SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Oped

EDITORIALS

Low voter turnout in Mumbai
It’s more rhetoric than action among the elite

T
he
abysmally low voter turnout of an average of 43.5 per cent in the six constituencies of Mumbai and the neighbouring ones in Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Palghar despite the flush of anger over the events leading up to the 26/11 terror attacks, and the media blitz by some NGOs to “go vote,” confirms the lurking impression that the elite is glaringly apathetic to the call of democracy.

A Taliban outrage
“Jaziya” on Sikhs is unacceptable

T
he
razing of the 11 houses of minority Sikhs in troubled Aurakzai tribal region of Pakistan after they failed to pay “jaziya” (tax levied on non-Muslims) has revived memories of similar unequal treatment that the Hindus and Sikhs had faced in Aurangzeb’s times. The outrage is all the more condemnable now, considering that it is happening in modern times. 



EARLIER STORIES

Combating the Taliban
May1, 2009
Mr Q. again
April
30, 2009
Modi remains in the dock
April
29, 2009
Guns fall silent in Lanka
April
28, 2009
Advance of the Taliban
April
27, 2009
Qualification for MPs
April
26, 2009
Pakistan worries US
April
25, 2009
The electoral odyssey
April
24, 2009
Saving Tamil refugees
April
23, 2009
Eye in the sky
April
22, 2009
Threat to Kashmir voters
April
21, 2009


Discordant notes in BJP
Modi as future PM chorus irks Rajnath
B
JP President Rajnath Singh’s statement that Narendra Modi’s projection by a section of his party leaders has been made without prior internal discussion or consultation reflects differences within the top echelons of the party, notably the party president and the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Lal Krishan Advani. The controversy seems to have been put to rest, at least for the moment, but not without exposing fissures within the party.

ARTICLE


Prime Minister as an MP

He can be a member of either House
by K.N. Bhat
U
NDER our Constitution, should the Prime Minister be a Member of the Lok Sabha only or is a member of the Rajya Sabha ineligible to be the Prime Minister of India? The question has come up with Dr Manmohan Singh, a member of the Rajya Sabha, being projected as the future Prime Minister by the Congress party. The eligibility of a foreigner -turned-Indian citizen to occupy a constitutional office may be in doubt;but the legality of a member of the Rajya Sabha being appointed Prime Minister has been settled long ago.
He has to be from the Lok Sabha
by M. Rama Jois

A
n
important constitutional question has arisen as to whether a person to be eligible for being appointed as Prime Minister should be a member of the Lok Sabha. The answer to the question has to be found out from the provisions of the Constitution itself. The wording of relevant clauses of Article 75 gives the clearest indication to find out the correct answer to the above question. The relevant part of Article 75 reads:
“75 Other provisions as to Ministers: (1) The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.


OPED

Naxalite threat
A long-term action plan is required
by Uttam Sengupta
More
lives have been lost in Naxalite violence in the country than in terror strikes during the past two years. According to official estimates, around 650 people were killed in each of the last two years with roughly half the victims belonging to the security forces and the other half made up of innocent civilians.

A historic day for Iraq
by Robert Fisk

One hundred and seventy-nine dead soldiers. For what? 179,000 dead Iraqis? Or is the real figure closer to a million? We don’t know. And we don’t care. We never cared about the Iraqis. That’s why we don’t know the figure. That’s why we left Basra On Thursday.

Will Chrysler-Fiat marriage succeed?
by Dan Neil

A
fter
an abusive affair with Germany’s Daimler ending in 2007, and a dysfunctional relationship with former owner Cerberus Capital Management that ended with the company in bankruptcy on Thursday, can Chrysler learn to love again?

