invited to visit India. He was received by the Prime Minister and the Congress President. On the same trip, he also went to China, where President Hu Jintao was no less hospitable.

Over the years, Indian High Commissioners in Pretoria have worked diligently to extract South African leaders’ compliance on issues like Kashmir and India’s nuclear capability.

It would, therefore, be awkward if Zuma’s left-wing powerbase were to influence him to change track. Were this to happen, India might have to additionally utilise his Indian origin backers to prevent such departure.

Top

 

Russia ends operations in Chechnya
by Shaun Walker

Russia’s decade-long war in Chechnya came to a symbolic end on Thursday as restrictions labelling the region a “zone of counter-terrorist operations” were lifted.

Observers welcomed the move, saying restrictions had allowed widespread rights abuses to take place in Chechnya, but also raised concerns about the amount of power now concentrated in the hands of Chechnya’s President, Ramzan Kadyrov.

“We are extremely satisfied,” Mr Kadyrov told Interfax news agency. He said the end of the special measures would spur on economic growth.

The official end of Russia’s counter-terrorist operation in its troubled southern republic could see up to 20,000 Russian troops moved out of the region and also eases restrictions on transport links and media access.

Significantly, it removes some of the last federal levers that impeded the former rebel fighter Mr Kadyrov from running the republic as he wished.

“The stage is now set for the full dictatorship of Kadyrov,” said Alexei Malashenko, a Chechnya expert at the Moscow Carnegie Centre.

Russia fought a nasty, brutal war with Chechen rebels between 1994 and 1996, the result of which saw the small, mountainous territory gain de facto independence from Moscow. But violence and lawlessness continued and in 1999, with the influence of Islamic militants on the rise, Russian troops re-entered the republic.

Pacifying Chechnya became a key goal of Vladimir Putin, who acceded to the Russian presidency in 2000, promising to track down terrorists and “waste them in the outhouse”.

In 2003, with the war won but separatists still hiding in the mountains and Chechnya still a dangerous and violent place, Moscow embarked on a new strategy and Akhmat Kadyrov, a former rebel fighter who by then supported Moscow, became President of the republic.

When he was assassinated in a bomb blast in Grozny in 2004, his son, Ramzan, became the most powerful person in the republic and by 2007, when he had reached the age of 30 years that is required to serve as President of Chechnya, he was duly appointed.

Mr Kadyrov has won support from many Chechens for the relative peace and stability that he has brought to the region.

Using Moscow’s money, he has rebuilt Grozny, and while there is still widespread poverty in the region, life is more stable and prosperous than any time in the past 15 years.

The separatist resistance is demoralised and defeated, with neighbouring Dagestan and Ingushetia becoming far more troublesome for Moscow than Chechnya. However, Mr Kadyrov’s regime has been widely accused of rights abuses and torture, and an alarming number of his opponents, many of them in hiding abroad, have been assassinated.

The highest-profile victim was Sulim Yamadayev, a powerful commander who had fallen out with Mr Kadyrov. He was shot in Dubai in late March.

Dubai police have implicated Adam Delimkhanov, Mr Kadyrov’s right-hand man, in the murder, and arrested the Chechen President’s stable hand in the Arab Emirate in relation to the crime.

The murder of Mr Yamadayev came not long after his brother Ruslan was shot dead in Moscow, several exiles were killed in Istanbul, and a former bodyguard who accused Mr Kadyrov of personally torturing him was assassinated in Vienna.

The murder of Mr Yamadayev, however, is the first time that a foreign state has directly accused Mr Kadyrov’s associates of murder, and is a major embarrassment for the Kremlin.

That the Chechen leader, in spite of all this, was able to persuade Moscow to lift the restrictions shows how much sway he has with the Kremlin, and particularly the Prime Minister and former president, Mr Putin.

“This is the result of bargaining between Kadyrov and Putin,” said Mr Malashenko. It is also a sign that Moscow has got into a bind with Mr Kadyrov – officials in the Kremlin are well aware of the nastiness of his regime and the bad publicity he generates.

