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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped

EDITORIALS

Why bailout?
Airlines must cope on their own
Since Air India is bleeding and a bailout is being readied, private airlines, evidently thought they too could squeeze the government for concessions. In a rare show of unity, they threatened a day’s strike on August 18 to demand a cut in fuel prices, airport charges and airport development fees.

A verdict for democracy
Musharraf has to pay the price
The Pakistan Supreme Court’s judgement declaring the November 3, 2007, emergency imposed by Gen Pervez Musharraf as unconstitutional is on expected lines. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who was removed from the position he holds today by the General’s regime, had personally borne the brunt of his arbitrariness.


EARLIER STORIES

Threat to personal liberty
August 2 2009
Counterfeit currency
August 1 2009
PM carries the day
July 31 2009
Prices and tempers soar
July 30 2009
Avoidable crisis in
J & K

July 29, 2009
Kargil to Arihant
July 28, 2009
Modi not above law
July 27, 2009
Redefining education
July 26, 2009
Who rules Haryana?
July 25, 2009
Musharraf in the dock
July 24, 2009
A disgraceful act
July 23, 2009


The stink of corruption
Buta’s son has much to answer for
T
he arrest of Sarabjot Singh, son of the Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes Buta Singh and three others in a bribery case is an extremely serious matter, not just because he is the son of a VVIP but also because the bribe was taken allegedly for settling a case pending with the NCSC itself.

ARTICLE

Tenure for babus
CMs must help PM improve governance
by V. Eshwar Anand
The Manmohan Singh government, in its second innings, is all set to usher in a slew of reforms to rejuvenate the civil services. As part of its 100-day agenda, it will table the Civil Services Bill, 2009, in Parliament to create an enforceable code of conduct for IAS and IPS officers. It will also institute a Central Public Services Authority to manage appointments, transfers, postings, promotions and tenures of bureaucrats.

MIDDLE

A comedy of errors
by Robin Gupta
W
hile heading a prestigious corporation in 1994, I had occasion to visit Mumbai on tour, with a halt at the Taj Mahal hotel. There was a promise in the air and with a spring in my step I descended at Santa Cruz, accompanied by a senior manager where we encountered an unusual melee as my tour coincided with a “shub tithi” and very carefully we had to weave our way through focussed couples, fresh into wedlock, vigorously engaged in dodging travel bags and cases that were rapidly being lifted from the conveyer belt.

OPED

Combating Maoists
Emphasis on rural policing welcome
by Uttam Sengupta
The Union Home Minister does appear determined to deal firmly with the Maoists. Unlike his predecessors, P. Chidambaram has not tried to gloss over the issue, admitting candidly that the Home Ministry had under-estimated the strength and sophistication acquired by the rebels.

The law on trial in China
by Teng Biao
O
n July 17, agents of Beijing's Civil Affairs Bureau raided and closed the office of the Open Constitution Initiative, a local nongovernmental organization. This center had been the primary meeting place for China's nascent movement of "rights lawyers," in which I have been an active participant. There are not too many of us. China has 140,000 lawyers, but only a few dozen focus on citizens' rights.

Chatterati
Colour coordination or superstition?
by Devi Cherian
S
ushma Swaraj's sarees are almost always the same colour as colleague S.S. Ahluwalia's turban. Last week, Sushma sported a beautiful Maheshwari cotton saree in a pale shade of mauve and Ahluwalia appeared in an almost identically coloured turban.



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Why bailout?
Airlines must cope on their own

Since Air India is bleeding and a bailout is being readied, private airlines, evidently thought they too could squeeze the government for concessions. In a rare show of unity, they threatened a day’s strike on August 18 to demand a cut in fuel prices, airport charges and airport development fees. The government response, though initially uncertain and weak, concretized into a tough one. Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel did well to deny the possibility of a bailout and to warn the private airlines not to resort to pressure tactics. The result has been that fearful that the government means business, the private airlines have called off the strike. Last year when employees of the Airport Authority of India had disrupted air services and inconvenienced travellers, the government had threatened the use of ESMA. This time around the government first “advised the airlines to engage in a dialogue" but thenmade it clear that failure to do so would invite tougher measures.

Airlines all over the world have moved from record profits to record losses in the past one year, especially after the financial meltdown resulted in recession. The steep rise in the oil prices, which peaked in July last year at $147 a barrel, the outbreak of swine flu and then terror strikes, first in Mumbai and lately at Jakarta, have contributed to losses of the aviation industry. Newspaper reports put the Indian airlines’ losses during 2008-09 at Rs 10,000 crore. When the going was good, private airlines, driven more by greed than sound business sense, went in for irrational expansion plans and placed orders for aircraft. But the sudden change in the business environment derailed their ambitious plans. Now they want the government to help them out of the difficult situation they have landed themselves in.

A bailout for Air India is understandable. It is government-owned and is required to provide air services even on unviable routes in national interest. Private airlines are profit driven. The operators know they are in a capital-intensive, competitive business with frequent highs and lows. They have not saved for the rainy day and are now, like America’s auto companies, seeking a financial lifeline. The government, itself in a tight spot, has limited means to help them. When they do not share profits with the government, why should the latter share their losses? Let the markets decide: the efficient will survive and the inefficient get swallowed by rivals.

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A verdict for democracy
Musharraf has to pay the price

The Pakistan Supreme Court’s judgement declaring the November 3, 2007, emergency imposed by Gen Pervez Musharraf as unconstitutional is on expected lines. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who was removed from the position he holds today by the General’s regime, had personally borne the brunt of his arbitrariness. However, since the case against the controversial measure was heard by a 14-member Bench, headed by Chief Justice Chaudhry, the verdict cannot be faulted. General Musharraf must have visualised the consequences of his past actions under the circumstances when he shifted his residence to London recently. How he reacts to the evolving situation remains to be seen. What punishment he gets for the subversion of the Pakistan constitution will be watched with interest.

The verdict may have far-reaching implications. If all that General Musharraf did after clamping the emergency has no legal sanctity, what will happen to the 37 ordinances he issued under the emergency? Under his Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) he appointed a number of judges in the provincial high courts and the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice A. H. Dogar, who has retired. Most of these judges, derisively called “PCO judges”, may have to go. But what will be the status of the judgements they have given during their tenure? With the removal of these judges, the Balochistan High Court will have no one to run it as it has only “PCO judges”.

There may be political implications too. After all, President Asif Zardari got all the cases against him withdrawn following a deal between the General and the late Benazir Bhutto. However, all depends on how Army Chief Gen Ashfaque Pervez Kiyani reacts to the development. If he allows the law to take its own course, the punishment for General Musharaf may serve as a deterrent for any General in future who ventures to capture power by subverting the constitution.
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The stink of corruption
Buta’s son has much to answer for

The arrest of Sarabjot Singh, son of the Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes Buta Singh and three others in a bribery case is an extremely serious matter, not just because he is the son of a VVIP but also because the bribe was taken allegedly for settling a case pending with the NCSC itself. That three unlicensed pistols were allegedly seized in a CBI raid at his residence makes matters worse for him. Significantly, Sarabjot has reportedly told CBI officials that his father knew of the bribe. That puts a very big question mark over the functioning of the commission formed to safeguard the interests of the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes. Coming as it does close on the heels of the arrest of the chairman of the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), it leads to the unfortunate conclusion that such organisations are increasingly becoming dens of corruption. The CBI is also trying to ascertain Sarabjot alias Sweety Singh’s involvement in hawala deals.

Quite expectedly, Mr Buta Singh has claimed that the arrest is nothing but a plot to malign him. That precludes the possibility of his resigning on moral grounds. Such uprightness is a thing of the past and it would have been futile to expect an exception from Mr Buta Singh. That sets the stage for a flurry of charges and counter-charges along political lines.

Under the circumstances, the best that can be done is to let the law take its own course. The CBI claims it has recorded conversations between the complainant (Nasik-based municipal contractor Ramarao Patil), a middle man (former president of Maharashtra Akhil Bharatiya Safai Mazdoor Congress Anup Bedi) and Sarabjot Singh. It has to present a water-tight case before courts so that the guilty cannot escape. Its record on that front is none-too-flattering. The next few months will show how well it has done its homework, and whether the sensational arrest ends in conviction or instead, Mr Buta Singh’s “conspiracy” theory gets credence.
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Thought for the Day

Anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart, and cannot make a good soup. — Ludwig van Beethoven
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Tenure for babus
CMs must help PM improve governance
by V. Eshwar Anand

The Manmohan Singh government, in its second innings, is all set to usher in a slew of reforms to rejuvenate the civil services. As part of its 100-day agenda, it will table the Civil Services Bill, 2009, in Parliament to create an enforceable code of conduct for IAS and IPS officers. It will also institute a Central Public Services Authority to manage appointments, transfers, postings, promotions and tenures of bureaucrats.

The new Bill is an improved version of the Public Service Bill, 2007. While it is being fine-tuned now, reports suggest that it will be comprehensive in nature and scope with special focus on the officers’ performance. Initially, the legislation will be applicable to IAS and IPS officers. The Prime Minister is said to be keen on extending it to all officers of the All-India Services.

Legislation of this nature is long overdue because the Indian bureaucracy has been passing through a critical phase. Though the civil servants’ salaries have almost doubled following the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission by the Centre and the states, there is no perceptible improvement in their style of functioning and delivery of services. The common man has no access to them and he runs from pillar to post for the redressal of grievances.

Some officers go out of the way to help people in distress, but most lack the commitment to public service. Not surprisingly, the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, in a survey of 12 economies (June 2009), has described Indian bureaucracy as “the worst”, “suffocating” and “least efficient”. Shockingly, it puts India at the end after Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, the Philippines and Indonesia!

IAS officers hold important field- level posts at the district level and at the cutting edge at the start of their careers with critical decision-making and crisis management responsibilities. Initially, they get postings to small places. But they face frequent transfers, and the pulls and pressures they have to stand up to early in their career are intense. Clearly, most of them are unable to deliver because of increasing political interference. There is a general impression that Chief Ministers don’t appreciate tough and upright officers who often are shuffled like chess pawns. The problem is acute when there is a new government.

Why blame Chief Minister Mayawati when even powerful MLAs wield the weapon of transfer to browbeat uncompromising officers? Naturally, most prefer to play safe for fear of peremptory transfers, punishment postings and avoidable reprisals. Of course, as Chief Ministers prefer pliable officers in crucial posts, some are ready to kow-tow to their wishes. Things have come to such a pass that though the Election Commission shifts controversial IAS and IPS officers for holding free and fair elections, the Chief Ministers promptly bring them back and restore the status quo ante once the elections are over. This is happening in almost every state, but the Centre remains a mute spectator to this tamasha.

Once the new Bill is passed by Parliament, IAS and IPS officers will get a minimum fixed tenure of three years in every posting. If an officer is transferred before three years, he or she will have to be compensated for the inconvenience and harassment caused due to such a move. As most transfers are whimsical and arbitrary, they will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny to remove the element of discretion in such orders.

Dr Manmohan Singh, during the past five years, tried to convince the Chief Ministers about the need for a fixed tenure for District Collectors and Superintendents of Police. However, he could not succeed because of non-Congress Chief Ministers’ reluctance to give away their power of transfer. The latter simply don’t want to lose their hold over the bureaucrats because they consider an officer’s tenure an important instrument in their hands to tame him/her. Passage of the Bill may help check the increasing political interference in the administration.

A fixed tenure for bureaucrats will usher in transparency, continuity, stability and accountability. However, there are justifiable fears among some sections about the non-performing ones. How can an incompetent DC or SP continue only because of his fixed tenure? And won’t the failure of leadership at the cutting edge aversely affect the administration during emergencies and natural calamities? To avoid such a situation, the Centre should provide for a system of weeding out those who are misfit together with adequate safeguards in the Bill against its possible misuse by the powers that be.

The Central Public Service Authority (CPSA), to be set up under the new Bill, will play a crucial role in the professional management of the civil services. It will act as a watchdog to secure the interests of the civil servants and citizens. As for the top posts in the states such as those of Chief Secretary and Director-General of Police, the Bill envisages that they will be selected by a panel of suitable candidates to be drawn up by a committee consisting of the Chief Minister, the Home Minister and the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly. At present, the Chief Minister alone decides such appointments.

At the national level, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha will have a say in the Cabinet Secretary’s appointment. The latter too will be selected by a panel consisting of the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister among others. If the government deviates from these norms while appointing bureaucrats, it will have to inform Parliament the reasons for doing so.

The Bill will put in place a different kind of performance evaluation system. Unlike the current practice of annual confidential reports (ACR) which take a panoramic view of an officer’s work, the new performance management system will evaluate babus on their job-specific achievements and the number of tasks that they perform as a team leader in a particular department.

The CPSA will manage this system. It will work under a chairman whose rank will be equivalent to that of the Chief Election Commissioner. The chairman will have a five-year tenure and will be selected by a panel consisting of the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, a Supreme Court Judge and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The Cabinet Secretary will be its Convener.

The CPSA will aid and advise the Centre in all matters concerning the organisation, control, operation and management of public services and bureaucrats. It will also be the custodian of the public service code for babus. The code will be framed to help civil servants discharge official duties with “competence and accountability; care and diligence; responsibility, honesty, objectivity and impartiality; without discrimination and in accordance with the law.”

The CPSA, with three to five members, will have the power to recommend action against civil servants who do not adhere to the code and public service values. It will at the end of each financial year compile and submit a report to the government indicating the compliance with the provisions of the new legislation by every ministry and department of the government.

The Centre would do well to include in the Bill the Veerappa Moily Commission’s recommendation for the dismissal of the deadwood. It has proposed two intensive reviews of an officer’s track record — one on the completion of 14 years of service and another after 20 years. These are challenging times and the Chief Ministers would do well to strengthen the Prime Minister’s hands to help improve the quality of governance at the Centre and in the states.

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A comedy of errors
by Robin Gupta

While heading a prestigious corporation in 1994, I had occasion to visit Mumbai on tour, with a halt at the Taj Mahal hotel. There was a promise in the air and with a spring in my step I descended at Santa Cruz, accompanied by a senior manager where we encountered an unusual melee as my tour coincided with a “shub tithi” and very carefully we had to weave our way through focussed couples, fresh into wedlock, vigorously engaged in dodging travel bags and cases that were rapidly being lifted from the conveyer belt.

“I do hope the car is airconditioned”, I said to the Senior Manager for it was a hot sweltering evening with the kind of unhealthy humidity that is peculiar to India’s three presidency towns. Since I was now in the corporate world, I had packed my suitcase with summer suits, cigars, a silver hip flask, sharp English cheddar and crackers, and a firstaid box, that was secured between joke books and risqué literature.

In about 45 minutes, I found myself in the lobby of the Taj and surveying the sophisticated elegance of the crème de la crème in their haute couture attire and the many celebrities reflected on granite floors, I thought to myself that I had arrived; for a middle-level civil servant this was a lifetime’s achievement.

The thought of my colleagues in safari suits chasing shifty eyed ministerial staff, pot bellied policemen and patwaris, sent a shiver of distaste down my spine. Vowing to banish these phantoms forever, I regaled myself with images of shapely women in flaming orange leaning on their macho companions in shades of viridian, meandering towards the cocktail lounge.

Such moments are to be savoured, I thought, for life after all, is moments, just moments. I entered my suite with a sigh of satisfaction; the Senior Manager firmly placed my bags on a rack, coughed nervously seeking upgradation of his hotel accommodation for he petitioned that the permissible rates would lodge him in a choultry.

Shutting the heavy door, I looked out at the majestic ocean and with an eye to the future, I invited the Vice-President of the bank with whom I had business, to dinner. As there was still some time, I studied the points for discussion and, pouring myself a generous drink, I carried it to the Roman styled bathtub.

As I started getting dressed to receive my guests, I reached out for a formal jacket and tie; and drew out instead a firmly moulded brassiere. Mesmerised, I delved deeper into the suitcase, and a golden red sari tumbled out followed by a blouse and petticoats.

Frantic by then, I rummaged the suitcase which revealed more bridal wear, the finest Italian lingerie, a vanity case, a jewellery box, silver idols of Radha Krishna, perfume, joss-sticks, and a small address book. I summoned the manager to return the baggage to Santa Cruz where he found its legitimate owner, a weeping bride with swollen eyes parked on my suitcase, with cigars, whiskey, joke books and the literature scattered around her as her bemused spouse looked on.

My appointment with the Vice-President was cancelled. A day later, I was shifted to the Department of Wild Life Preservation.
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Combating Maoists
Emphasis on rural policing welcome
by Uttam Sengupta

The Union Home Minister does appear determined to deal firmly with the Maoists. Unlike his predecessors, P. Chidambaram has not tried to gloss over the issue, admitting candidly that the Home Ministry had under-estimated the strength and sophistication acquired by the rebels.

The Centre’s decision to raise a special force comprising some 26,000 men from the existing para-military forces, set up army cantonments deep in Naxalite territory and to launch a concerted offensive, presumably later this year after the monsoon departs, are also welcome indicators of the government’s seriousness.

But having said that, it does need to be pointed out that most of the measures referred above are old wine in a new bottle. In Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) are already holding on to territories and have set up camps in remote areas and on hill-tops. But that has not prevented the Maoists from striking at will.

There has been no let-up in land-mine explosions and the men in uniform are often turning out to be sitting ducks, getting ambushed time and again.

Setting up new cantonments in remote areas will certainly help sanitise a certain area and give a fillip to the local economy but the government can set up at best one or two additional cantonments in a state.

The Maoists then are likely to simply move to fresh territory, as they have done often in the past. The flexibility of a guerrilla operation is seldom matched by conventional methods.

The idea of having cantonments is a two-edged sword actually. Because the Maoists may well try to provoke the armed forces, target movement of army convoys and raise the level of attrition to a point where the Army may want to intervene.

The Army has been kept out of the anti-Naxalite operations so far despite the pleas by states unable to control the Maoists. By setting up cantonments in Naxalite territory, the government may just play into their hands.

Similarly, the idea of raising a special force to combat the Maoists does not appear to be a particularly novel idea. States have been imparting training to the state armed police and special forces had been raised in the past and trained in jungle warfare.

All of them have suffered, however, from the serious handicap of being largely ‘outsiders’ with little knowledge of the local terrain, languages and dialects spoken locally or even of local customs.

Unaware of local conditions, unfamiliar with local people, they have often been guilty of over-reacting to alleged provocations and of using strong-arm tactics, alienating the local people further.

What is unfolding in Lalgarh in West Bengal is a case in point. Six thousand armed personnel are holding a small area in the backwaters of Bengal for over a month. But while the armed men camp in schools and colleges, Maoists continue to make their presence felt by blasting landmines, abducting policemen, killing so-called political rivals and police informers and hitting at supply lines of the security forces.

Security personnel have added to the confusion by beating up school students demanding they vacate school buildings and allow classes to resume. All able-bodied men are suspects and rather than get detained by security forces, they seem to have fled into the forests.

Both Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have also tried to pit villagers against Maoists by arming vigillante groups. Despite temporary successes when some Maoists were held or killed by the villagers, this has not really worked.

Besides raising the disturbing question of the state abdicating its responsibility and encouraging people to take up arms and defy the law, Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh or Gram Suraksha Dals in Jharkhand have made little impact on the march of Maoists.

Indeed, they have merely ended up providing fire-power to a group of people who have used it to settle personal scores. These armed men have been allowed to kill anyone they suspected of being a Maoist and without any accountability whatsoever. Not surprisingly, some of them have ended up as outlaws themselves.

One sensible move being taken by the Home Ministry is to shift attention to rural policing. As much as 60 per cent of the 14,000 police stations in India are said to be in the rural areas. But most of them function from dilapidated buildings, are staffed by ill-trained, ill-equipped policemen with little motivation.

Not surprisingly, they are known to have fled the posts at the first sign of trouble. A fresh emphasis on rural policing could be useful in providing employment opportunities to rural youth and could turn out to be more effective in combating Maoists.

But the much bigger challenge for the government is to establish and sustain a responsive administration in these areas. In large parts of the Maoist territory, schools, colleges, hospitals and health centres simply do not function. Government grants are siphoned off by middlemen and public servants abdicate their responsibility and have largely abandoned their posts on the plea that they face a threat to their lives.