 


Top








 

Low voter turnout in Mumbai
It’s more rhetoric than action among the elite

The abysmally low voter turnout of an average of 43.5 per cent in the six constituencies of Mumbai and the neighbouring ones in Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Palghar despite the flush of anger over the events leading up to the 26/11 terror attacks, and the media blitz by some NGOs to “go vote,” confirms the lurking impression that the elite is glaringly apathetic to the call of democracy. Elite voters cry themselves hoarse over what is lacking in the system but when it comes to the bare minimum responsibility of casting their vote to contribute to putting things in order, they shy away. Most of the rich and famous consider it too downmarket to stand in queues with lesser mortals, braving the heat and grime. Not for them the sacrifice of a good outstation holiday over a long weekend for the ‘mere’ reason of exercising their franchise.

With the turnout in the 10 constituencies being nearly four per cent lower than the 47.15 per cent voting recorded in the 2004 elections, where is that crusading Mumbaikar who stood up to be counted in the wake of the 26/11 tragedy and gave vent to what seemed like very legitimate, thought-provoking ideas of how Mumbai needed to be saved from politicians and bureaucrats who could not see beyond their nose. It would not be fair to tar all NGOs and celebrity ‘crusaders’ with the same brush, but one is left wondering whether many of them who came before TV cameras with the look of outrage on their faces, were really sincere in their theatrical protestations. If they were truly concerned over the governance of their state or were torch-bearers of democracy, it was incumbent on them to bear the inconvenience of spending some time in queues and braving the heat just as hordes of poor people did everywhere. It is time that the Indian middle class sheds its hypocricy and learns to back its thoughts with action.

While the fickle and apathetic middle class may be faulted for lack of actual involvement, it’s claim that thousands of them could not vote because the voters’ list did not have their names, cannot be dismissed as inconsequential. The non-inclusion of many names in the electoral rolls happens in election after election and amounts to a denial of their basic right. It is time that the authorities wake up to this reality and take remedial action for the future.

Top

 

A Taliban outrage
“Jaziya” on Sikhs is unacceptable

The razing of the 11 houses of minority Sikhs in troubled Aurakzai tribal region of Pakistan after they failed to pay “jaziya” (tax levied on non-Muslims) has revived memories of similar unequal treatment that the Hindus and Sikhs had faced in Aurangzeb’s times. The outrage is all the more condemnable now, considering that it is happening in modern times. It is a shame for the Asif Ali Zardari government which signed the February agreement with the Taliban and allowed imposition of Shariah law on Swat’s 1.2 million inhabitants and an object lesson for US President Barack Obama who used this agreement as a model in his stated quest for “moderate Taliban”.

Imposing a tax on the basis of religion militates against all tenets of civility, but what Taliban had enforced was outright blackmail. Sikhs were told to pay Rs 5 crore as tax and when they could not, they were targeted unsparingly. What better can be expected from the marauding killers who think that educating girls is a sin and all non-Muslims are kafirs! This is a strange interpretation of Shariah law indeed.

Pakistan being a theocratic state may not find such treatment as unacceptable, but civilised world must raise its voice against the outrage. Minorities have been systematically targeted in Pakistan all these years but this is the limit. If Taliban are allowed to get away with it, they may come up with even more draconian fatwas in future. International community must intervene effectively to curb this discrimination. India has a special responsibility. Taliban attacks have forced more than 50 Sikh and Hindu families to vacate their homes and take shelter in gurdwaras at Nankana Sahib and Peshawar. Many others have had to bid adieu to their homeland forever and have decided to settle in Amritsar. Those who swear by human rights must raise their voice unitedly against such inhuman acts. 

Top

 

Discordant notes in BJP
Modi as future PM chorus irks Rajnath 

BJP President Rajnath Singh’s statement that Narendra Modi’s projection by a section of his party leaders has been made without prior internal discussion or consultation reflects differences within the top echelons of the party, notably the party president and the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Lal Krishan Advani. The controversy seems to have been put to rest, at least for the moment, but not without exposing fissures within the party.

For almost 10 days, a section of the BJP’s senior leadership, notably Advani’s loyalists, projected Modi as the party’s future PM-hopeful. It had first started with Arun Shourie expressing support to Narendra Modi’s candidature as prime minister in the 2014 general elections. The statement was endorsed in quick succession by several senior party leaders, all of who extolled Modi’s administrative skills and painted Gujarat as a model state for governance. Arun Jaitley, M. Venkaiah Nadu, Ravi Shankar Prasad and even Yashwant Sinha were among those who joined the chorus. Even Advani himself cited Modi’s governance of Gujarat as a model to emulate at the Centre giving the impression that he too felt that the state chief minister was the last word on governance. The matter almost reached a crescendo before Rajnath Singh dismissed Modi’s drummed up candidature saying his senior colleagues had been speaking “just like that” and that no such decision had been taken.

The controversy has been created in the midst of the present general elections in which the BJP has already officially declared octogenarian Advani as its prime ministerial candidate. The next parliamentary elections are another five years away by which time much would have changed. In January this year, corporate honchos Anil Ambani and Sunil Bharti Mittal, raked a similar debate when they rooted for Modi as a future Prime Minister. But the disjointed voices within the party reflect more on the internal divisions in the BJP, which has led to an all round needless debate and discussion and helped neither the cause of the BJP nor Advani. If anything, it has raised eyebrows on the internal functioning of the party even before the verdict is out for the present elections.
Top

 

Thought for the Day

Never be afraid of throwing away what you have, if you can throw it away, it is not really yours. — R.H. Tawney

Top

 

Prime Minister as an MP
He can be a member of either House
by K.N. Bhat

UNDER our Constitution, should the Prime Minister be a Member of the Lok Sabha only or is a member of the Rajya Sabha ineligible to be the Prime Minister of India? The question has come up with Dr Manmohan Singh, a member of the Rajya Sabha, being projected as the future Prime Minister by the Congress party. The eligibility of a foreigner-turned-Indian citizen to occupy a constitutional office may be in doubt; but the legality of a member of the Rajya Sabha being appointed Prime Minister has been settled long ago.

Mr Thribhuan Narain Singh, who was not a member of the state legislature, was appointed the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in October 1970. A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the appointment. In the process, the Supreme Court analysed the relevant constitutional provisions and held, “It seems to us that there is no reason why the plain words of Article 164 should be cut down in any manner and confined to a case where a minister loses for some reason his seat in the legislature of the state” The court was dealing with the argument that Article 164(4) that permits a non-member to continue to be a minister for six months was applicable only to a minister — not to a Chief Minister.

The law was made more explicit in the case of Mr H.D. Deve Gowda (1996). His appointment as Prime Minister while he was not a Member of either House was challenged. The Supreme Court, after noting that the provisions relating to Chief Ministers and Prime Ministers are in pari-materia, held, “the Constitution does not draw any distinction between the Prime Minister and any other minister in this behalf — No separate provision is to be found dealing with the appointment of the Prime Minister as such”. The court further held, “Even if a person is not a Member of the House, if he has the support and confidence of the House, he can be chosen to head the Council of Ministers without violating the norms of democracy and the requirement of being accountable to the House would ensure the smooth functioning of the democratic process”. The court categorically ruled that the British conventions have no place in our system.

So much should be sufficient to put an end to the needless debate of RS vs LS. The current query cannot even be credited with any originality. Way back on December 31, 1948, during the debate in the Constituent Assembly on the draft Article 62 — predecessor of the present Article 75 — Prof Shibban Lal Saksena sought to move an amendment as under:

“That in Clause (5) of Article 62, for the words ‘either House of Parliament’ the words ‘House of the People’ be substituted.”

He justified the amendment on the following ground:

“We have provided in the Constitution for nomination of twelve members to the Council of States. There will be twelve members who are nominated in that Council and in the Lower House Anglo-Indians will also be nominated. According to this clause (5) as it stands, members who have not been returned by the electorate shall be able to be permanent Ministers of the Government. This is altogether against all democratic methods. Formerly, I had desired that only members of the Lower House who were elected by the General Electorate should be eligible to be appointed as ministers but after seeing the opinion of many Members I thought that my amendment should not be so extreme, but I do feel that unless everybody who is a minister has got the confidence of the electorate, he should not be appointed as one. I, therefore want that instead of ‘is not a member’ it should be ‘is not an elected member’.” (from the debates in the Constituent Assembly)

The amendment was rejected.

Replying to the various amendments suggested, Dr. Ambedkar said, “Now, with regard to the first point, namely, that no person shall be entitled to be appointed a minister unless he is at the time of his appointment an elected Member of the House. I think it forgets to take into consideration certain important matters which cannot be overlooked. First is this, — it is perfectly possible to imagine that a person who is otherwise competent to hold the post of a minister has been defeated in a constituency for some reason which, although it may be perfectly good, might have annoyed the constituency and he might have incurred the displeasure of that particular constituency. It is not a reason why a member so competent as that should be not permitted to be appointed a member of the Cabinet on the assumption that he shall be able to get himself elected either from the same constituency or from another constituency. After all, the privilege that is permitted is a privilege that extends only for six months. It does not confer a right to that individual to sit in the House without being elected at all.”

“With regard to the second qualification, namely, that a member must be a member of the majority party, I think Prof. K. T. Shah has in contemplation or believes and hopes that the electorate will always return in the election a party which will always be in majority and another party which will be in a minority but in opposition. Now, it is not permissible to make any such assumption. It would be perfectly possible and natural, that in an election the Parliament may consist of various number of parties, none of which is in a majority. How is this principle to be invoked and put into operation in a situation of this sort where there are three parties none of which has a majority ? Therefore, in a contingency of that sort the qualification laid down by Prof. K. T. Shah makes government quite impossible. ” (from the debates in the Constituent Assembly)

Prophetic indeed!

Unlike in the states, at the Centre, there cannot be President’s rule: the President can only act in accordance with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. Dr Ambedkar’s prophecy of multifarious splinters filling Parliament is unfortunately in full bloom. The reservations about the elections expressed by Dr Ambedkar and others might have been once dismissed as elitist, but are now matters of experience. The relevance of the Rajya Sabha in our political system is becoming increasingly clear — despite increasing incidents of poaching by money bags.

Our own convention of appointing a Prime Minister who, according to the President, is likely to enjoy the confidence of the House of the People, with the condition that he or she should win a vote of confidence within a short time appears to suit our conditions. There can be no room for another caste feud between the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha.

The only restriction should be that the person appointed must be qualified to be a Member of the House as prescribed under Article 84 or should not be disqualified to be a Member under Art.102. The appointee of the President as Prime Minster and his Council of Ministers can continue to work only if they enjoy the confidence of the House as otherwise they cannot function — example: the late Charan Singh.

Elections after elections, one is helplessly watching undesirable elements getting elected to the Lok Sabha. Educated and decent people rarely find it possible to get elected. These possibilities were perhaps envisaged by the makers of the Constitution;

That is the reason why the Constituent Assembly rejected several suggestions that the ministers should be only from the House of the People and that the ministers should be appointed by the House. We should be grateful to the wisdom of the founding fathers.n

The writer is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India. 

 

He has to be from the Lok Sabha
by M. Rama Jois

An important constitutional question has arisen as to whether a person to be eligible for being appointed as Prime Minister should be a member of the Lok Sabha. The answer to the question has to be found out from the provisions of the Constitution itself. The wording of relevant clauses of Article 75 gives the clearest indication to find out the correct answer to the above question. The relevant part of Article 75 reads:

“75 Other provisions as to Ministers: (1) The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

“(3) The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People.

“(5) A Minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of either House of Parliament shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a Minister. ”

Clause (1) of Article 75 provides that the President shall appoint the Prime Minister and other ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. There is no specific indication as to who could be appointed as Prime Minister. But having regard to the fact that under the Constitution we have adopted the democratic system and we have constituted ourselves into a democratic republic as expressly stated in the Preamble to the Constitution. Therefore, in view of this, the only meaning that could be attached to Article 75 is that only a person who enjoys the confidence of the majority of the Lok Sabha can be appointed as Prime Minister. On this question, there is no controversy having due regard to the established democratic convention.

But the specific question which has arisen for consideration is whether a person to be eligible to be appointed as Prime Minister should be a member of the Lok Sabha only. Wording of Clause (5) of Article 75 gives the clearest indication that for being eligible to be a minister it is sufficient that he is a member of either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. The only exception provided in Clause (4) for a non-member of either House of Parliament to be a minister is that such a person can be a minister, for a period not exceeding six months. If a non-member who had become a minister and he is not elected within a period of six months, he would cease to be a minister after the expiry of six months.

Obviously, the word “minister” in this clause does not include Prime Minister for the reason that if a non-member were to be appointed as Prime Minister and he is not elected within a period of six months to either House of Parliament, the entire Cabinet collapses or ceases to exist and such a consequence is not indicated in Clause (5) of Article 75. Therefore, the word “minister” in Clause (5) of Article 75 does not take in Prime Minister. Clause (1) of Article 75 provides that:

“[1] The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President

“[2] Other ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.”

The Prime Minister and other ministers together form the Council of Ministers. The indication that the Prime Minister must be from the Lok Sabha is available from the wording of Clause (3) which says that the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible for the House of the people. The founding fathers of the Constitution were fully aware that Parliament consisted of two Houses — the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of the People (Lok Sabha}. Knowing this, when it came to the question of eligibility for being a minister under Article 75(5), they provided that he could be a member of either House of Parliament, but when it came to the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister, they clearly stated in Clause (3) of Article 75 that the Council of Ministers shall be responsible to the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and not to Parliament.

Therefore, the clearest implication of this is that the Prime Minister should be a member of the Lok Sabha and should be a person having the confidence of the majority of the members of the House of the people. To say that a member of the Rajya Sabha would be the head of the Council of Ministers responsible to the House of the people and leader of the Lok Sabha would be someone other than the Prime Minister would be inconsistent with the intention flowing from the wording of Clause (3) of Article 75.

In this regard, it is also useful to refer to the Constitutional convention in Britain. In Britain also, there are two Houses which together constitute the British Parliament, namely the House of Commons elected by the people and the House of Lords. Though in the earlier part of the British constitutional history, the Convention that a person who is a member of either House of Parliament could become Prime Minister, but a member of the House of Commons was preferable. The constitutional convention firmly established for several decades is that a person who is a member of the House of Commons alone can be appointed as Prime Minister. As we have by and large adopted the British constitutional system, the clear intention of Article 75 is that a person to be eligible to be appointed as Prime Minister (i) he should be a member of the Lok Sabha and (ii) he should enjoy the confidence of the majority of members of the Lok Sabha.

The above view gets support from the corresponding clauses in Article 164 of the Constitution. Clause (4) of Article 164 provides that a person who is a member of the legislature of the State, namely either a member of the legislative assembly or the legislative council, could be a minister. However, Clause (2) of Article 164 expressly provides that the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the legislative assembly of the State. Therefore, it is reasonable to understand the intention of the Constituent Assembly was that the Chief Minister should be a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Appointment of a person who is not a member of Parliament as Prime Minister and, similarly, appointment of a non-member of the state legislature as Chief Minister, as was done in the case of Ms Jayalalithaa, which was struck down by the Supreme Court, and appointment of a person who is not a member of the Legislative Assembly as Chief Minister are some of the instances. This important question is pending consideration before the Supreme Court in which the constitutionality of the appointment of Mr Bhupender Singh Hooda as the Chief Minister of Haryana, when he was not a member of legislature, is challenged.

The mere fact that such appointments have been made in the past is no ground to disregard the provisions of the Constitution. Otherwise, it would amount to saying that the violation of the Constitution itself becomes the Constitution over and above the provisions of the Constitution. This situation reminds the famous statement “nothing succeeds like excess”. The statement made by Mr Prakash Karat, a CPM leader, that they would support a person who is a member of the Lok Sabha to be a Prime Minister is right not only politically but also constitutionally. It is well said that it is never too late to mend, and this principle applies with greater force to the provisions of the Constitution. Therefore, whenever it is found that provisions of the Constitution have been disregarded or wrongly understood, it should be rectified immediately and the correct interpretation should be made and adopted for all times to come.

The writer is a former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and a BJP member of the Rajya Sabha.

Top

 

Naxalite threat
A long-term action plan is required
by Uttam Sengupta

More lives have been lost in Naxalite violence in the country than in terror strikes during the past two years. According to official estimates, around 650 people were killed in each of the last two years with roughly half the victims belonging to the security forces and the other half made up of innocent civilians.

The figure does not include the Naxalites killed in encounters but taken away by the rebels. But despite the Prime Minister’s assertion last year that Naxalites pose the biggest threat to internal security, the issue has largely been ignored by civil society in urban areas, obviously because so far they are the least affected by it.

But smaller towns in Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have started feeling the presence of Naxalites and it seems only a matter of time before they target bigger cities. A parallel with the Taliban in Pakistan is possibly far-fetched but the example nevertheless is useful to drive home the point that ignorance need not always be bliss.

Governments have generally used the carrot and then the stick in dealing with Naxalites. On the one hand state governments have offered to hold dialogue with the rebels and produced attractive rehabilitation packages to woo Naxalites back into the mainstream. On the other hand they have sought to provide more teeth to the police in an effort to crush the rebels.

These efforts have been punctuated by platitudes that the problem lay in poverty and inequality and with the hope that poverty alleviation programmes and development would be the ultimate solution to this vexed issue.

The police, on its part, claims to have gone the extra mile to win back the trust of the people, mostly poor tribesmen and villagers residing in otherwise resource-rich areas. Policemen have undertaken the distribution of medicines and organised medical camps.

They have mobilised village youth and played football or volleyball matches in a bid to gain their trust and gather intelligence about Naxalites. They have even produced street plays ostensibly to expose Naxalites, who, according to these scripts, are said to be robbing people to pay for their own creature comforts.

Similar efforts have been undertaken for the past several years, without much significant change on the ground.

Curiously, while state governments have been busy arming the police, opening schools for jungle warfare and drafting central para-military forces to take on the Naxalites, the rebels seem to have actually grown in strength. They are now known to be equipped with more sophisticated arms, ammunition and communication equipment.

They are better organised to the extent that they are now known to hold recruitment drives and offer monthly salary and stipend to the youth who join them. Security agencies claim to have discovered Army manuals for making and handling grenades and rocket launchers. And the police has found not just cash but also dry fruits from bunkers, which indicate their preparedness for a long-haul.

The Naxalites, acknowledge intelligence agencies, are now more computer savvy and are using external hard discs to avoid detection. They also seem to have developed a code of their own to communicate and plan their activities, thus frustrating attempts by security agencies to intercept communication. Naxalite websites also keep popping up despite efforts by the government to stop them.

There is also a sneaking suspicion that several sections of the establishment, specially politicians, security agencies, the bureaucracy, mine-owners and industrialists may have developed a vested interest in keeping the bogey of Naxalites alive.

The spectre of unruly, blood-thirsty and lawless hordes swarming the countryside is often held out by various groups as a justification for not doing their job, for evading taxes, for undervaluation of production, claiming insurance, expenses, compensation, grants and emergency relief.

Government schoolteachers and other employees stay away by citing the threat of Naxalites. Government contractors collect payments but leave the jobs half-finished or undone. Doctors, policemen, surveyors and inspectors stay away from the countryside by citing how unsafe it is for them.

And the dishonest can always siphon off public money and blame the Naxalites. Policemen can engineer rewards and oblige people they know and at least a part of the secret funds at their disposal can be misused. Finally, the rates of bribes or ‘speed money’ go up astronomically because of the greater ‘risks’ involved in Naxalite territory, making lives of the poor even more miserable.

For quarter of a century, the state police forces are being armed and ‘modernised’ to take on the Naxalites. Better and more sophisticated arms and ammunition, speedier vehicles, modern surveillance equipment, perks like hardship allowance etc. are just some of the steps taken to counter the armed rebels.

The budget for the police has increased substantially in all the states affected by Naxalite violence but still the police in these states appears ill-equipped, under-staffed and poorly trained. What is worse is the recruitment of youth barely out of their teens into the ‘Armed Constabulary’ or the ‘Special Task Force’ and deploy them in inhospitable conditions to face the unknown enemy.

Surely the Naxalite threat cannot be so serious or their number so large that a determined government cannot counter. Almost half the electorate turning up to exercise their right to franchise in Naxalite-affected areas would also indicate that there are not too many takers of the Naxalites’ poll-boycott call.

But both the central government and the state governments appear quite clueless to deal with a problem that has lived and grown during the last 45 years. It is possible that their failure to effectively deal with Naxalites is because of the tendency to treat this as a law and order problem.

This suits the Naxalites fine because they can then target the uniformed force, unencumbered by any compulsion to deal with political parties or alternatives. A corrupt and brutalised police force makes it even easier for the underground outfits to win over the sympathy and support of poor villagers.

It does not help either when the police, either deliberately or as a panic reaction, pick innocent villagers and put them behind bars for allegedly feeding or hosting rebels. Sometimes, being seen in the company of rebels is enough to land people in jail or the police station.

Some media reports even speak of policemen threatening villagers that they would be booked under the Arms Act if they fail to pay up. Such high-handedness does drive villagers to side with the rebels. With many of the Naxalite cadre hailing from the surrounding villages, it is not entirely possible for the villagers to avoid contact with the rebels, giving the police the excuse to take action against them.

Several thousand villagers are languishing in jail, however, either on suspicion or on dubious charges and a special judicial review of the cases against them is required urgently.

Above all, there is need to realise that the problem needs to be tackled politically. Political parties must take a stand against Naxalites. Unfortunately, not a word has been heard on the issue.

So what if a few security personnel or polling officials have lost their lives ? Not a squeak has been heard from candidates or the political parties in the run-up to the polls. It is time for them to stand up and resist the destructive and counter-productive movement.

Top

 

A historic day for Iraq
by Robert Fisk

One hundred and seventy-nine dead soldiers. For what? 179,000 dead Iraqis? Or is the real figure closer to a million? We don’t know.

And we don’t care. We never cared about the Iraqis. That’s why we don’t know the figure. That’s why we left Basra On Thursday.

I remember going to the famous Basra air base to ask how a poor Iraqi boy, a hotel receptionist called Bahr Moussa, had died. He was kicked to death in British military custody.

His father was an Iraqi policeman. I talked to him in the company of a young Muslim woman. The British public relations man at the airport was laughing. “I don’t believe this,” my Muslim companion said. “He doesn’t care.” She did. So did I.

I had reported from Northern Ireland. I had heard this laughter before. Which is why yesterday’s departure should have been called the Day of Bahr Moussa. Yesterday, his country was set free from his murderer. At last.

History is a hard taskmaster. In my library, I have an original copy of General Angus Maude’s statement to the people of Baghdad – $2,000, it cost me, at a telephone auction a few days before we invaded Iraq in 2003, but it is worth every cent.

“Our military operations have as their object,” Maude announced, “the defeat of the enemy... our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.”

And so it goes on. Maude, I should add, expired shortly afterwards because he declined to boil his milk in Baghdad and died of cholera.

There followed a familiar story. The British occupation force was opposed by an Iraqi resistance – “terrorists”, of course – and the British destroyed a town called Fallujah and demanded the surrender of a Shiite cleric and British intelligence in Baghdad claimed that “terrorists” were crossing the border from Syria, and Lloyd George – the Blair-Brown of his age – then stood up in the House of Commons and said that there would be “anarchy” in Iraq if British troops left. Oh dear.

Even repeating these words is deeply embarrassing. Here, for example, is a letter written by Nijris ibn Qu’ud to a British intelligence agent in 1920: “You cannot treat us like sheep... it is we Iraqi who are the brains of the Arab nation... You are given a short time to clear out of Mesopotamia. If you don’t go you will be driven out.”

So let us turn at last to T E Lawrence. Yes, Lawrence of Arabia. In The Sunday Times on 22 August 1920, he wrote of Iraq that the people of England “had been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour.

They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information... Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows.”

Even more presciently, Lawrence had written that the Iraqis had not risked their lives in battle to become British subjects. “Whether they are fit for independence or not remains to be tried. Merit is no justification for freedom.”

Alas not. Iraq, begging around Europe now that its oil wealth has run out, is a pitiful figure. But it is a little bit freer than it was. We have destroyed its master and our friend (a certain Saddam) and now, with our own dead clanking around our heels, we are getting out yet again. Till next time...

By arrangement with The Independent

Top

 

Will Chrysler-Fiat marriage succeed?
by Dan Neil

After an abusive affair with Germany’s Daimler ending in 2007, and a dysfunctional relationship with former owner Cerberus Capital Management that ended with the company in bankruptcy on Thursday, can Chrysler learn to love again?

The alliance between Chrysler and Italy’s Fiat — in which the Milan automaker takes a 20 percent stake in Chrysler and Chrysler gains access to Fiat’s small vehicle and fuel-efficient technology — is plainly a terrific deal for Fiat and maintains Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne’s reputation as super-fixer and corporate Midas.

Fiat pays next to nothing and now has instant access to U.S. markets through Chrysler’s dealers. For at least a year, Marchionne had been casting about for a partner to help bring Fiat to America, approaching GM, Ford, BMW and Nissan along the way. A plan to re-introduce Alfa Romeo was abandoned suddenly last year after the economy softened.

In Marchionne’s view, Fiat is too small to survive on its own in an era of rapid consolidation. It needs annual global sales of 5.5 million or more to remain viable (last year totaled 2.1 million vehicles). That kind of volume is only possible if Fiat sells cars in the U.S.

The immediate benefit of the alliance to Chrysler is, obviously, the $8 billion in government loans that would help it weather the painful reorganization to come.

In the longer term, the theory runs, Chrysler will be able to re-badge successful Fiat products — imagine a Chrysler-badged version of the Fiat’s Bravo sedan — and build other vehicles based on Fiat global platforms.

But in this new Italian romance, the relationship is distinctly one-sided.

What happens to Chrysler in Nascar? What happens to Mopar? What happens to Dodge-badged cars? All likely to be swept into whatever museum there is left to memorialize Chrysler.

There are other risks for Chrysler. American buyers, for whatever reason, may not warm up to the Fiat products, which are generally small, lightweight and very modern and stylish in a way that Chrysler’s core audience, it’s safe to say, isn’t.

It’s also not clear how quickly Fiat products could be adapted to pass U.S. emissions and safety standards. Such a process of “homologating” vehicles is costly, and Marchionne has made clear he doesn’t want to put a lot of money into the Chrysler deal. Also there’s the question of how fast and at what cost Chrysler will be able to retool its 30 assembly plants in North America. You can’t simply throw a big switch that says “Fiat.”

The key variable in this deal is the price of gasoline. If gas should remain steadily around $2.50 a gallon, it would negate the advantage to Chrysler of sharing cars with Fiat, and punish Fiat too. Americans have shown, again and again, utter amnesia when it comes to fuel costs. As soon as fuel costs go down, so too does interest in fuel-efficient cars.

Ironically, California’s pending waiver request to the Environmental Protection Agency that would allow the state to regulate greenhouse-gas auto emissions would actually play in the new company’s favor.

The state’s request would effectively raise fuel efficiency for new cars sold by 30 percent by 2016. A dozen other states and the District of Columbia have said they would hew to the new California standards.

If California succeeds in imposing its own auto emissions and fuel economy rules, the Chrysler-Fiat alliance would be well positioned to quickly deliver smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles to market.

After years of fighting California’s clean air rules, Chrysler may in the end depend on them for its survival.

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 |