They don’t like his propensity to criticise decisions made in Moscow and to act autonomously, but they also recognise that he is impossible to remove without causing instability or bloodshed, and that for now at least, he is the best option that Moscow has.

— By arrangement with The Independent

Top

 

Health
A wide-awake look at insomnia
by Kathleen Megan

It’s 1 a.m. You have to get up at 6. You’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep. What do you do?

You may find yourself slurping a spoonful of NyQuil or taking a Tylenol PM. Is that the best approach?

It all depends on how often you are in this situation, experts say.

Lynelle Schneeberg, a psychologist and director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, Conn., says that “if you’re talking short-term insomnia during a short-term stressful situation,” then taking a pill can be OK. But “chronic insomnia, when you are talking six months or longer, is a different animal.”

For many, worries about jobs and the economy have been interfering with sleep. Almost one-third of Americans say their sleep has been disturbed at least a few nights a week in the past month because of personal financial concerns, the U.S. economy or employment worries, according to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation.

Taken once in a while, those over-the-counter medications might be just the push you need to shove off into dreamland, but there are downsides. For starters, the sedating effects caused by the antihistamine in such products as NyQuil and Tylenol PM may not end when you wake up. And if you take them frequently, they might even be associated with occasional memory problems.

Edward O’Malley, a sleep expert and owner of Optimal Sleep LLC in Easton, Conn., says that antihistamines can continue to affect people six to eight hours after ingestion.

Dr. Amarish Dave, a neurologist in Crystal Lake, Ill., says that many of these sedating medications can “slow cognitive performance.” Whenever he sees patients complaining of not feeling “sharp mentally,” he looks at what medications they have been using.

Taking sedatives can also cause problems for people with breathing disorders and occasionally can have cardiac effects in elderly people, O’Malley says.

Experts have varying opinions on herbal remedies. O’Malley says they may be preferable to over-the-counter sleeping medications, but he suggests that people use only synthetically made melatonin rather than any made from animal brain tissue.

Melatonin is the hormone secreted when the body is naturally preparing itself for sleep. O’Malley says it is most appropriate when used to address jet lag.

Schneeberg tells patients about the “every third night” rule when they ask about taking medications that may enhance sleep, whether the over-the-counter variety or prescription medications such as Lunesta or Ambien.

The theory is that if you sleep poorly on Monday night, you probably will have a sound sleep on Tuesday night. But sometimes that doesn’t happen partly because people lie awake consumed with worry. ... But if you know that on the third night, Wednesday night, you’ll allow yourself to take a sleep medication, Schneeberg says, sometimes that’s all you need to ease yourself to sleep on Tuesday night.

“If you know that every third night is a rescue night, it lowers your anxiety,” she says. “You really will never get into too much trouble if you take it every third night.”

If you take sleep-enhancing medications every night, you “can become psychologically and physically dependent on them,” Schneeberg says, and even lose your ability to get to sleep without taking something.

In general, however, sleep experts agree that the best way to address sleep problems is through behavior changes. Schneeberg teaches people how to behave when they can’t sleep.

“They do all the wrong things with the right intentions,” she says. “They lie in bed trying really hard to sleep. They will tell me, `At least I’m resting,’ but what they are doing instead: They are conditioning their bed to be a place associated with worry and frustration. ... We don’t want bed to be associated with anything but drowsiness and sleep.”

After 20 minutes of wakefulness, it’s best to leave bed and do something quiet and relaxing, like reading, she says. It’s best if this is done as near to the bedroom as possible without disturbing a partner. “Sometime the act of climbing the stairs wakes you up,” she says.

Good sleep habits also involve going to bed and getting up at about the same time every day.

“The body loves routine,” she says.

Other tips: A light snack before bedtime is OK, but not a heavy meal; exercise during the day to make you physically tired at night; avoid naps; and take whatever action you can to address your worries.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

Top

 





HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |