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EDITORIALS

Not done, Mr Chidambaram
The Home Minister cannot be seen politicking
C
ommunications between the Home Minister of the country and the chief minister of a state are usually confidential in nature and rarely made public. But the recent controversy over Mr Chidambaram uncharacteristically sending a letter by ordinary post to the West Bengal Chief Minister has led to an entirely avoidable furore.

Back from the brink
Forensic science just cannot be ignored
I
t is gratifying that the campaign launched by the Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine and extensively reported by The Tribune has made the Medical Council of India see reason and roll back its earlier decision which could have sounded the death knell for forensic sciences in the country.


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Destructive politics
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Withdraw agitation
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PM’s offer to face PAC
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Row over Rahul’s remark
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Intelligence is gathered from ‘friends’
December 19, 2010


Pak govt in trouble
There’s serious threat of instability
T
he PPP-led government faces an uncertain future with the MQM, a major coalition partner, having left the beleaguered Yousuf Raza Gilani Cabinet on Tuesday . Earlier, another constituent of the government, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI), had decided to stay away from the government. Both have had their own significance for the ruling coalition, losing popularity for some time.

ARTICLE

New twist in dispute with China
Never ignore India’s strategic interests
by Gen V.P. Malik (retd)
O
ne does not require much intelligence to realise that India-China relations over the territorial integrity of India have been on the back-slide for some time. After the joint statement of the Prime Ministers of India and China in April 2005, the Chinese government has backed out on the principle which accepted that “in reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas”.



MIDDLE

‘K’ey factor in human relations
by Rajbir Deswal
N
o, I am not talking about the Kashmir issue, immensely known as the ‘K’ factor, and as a spoke in the wheel too in Indo-Pak conflict resolution, but the subtler connotations of it, as in the burnt-bridges of human relations. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall; that wants it down!” said Robert Frost but when it comes to interpersonal relations amongst the humans, there are many things that stunt the thawing and adding carbon, to clog and congest.

OPED SENIOR CITIZENS

Making old age worth living
Brig M.L. Kataria (retd)

One can live a full span of life with proper eating and drinking, clean actions and pious and tranquil thinking
More than 2500 years ago, deeply grieved at the sight of disease, old age and death, Gautama, a young prince, renounced his palace, a pretty princess and a sweet son, to discover the cause and cure for these three inevitable states of life. For 12 long years he roamed around in forests and hills, and deeply meditated.









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EDITORIALS

Not done, Mr Chidambaram
The Home Minister cannot be seen politicking

Communications between the Home Minister of the country and the chief minister of a state are usually confidential in nature and rarely made public. But the recent controversy over Mr Chidambaram uncharacteristically sending a letter by ordinary post to the West Bengal Chief Minister has led to an entirely avoidable furore. The Union Home Minister and his office can, however, be excused for using , in the letter, the word “Harmad” for CPM cadres, a word described by Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as a “nasty coinage by the Trinamool Congress”.The quaint, several-centuries-old word was initially used to describe pirates but since then has come to mean ‘hired killers’ and has been popularised by Ms Mamata Banerjee and her party, which accuses the CPM of maintaining armed cadres in camps and of misusing the Central forces deployed in the state for protecting these camps. The use of the word in a formal, official communication has been described as disgraceful by independent observers and subjected Mr Chidambaram to the charge of being partisan.

If there were doubts that this was a game of political one-upmanship, they were cleared when the Ministry of Home Affairs chose to send the letter by ordinary post and leaked the contents to a section of the media. That a sensitive communication from the Home Minister could be treated in such a casual fashion reflects poorly on the Union government and the minister himself. Expectedly, the Chief Minister has retaliated in kind, faxing his reply and releasing it to the media. It is also not surprising that Mr Bhattacharjee has sought to capitalise on the Home Ministry’s indiscretion and accused Mr Chidambaram of being partisan.

The situation in West Bengal is indeed not a happy one. With the Assembly election due in the next few months, all political parties in the state are guilty of encouraging their workers to take up arms. While it is a poor reflection on the Left Front government that even after ruling the state for 33 years, the state police are still unable to protect their own cadres, the Union Home Minister can scarcely allow the cycle of violence to continue. He must make independent assessments and ensure steps to protect life and liberty. But a dialogue with the Chief Minister in full public glare is certainly not the way forward.
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Back from the brink
Forensic science just cannot be ignored

It is gratifying that the campaign launched by the Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine and extensively reported by The Tribune has made the Medical Council of India see reason and roll back its earlier decision which could have sounded the death knell for forensic sciences in the country. Mercifully, the MCI has agreed in principle to withdraw its notification that had sought to drastically reduce the faculty of forensic medicine in medical colleges across India and had cut by half the number of teaching hours required from 200 to 100 hours. If the MCI had gone ahead with the plan, the crucial but neglected discipline would have been further in the doldrums and the students would have been discouraged from joining it, since forensic experts have only the option of government jobs as private autopsies are not allowed in India.

The move was short-sighted all the way, considering that as it is, the country is short of 5,000 medico-legal experts. New medical colleges in India are not even required to have a functional mortuary to train the students in medico-legal autopsies. Only three months ago, the Supreme Court had expressed concern over ineffective investigation of crimes and had pointed out that making use of these deficiencies, criminals go scot-free. Even a US cable leaked by WikiLeaks had mocked at India’s poor investigation skills and had said: “Indian police forces are hampered by bad police practices and an inability to conduct solid forensic investigations”.

Yet, instead of strengthening the task force of medico-legal experts, the MCI had sought to move in the opposite direction. Now that better sense has prevailed, an attempt should be made to facilitate better criminal investigations. That can be possible only if there is proper infrastructure and adequate career prospects. India has to learn from the western countries where the fullest use of science and technology is made for testing the criminals’ fingerprints, DNA and blood.
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Pak govt in trouble
There’s serious threat of instability

The PPP-led government faces an uncertain future with the MQM, a major coalition partner, having left the beleaguered Yousuf Raza Gilani Cabinet on Tuesday . Earlier, another constituent of the government, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI), had decided to stay away from the government. Both have had their own significance for the ruling coalition, losing popularity for some time. Though the PPP has a comfortable majority in the 342-member National Assembly to run the government on its own, its important coalition partners parting company shows that the ship may sink anytime now if no corrective measures are taken soon. The government formed after the 2008 elections has been on a slippery path for some time owing to widespread corruption, a poor governance record, economic mismanagement and fast deteriorating law and order situation. People, who have been suffering from acute shortages of essential commodities, cooking gas, power, etc, seem to have no love lost for the PPP-led government, which, in their perception, is only bothered about protecting the interests of the Pakistan Army and America.

The MQM, which sees the possibility of a mid-term poll, obviously no longer wants to be in the company of the PPP. The party of Urdu-speaking migrants from India has, no doubt, been unhappy with the PPP after some of the latter’s senior leaders accused it of being behind the ethnic disturbances in Karachi and other areas of Sindh. But the truth is that the MQM had been looking for an opportunity to distance itself from the unpopular regime.

It will continue to support the government in Islamabad as well as Karachi —- in Sindh, too, the MQM is part of the PPP-led ruling coalition —- but this arrangement may not last long. Once the PPP is left alone on the treasury benches, the demand for the resignation of the President and the Prime Minister may take the shape of a popular movement. This will also provide an opportunity to extremists to strengthen their support base, posing a fresh threat to peace and stability in South Asia and elsewhere. Stability in nuclear-armed Pakistan is, therefore, in the interest of the entire region.
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Thought for the Day

One who uses coercion is guilty of deliberate violence. Coercion is unhuman.
— Mahatma Gandhi

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ARTICLE

New twist in dispute with China
Never ignore India’s strategic interests
by Gen V.P. Malik (retd)

One does not require much intelligence to realise that India-China relations over the territorial integrity of India have been on the back-slide for some time. After the joint statement of the Prime Ministers of India and China in April 2005, the Chinese government has backed out on the principle which accepted that “in reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas”. In November 2006, in complete disregard of diplomatic norms, the Chinese Ambassador in India publicly announced China’s claim to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. Since then China has called this Indian state as Southern Tibet. It strongly opposed a proposal in the Asian Development Bank for a soft loan for some hydel power stations in the state. It protested when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh, and when the Dalai Lama visited Tawang.

About three years ago, China started issuing “stapled visas” to visitors from Jammu and Kashmir, thus bringing into question the status of J&K as part of India. It refused a visa to Lt-Gen B.S. Jamwal, GOC-in-C, Northern Command, who was to make an official visit to China as part of ongoing military-level exchanges. Meanwhile, it has increased its civil and military presence in Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), purportedly to improve infrastructure there. Among the infrastructure reconstruction projects to be given priority are those related to the repair, upgradation and recommissioning of the Karakoram Highway, which was damaged recently. China also plans to construct railway tracks and oil pipelines from Kashgar in Xinjiang to Gwadar port in Pakistan.

Much, therefore, was expected when Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who had signed the joint statement in April 2005, visited India on December 15-17. But the sheer inanity of the India-China joint communiqué issued after the talks between the two Prime Ministers came as a surprise and disappointment. The joint communiqué had much to state on developments and new benchmarks in the economic and cultural fields. On other strategic issues, however, there was only the often repeated “firm commitment to resolving the outstanding differences, including the boundary question, at an early date through peaceful negotiations”, and the “commitment to the Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for Settlement of the Boundary Question agreed in 2005 and the process of negotiations being undertaken by the Special Representatives”.

From Delhi, Premier Wen Jiabao went to Islamabad. There he highlighted China’s economic solidarity with Pakistan and the growing strategic partnership and military relations between the two countries. When top leaders of Pakistan’s defence forces called on him (in India, the Services Chiefs were not invited by the President or the Prime Minister to the meetings and dinners hosted for the Chinese Premier), he agreed to their proposals to enhance military links. Addressing a joint session of the two Houses of the Pakistan Parliament, Wen Jiabao stated, “To cement and advance the all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation between China and Pakistan is our common strategic choice… The two neighbouring countries are brothers forever. China-Pakistan friendship is full of vigour and vitality, like a lush tree with deep roots and thick foliage. China-Pakistan relationship is strong and solid, like a rock standing firm despite the passage of time.” Talking to the media after Wen’s address to Parliament, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik described it as a strong message to the “enemies” of Pakistan.

Recently, it has come to light that Beijing perceives the length of the common border with India to be about 2000-km, around 1600 km less than what is believed by India’s Ministry of External Affairs. On December 14, 2010, Indian Ambassador S. Jaishankar in an interview to a Chinese newspaper, Global Times, had stated the length of the common border to be 3,488 km. The newspaper, while publishing this interview, added its own comment: “There is no settled length of the common border. The Chinese Government often refers to the border length as being about 2,000 km.”

Such a discrepancy is too large to be treated as an inadvertent error by China. This, in fact, is the length of the boundary/LAC that separates J&K with Xinjiang and Tibet, which is not being recognised by China. The Chinese are known to be far-sighted and deliberate on such strategic issues and statements. They have made the figure 2,000 km as a new norm in the official characterisation of the border with India.

The boundary confusion gets further confounded as the length of the India-China border is considered by the Ministry of Defence to be 4,056 km and not 3,488 km as stated by the Indian Ambassador. This length includes 2,175 km in the western sector (including PoK, the Shaqsgam valley — ceded by Pakistan to China in an India-disputed agreement in March 1963 — and Aksai Chin), 556 km in the central sector, and 1,325 km in the eastern sector.