While the Maoists do have a political agenda and are opposed to development projects, even they will find it difficult to resist rising local aspirations if development schemes are allowed to be implemented by local people and not ‘outsiders’, who are deemed to be exploiters and looked upon with suspicion.

Making the police more responsive to the common man is another area that the government needs to look at. In Maoist strongholds specially, policemen are either pitied, looked upon with contempt or feared.

Petty corruption, the tendency to use strong-arm tactics, the unthinking use of the stick and the power of the police to implicate villagers in false cases are issues which the state governments will have to deal with on a war-footing. Because without meaningful administrative and police reforms, a military response alone may not work against the Maoists.
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The law on trial in China
by Teng Biao

On July 17, agents of Beijing's Civil Affairs Bureau raided and closed the office of the Open Constitution Initiative, a local nongovernmental organization. This center had been the primary meeting place for China's nascent movement of "rights lawyers," in which I have been an active participant. There are not too many of us. China has 140,000 lawyers, but only a few dozen focus on citizens' rights.

Our work is frustrating and sometimes hazardous, but we have had considerable success in protecting the rights of individuals and in highlighting cases that have raised awareness of the law among people all across China. This happened last year when we defended families of victims of the toxic baby formula produced by Sanlu Milk Co.

It happened again this year when we defended Deng Yujiao, a waitress who fatally stabbed an official as he was attempting to rape her, and again when we opposed the Chinese government's attempt to require "Green Dam" Internet censorship software on every computer sold in China. We have also defended Liu Xiaobo, the writer who faces prison for signing Charter 08, a manifesto that calls for democracy and human rights.

We can do these things not because China's rulers are becoming more tolerant (they are not) but because, for several reasons, they find that they need a legal system in order to rule. A few decades ago problems such as property disputes, domestic violence and even murders were handled by Communist Party functionaries inside communes or "work units."

But now, because communes and most work units are things of the past, the role of lawyers and courts has to expand. Modern business also needs law. And, perhaps most important for us who do "rights law," the government needs, for reasons of prestige at home and abroad, to pretend that it strictly observes the law. Officials still violate the law, especially in political cases, and get away with it. But they always have to pretend that what they do is "according to law," because their claim to legitimacy depends on it.

This divergence between practice and pretense is what gives space to rights lawyers. When we insist on the rule of law and are public about it (because of the Internet, millions of people might be watching), we can at least embarrass government officials for their illegal actions and hypocrisy, and embarrassment sometimes stays their hands. But they do not like this, and sometimes we pay a price.

Nearly all of us, in the past few years, have experienced threats. We have also lost books, bank accounts and computers during raids on our homes. I am among those who have been forcibly ejected from courtrooms; others have been blindfolded, abducted or beaten while trying to visit clients.

In 2007 my colleague Li Heping was beaten by thugs who used bottles and electric batons and told him to "get out of Beijing or we will beat you whenever we see you." Our colleague Gao Zhisheng, who has defended Falun Gong practitioners, has been imprisoned and tortured. More than five months ago, he "disappeared." Neither his colleagues nor his family know where he is being held.

What most impedes our work, though, is the revocation of our licenses to practice law. China's cities and provinces have "lawyers' associations" that appear to be modeled after the bar associations of Western countries, and these groups decide annually who is qualified to practice law. This is a good example of where pretense and reality diverge in China's legal world.

The lawyers' associations are, in fact, puppets of the government whenever a political question arises. Last year my license to practice law was revoked. China University of Politics and Law, where I teach, assisted in the revocation. Recently the results of the 2009 "review" of qualifications were announced, and about a dozen more rights lawyers had their licenses taken away.

Still, somehow, rights lawyers as a group have not lost their spirit. The letter of the law remains on our side. Moreover, the growing appetite of the Chinese people for the idea of "rights" is easily apparent on the Internet as well as through the many demonstrations, large and small, that happen almost every day in one part of China or another. We feel that history is on our side, and we put our faith in the proverbthat says, "The darkest hour is right before the dawn." — By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post
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Chatterati
Colour coordination or superstition?
by Devi Cherian

Sushma Swaraj's sarees are almost always the same colour as colleague S.S. Ahluwalia's turban. Last week, Sushma sported a beautiful Maheshwari cotton saree in a pale shade of mauve and Ahluwalia appeared in an almost identically coloured turban.

