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Punjab needs a makeover

Punjab’s debt burden has increased to Rs 87,000 crore. It may likely to reach over Rs 1 lakh crore by the end of 2013-14 if no concrete steps are taken. Despite being in poor financial condition, the Punjab government is not ready to withdraw free power to farmers. This will put an additional burden of Rs 7,000 crore on state this fiscal. Also, it is leading to overdrawing of water. Even after all this, the agriculture growth hasn't been good.

Punjab has increased taxes on property, excise duties, VAT, registration fee, etc. Besides, sand is selling at exorbitant rates. Labour cost has also increased manifold. The standard of education in government schools has declined. The health services are, too, not up to the mark.

The SAD-BJP government has failed to augment the power-generation capacity of grids. The government had promised to substantially increase power capacity in two years’ time. Though six years have passed, nothing has been done in this regard.

Keeping in view the poor financial position of the state, the government must find innovative and new sources of revenue and initiate economic reforms even if it calls for withdrawal of freebies. Tough decisions are the need of the hour.


Crowning glory

“The pretension is nothing, the performance is everything. A good apple is better than an insipid speech,” Leigh Hunt said once. The other day, it was a matter of proud for Punjab to know that Navneet Kaur Dhillon from Patiala was crowned Miss India 2013. Dhillon has proved that it is all about you, your enthusiasm and will to achieve something in life. It has been well said, “Where there is a will there is a way.”

This crown also suggests that we must follow our dream. We should never ignore our talent and interests. Parents should also encourage their children.

It is a big achievement to win the Miss India title. One truly needs great courage and confidence to face such a big platform. In short, it does not matter where you come from as everything depends on our will and enthusiasm. Congratulations to Navneet and her family.


Is backing Dutt right?

Ever since the verdict on Sanjay Dutt has come, prominent figures have come forward seeking mercy for him. His good behaviour was cited as the reason for the same. I feel we Indians get carried away by reel-life characters --- be it Dutt or Salman. Their image is larger than life, a good amount of money is riding on them and that's why they deserve mercy. So, that means along with Dutt should other high-profile criminals be allowed to go scot-free? Kasab and Afzal Guru maintained ‘good behaviour’ while they were behind bars, then why they weren't given a chance? One can't deny Dutt’s involvement in the Mumbai blasts. He may shed tears in open, but has he ever visited the families of victims and asked how they were surviving. The problem lies in the Indian mental setup. Here, the judiciary and politicians occupy a divine status. They do what they want and can fabricate laws to their necessity. The way prominent personalities have come out in the open to defend Dutt, it is possible that Dutt will be acquitted of the charges against him.


Higher education

The piece ‘Higher Education: Fresh vision needed to raise standards’ (March 23) highlights the grim state of higher education in the country. The grave concerns expressed by President Pranab Mukherjee must be considered with all earnestness. The quality of education denotes the quality of inputs and the processes of the system. As long as we do not strive for a richer curriculum and innovative methods of teaching, learning and evaluation, keeping in mind various quality parameters of higher education, we are not likely to achieve the desired results.

It is disheartening to note that the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, an autonomous institution of the UGC, which was established way back in 1994 mainly to address the issue of quality, has failed to improve the quality of education.

NP MANOCHA, Chandigarh

Road fatalities

RJ Khurana’s letter ‘Mourning road casualities’ (March 21), highlighting the growing menace of accidents, is thought-provoking and timely. Most of the road accidents take place because of human error and are thus preventable. Some of the main causes responsible for road mishaps are: overloading/ overspeeding/overtaking; drunk/rash driving; plying of unroadworthy/ramshackle vehicles; ferrying passengers by goods carriers; and using mobile phones while driving.

Sadly, the rising incidents of road fatalities have failed to draw the attention of the authorities concerned.


Save the railways

This has reference to your news item, '' Railways to renew passenger fares'', carried a few days back. You have rightly informed that the losses of Indian Railways (IR) have accumulated to Rs 25000 crore and the proposed hike in the passenger fare in October will not offset these losses because of Rs 2.70 per litre rise in the diesel prices by then. Today the economic condition of IR is in complete mess. It has received only Rs 26,000 crore from the general budget for completing the on-going projects which require Rs 60,000 crore for the year 2013-14. Moreover IR has no money of its own to execute the Rs 90000 crore freight corridor project. Its only hope is assistance from Japanese government.

Four factors --- oversize , insanitation , late running of trains and slow progress of electrification and doubling of tracks — are paralysing the railway service. Jairam Ramesh has rightly commented that railway tracks have become a vast open toiletry. The budget speech of the minister is silent on these core issues.

The only way to resurrect itself from the financial quagmire is for the railways to cut down its flab immediately without affecting its muscular strength. Its overgrowth is the biggest reason for its poor performance.

The best way to achieve this objective is to allow the states to develop their own regional railway networks. Like the NHAI, Indian Railway should limit its operations on inter-state routes. This single step will revolutionise the growth of the railways and solve most of its problems.

Ram Niwas Malik, Engineer-in-Chief (retd), Gurgaon



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