It is now becoming obvious that in the India-China boundary discussions, (a) India seems to have given up its claim to PoK, Shaqsgam and Aksai Chin; (b) China has knocked off almost the whole of the Western sector boundary; and (c) by reducing nearly 1,600 km from its definition of border with India and questioning Indian sovereignty over J&K, it has added a new twist to the India-China boundary dispute.

The strategic implications of such a move can be as follows: One, China has become a new factor in the Indo-Pak debate over J&K. Two, the India-China boundary dispute may get divided into two parts. While the eastern and middle sectors remain a bilateral issue, the western sector becomes a trilateral issue involving India, China and Pakistan. Three, repeated references to the length of the India-China border as 2,000 km with the exclusion of the boundary that separates J&K from Xinjiang and Tibet would impact any future global discourse on J&K relating to subjects like construction and international loans or the financing of development projects. Four, China can now question India’s locus standi to discuss the western sector while its own territorial integrity and authority over Aksai Chin remains secure. Five, in the security scenario and defence planning for the western sector, Indian armed forces would now have to seriously factor in joint, two-front Pakistan-China threats.

Without going into other Chinese military-related developments in Tibet and the Indian Ocean, it is obvious that India-China economic and security relations are moving in opposite trajectories. The competitive relationship over our long-term security interests outweighs the cooperative one in trade, commerce and culture. China is known to be assertive in its diplomacy over security and military issues. Strategically, it will attempt to exploit our appeasement postures to its advantage. It will become more aggressive and create new pressures on the border issues as it completes its projected military modernisation.

India, on the other hand, is perceived as a soft state. Our leaders and governments, more often than not, have lacked strategic thinking. There is a sense of self-righteousness and singular faith in words without looking for underlying falsehoods and incompetence. We have seldom been demanding on strategic issues. At the strategic level, one requires a long memory and a longer foresight and vision. With China, we need to balance our strategic, security and economic relationships. Our dialogue with China must not compromise our present or future national interests. I hope that we will not agree to any change in the ground rules, which may restrict the border talks only to the eastern and middle sectors and exclude the western sector.

The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff
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MIDDLE

‘K’ey factor in human relations
by Rajbir Deswal

No, I am not talking about the Kashmir issue, immensely known as the ‘K’ factor, and as a spoke in the wheel too in Indo-Pak conflict resolution, but the subtler connotations of it, as in the burnt-bridges of human relations.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall; that wants it down!” said Robert Frost but when it comes to interpersonal relations amongst the humans, there are many things that stunt the thawing and adding carbon, to clog and congest.

My grandfather and his elder brother were very good friends too. And they used to say that their brotherly relations started having a dent in them when they had children. Siblings when they have their own children, begin to have differences.

There are painful instances of parents even coming to a stage when they disown their children. It happens generally when the latter bring them bad name, by either earning notoriety, or treating them like dirt.

Children too have their reasons to burn boats with their parents on issues relating to their upbringing, property etc but mostly when the parents themselves prove unworthy of their credit besides falling in esteem, socially.

Grandmas and grandpas don’t command commensurate love, if they did not play with, or pamper their grand children in their childhood, though instances are there when indulgent progeny hunt for their lost ancestry. Grannies invite frowns from their grand children when they dye hair and wear perfumes.

Cousins are no more cousins when they are made real. Expectations then rise and take their toll on asking for more. Same goes with nephews and nieces. Rural and urban backgrounds have their respective dire straits and loose ropes, in maintainability of relations.

A Haryanvi anecdote has it that a man, having his daughter’s son (dohta) on his shoulders made his son’s son (pota) walk along with him on foot. The pota holding the finger of his Dada shoos away the attacking dogs, while the dohta riding above, pooches the dogs into chasing his Nana. No generalisation, but as I said, rural society has hardcore binds for certain relations.

Between the best of friends, if there is money given or taken on loan, you are announcing the end of it all.

Gurus and chelas lose their respective places when the former asks for the thumb of his Eklavya and the latter when he sets his eyes on the Guru’s daughter. The case of modern-day ‘PhD-guides’, though, is different being ‘need based’. Soul-mates stop being so, when they become goal-mates.

I cannot help but count amongst a-kind-of-relationship, and the best in my personal reckoning, which obtains as between Amitabh-Hema and Salman and picturised in ‘Baagwaan’. Or Rajesh Khanna and Johny Walker in ‘Anand’; Sanjiv Kumar and Sharmila in ‘Mausam’. But the symptom of the present times is best reflected in the question-Hum aapke hain kaun?

Mutual sustenance is the key to obtainment of all relations and Bapu, Chacha or Bhai have totally different semantics to their tags. And Mamu, reserved for pulis-walas, is my all-time favourite relation.
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OPED SENIOR CITIZENS

Making old age worth living
Brig M.L. Kataria (retd)

One can live a full span of life with proper eating and drinking, clean actions and pious and tranquil thinking

More than 2500 years ago, deeply grieved at the sight of disease, old age and death, Gautama, a young prince, renounced his palace, a pretty princess and a sweet son, to discover the cause and cure for these three inevitable states of life. For 12 long years he roamed around in forests and hills, and deeply meditated. The enlightened Buddha discovered ‘Karma’ as the cause, and an eight-fold middle path of divine lifestyle as a cure to attain ‘Nirvana’, and emancipation of the soul from the ailing body, to prevent a millennium of rebirths.

But what about the ailing body?

From the ancient period till modern times, medical scientists have also been struggling to find out the cause and prevention of disease, how to deal with the agonies of old age, and how to keep death at bay, to enjoy 100 conformable years of life, as promised and prescribed in all holy scriptures. Long strides of success have been achieved, and new paths of progress are being discovered year after year. Some of these, which make old age worth living, are highlighted here.

FACTSHEET

  • India has more than 76 million people above the age of 60
  • Today, India is home to one out of every 10 senior citizens of the world
  • Their number is expected to swell to nearly 200 million by 2030 and 326 million in 2050
  • There is virtually no social security net for them from the government’s side
  • Of the elderly in India, 3.7 million live with dementia, each spending Rs 43,000 per annum on medical care
  • Dementia mainly affects older people, although about 2 per cent of cases start before the age of 65
  • After the age of 65, the prevalence doubles every five years with over a third of all people above 90 years being affected
  • Senior citizens face three serious problems: poverty, loneliness and disease

Abandoned

According to a survey conducted by the Agewell Research and Advocacy Centre conducted earlier this year, 22.01 per cent of elderly persons in the urban areas said they had no say in their family matters. In rural areas, 17.36 per cent felt the same way. In rural areas 22.68 per cent were helping their families and societies by giving general guidance or direction.

Old age is a syndrome of several ailments, creeping in individually, but multiplying into many with every decade after 60 years of life. Most notorious of these maladies are hypertension, ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, heart failure, cataract, glaucoma, retinal degeneration, osteoarthritis, prostate hypertrophy, diabetes mellitus and its complications, loss of memory, tremors, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke with loss of motor power of limbs and speech. In women there are cervical and breast cancers, obesity and hirsuitism due to hormonal imbalance, senile and fungal vaginitis, osteoporosis, uricaemia etc.

Pessimistically, in all our geriatric health care centres, we find that every senior citizen has three to six of the ailments mentioned above, depending on his/her age, but optimistically these are preventable, curable or manageable to ensure a conformable, mobile and physically non-dependent and self-managed old age, well into the eighties and nineties.

Buddha’s eight-fold middle path of life, which broadly advocates clean eating and drinking, clean actions and pious and tranquil thinking, are very relevant for preventive do’s and don’ts for geriatric good health. Modern lifestyle of haste and hurry, defective fast-food eating and so-called social drinking are responsible for hypertension, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes with all its complications.

Awareness, early detection and timely curative measures are imperative steps to nip the evil in the bud. Geriatric health care centres for every 500 enrolled senior citizens, run by state of NGOs, should play a vital role for upkeep of geriatric health care.

Every senior citizen must get a bi-annual lipidgram done. Serum cholesterol must remain below 200mg%, Triglycerides below 15 mg%, High density Lipids above 40 mg%, Low Density Lipids below 150mg%. control of diet and weight must be regulated accordingly under medical advice.

Similarly, a bi-annual electro-cardiogram — and where necessary a treadmill and Holter’s tests — shall depict ample assessment of cardiac functioning. When indicated, angiography, angioplasty and stent insertion, which now are routine procedures, must be done immediately when advised. Why wait for a heart attack?

To suffer from high blood pressure, leading to strokes and heart attacks in modern times is an inexcusable lapse. There are very effective drugs, such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin converting enzymes inhibitors and sleeted diuretics to keep the blood pressure within the accepted range of 120/80 mm Hg.

One can live a full span of life with a controlled diabetes-preventing ocular, cardio-vascular and kidney complications, by a well adjusted diet, exercise and drug regime. A monthly blood sugar assessment should remain around 100 mg% fasting and about 130-140 mg% post parindial level.

Besides injectable and oral spray insulins, a plethora of oral drugs for diabetes, like Metformins, Glybenclamides, Gliclazide, Glimpride are available and their use singly or in combination under medical advice can effectively control 24-hour blood sugar profile.

Foldable intra-ocular lens insertion through a button-hole incision has revolutionised the cataract surgery, permitting the patient to go home after a few hours and to work after 3-4 days. Laser and photo dynamic therapy and intro-ocular injections for retinal degeneration, though expensive, go a long way towards arresting the degenerative process. Gradual and painless loss of vision due to the rise of ocular tension (glaucoma) in elders discovered on routine examinations is easily controllable with Latanoprost, singly or in combination with Timolol eye drops, if discovered in time.

Herbal glucosamines, glucontinin and intra-articular steroid injections with physiotherapy not only arrest the osteo-arthritic pains but also control the deteriorating osteo-arthritic process, necessitating joint replacement.

For insomnia, most elderly resort to increasing doses of Alprazolems. These are not only habit forming but, also lead to degenerative changes in the brain with prolonged use.

Frequency of micturition, particularly at night, retention and dribbling of urine, may be due to enlarged prostate gland. Per urethral partial resection of only the enlarged part of the gland has considerably simplified the surgical cure of this very common problem. An annual prostatic specific antigen test in elderly men and a cervical smear test and mammo-graphy in women to detect any malignant changes is necessary, to ensure a timely cancer cure.

Fractures of bones due to trivial slips, falls and injuries, sometimes spontaneous fractures, particularly in women, and nightly bone pains, are due to gradually depleting calcium and osteoporosis. An annual accurate assessment of osteoporosis with a bone-density-meter is necessary and severe cases should preferably, be dealt with by an orthopaedician.

Due to sluggish digestion assimilation of essential vitamins and minerals from natural amount of food is reduced. Therefore, supplements as daily doses of calcium with Vit D3 500-1000 mg, Vit ‘E’ 200mg/day, along with daily diet may be required in most cases.

All the drugs mentioned above have on-the-counter availability with chemists without a medical prescription. Therefore, many a time, educated elders are inclined to self-medication, which has proved to be dangerous in several cases.

Although, our economy is improving every year, yet health care in India has a low priority, and geriatric health care still lower. India has seven crore elders, maximum in the world, and this number will increase by 1-2% at every census. In view of rapid changes in our social and family setup, both in urban and rural population, we need an old age home and elders nursing home in every city, town and a group of 3-5 villages. The state should encourage NGOs and private sector to undertake this responsibility.

Dr (Brig) Kataria (retd) is a pioneer in geriatrics health care and has established five senior citizen health care centres in the tricity, besides several rural health centres.
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