This coordination is very easy to explain. It is not of some telepathy between the two leaders. As many Hindus who are superstitious, Ahluwalia adheres to a colour scheme throughout the week that Sushma too follows religiously.

The scheme of colours for his turban, to coincide with different days of the week, is as follows: on Monday, it is pink, Tuesday red or brick colour, Wednesday green, Thursday yellow or saffron, Friday mauve, grey or white, Saturday blue or black and on Sunday it is golden or magenta.

Many working women and housewives have their daily colour co-ordination day-wise in their wardrobes. It's a superstition that our grandmother followed religiously and she says it has worked like magic. Wonder if it works for these two too!

Ignominious frisking

We do agree that no person is exempt from security check at airports — Indian or foreigner — especially in these times of uncertainty. However, when it is a former President of the largest democracy of the world involved, there must be some heed to protocol and dignity.

American Continental Airlines acted immaturely in frisking former President Abdul Kalam; in this case he was frisked at the aircraft's aerobridge by the airline's over-enthusiastic security personnel, who were also rude to the former President's staff and security. Kalam, a 77-year-old senior citizen, then had to face the ignominy of his wallet being checked and being asked to take his shoes off. And this all on our own Indian soil.

But unlike high-ranking politicians, Kalam very calmly let the airline staff do their job. This episode is humiliating because Mr Kalam is a much-loved figure, besides being a former President of the Republic.

While foreign airlines may have their rules, when they are on Indian soil, they must adhere to Indian guidelines. For the present, the least that the airline can do is to make amends and apologise to Mr Kalam.

But when will the Indian government learn a lesson? Our former External Affairs Minister was frisked, our Defence Minister too had to take off his shoes, shirt etc in America. Why do we give the foreign delegates such importance when they visit us? After all, we are also under threat all the time.

PDP: a bad loser

The People's Democratic Party and its leader, Mehbooba Mufti, have clearly lost their balance after its decisive election defeat. Only that can explain its resort to shoddy and downgrade sleazy tactics.

Mehbooba's behaviour is unpardonable. On Monday Mehbooba wrenched out the microphone of the Speaker of the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly and threw it away. On Tuesday, Muzzafar Beig of the PDP came up with a concocted charge that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was involved in the 2006 Srinagar sex scandal.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has pointed out that Mr Abdullah's name never figured in the scandal in which two PDP ministers were, in fact, named along with several other persons. There was no need for Omar Abdullah to get emotional but it was a reaction that any self-respecting person would have.

And then on Wednesday Mehbooba tore the CBI letter which confirmed that Omar was not involved. Politics is a dirty game. As for the PDP, it needs to become constructive instead of destructive. Hurling scurrilous charges at the Chief Minister or attacking the Speaker is no substitute for good politics.

Remember, how they pulled the rug from under the Congress after they finished their own term of three years. Bad losers and bullies that is what the PDP leaders are. Charges against them are many, only if the present CM would take action. About their own personal lives, the less said the better.
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Corrections and clarifications

  • The name of former J & K Deputy Chief Minister and PDP legislator Muzaffar Baig was spelt as ‘Beig’ on the front page and as ‘Beigh’ on Page 6 of the edition dated July 30. While ‘Beigh’ is printed in the official directory, it is ‘Baig’ that the legislator himself writes.
  • In the front page report on August 1, Buta Singh has been described as the Chairman of the “ National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”. There are actually two separate commissions since 2004 and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is headed by Smt. Urmila Singh.
  • A report on the proceedings of the Haryana Assembly on August 1 reads, “ MLA Phool Chand Mullana pointed out that SMOs were not usually stationed at their place of posting…” What was meant to be conveyed was that SMOs were usually not ‘found’ at their posts.
  • A report from Srinagar on the same day read that the state government would seek from the Centre two central universities, “ one each for Jammu and Kashmir”. It should have been one each for Jammu and Srinagar.

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

This column will now appear thrice a week — every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error.

Readers in such cases can write to Mr Kamlendra Kanwar, Senior Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is kanwar@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief

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