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EDITORIAL

Acquiring defence equipment

The concept of defence for a big country like India graduated with the passage of time. During early years of independence, our leaders were somewhat reluctant to spend hard earned national wealth for purchase of defence equipment from abroad. A thinking once reflected by no less a person than Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, was that India was not anybody's enemy and did not believe in military alliances. Therefore she did not need huge military build-up. The money saved would be utilized in mega developmental projects. Noble thinking presupposes a noble world which, however, is not the case. Some countries keeping eye on our forward looking policies and plans, suddenly became jealous that we were steadily carving place for ourselves among leading countries in the region and the world. A country of our size and resources and geographical location, . ....more

Green wealth under threat

CAG's report on Jammu district green wealth is alarming. If greenery is accepted as lungs of a city, then Jammu is on the verge of total choking of breath. Indiscriminate felling of green trees, conversion of vast tracts of forest land into non-forest habitations, allowing 123 saw mills run illegally within prohibited areas, non-reclaiming of degraded land, insensitivity of proper nursery developing projects, allowing user agencies possess land by transfer and non-eviction of unauthorised encroachments etc. are some of the glaring irregularities pointed out by the CAG in respect of forest lands in 3092 square kilometres area of . ...more

Vallbhbhai Patel
One who united India

O P Sharma

Sardar Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, popularly known as Iron Man of India, was a renowned barrister, an able administrator, statesman and one of the founding fathers the Republic of India. He was in the forefront of the freedom struggle and played a pivotal role in integration of over 500 princely States into a united Indian nation. In India and across the world, he was often addressed as Sardar, which means chief in Hindi, Urdu, and Persian....more

Changing Political Discourse
Will Kejrewal make a dent?

Syed Ali Mujtaba

India's changing political discourse and its implications on the 2014 election is something that is being hotly debated among certain sections of the intelligentsia.
Significantly, this new discourse came in to limelight with Gandhian and social activist Anna Hazare's movement to bring in an effective Lokpal Bill to check the menace of corruption that has seeped into the body politics of the country.
..more

Fast-Track clearances
Projects Vs peoples rights

Dr S Saraswathi

The Government appears to be in a tearing hurry to get a National Investment Board (NIB) in place to fast-track clearances of major infrastructure projects. Considering the enormous bureaucratic delay and the role played by vested interests in the processing of development projects, this step may seem necessary. But, in view of the undue haste in initiating . ...more

EDITORIAL

Acquiring defence equipment

The concept of defence for a big country like India graduated with the passage of time. During early years of independence, our leaders were somewhat reluctant to spend hard earned national wealth for purchase of defence equipment from abroad. A thinking once reflected by no less a person than Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, was that India was not anybody's enemy and did not believe in military alliances. Therefore she did not need huge military build-up. The money saved would be utilized in mega developmental projects. Noble thinking presupposes a noble world which, however, is not the case. Some countries keeping eye on our forward looking policies and plans, suddenly became jealous that we were steadily carving place for ourselves among leading countries in the region and the world. A country of our size and resources and geographical location, run along secular democratic dispensation, was bound to make her presence felt in economic, political and strategic arena of contemporary world. As this scenario developed, our detractors and rivals became more pronounced in their antagonism towards our country.
Chinese incursion in 1962 and three wars with Pakistan including the ongoing proxy war in J&K since 1989 changed India's perception of her defence strategy. There were compelling reasons for reversing the old concepts and approaches. India needed strong defence mechanism not for any sword-rattling against others but to defend her independence, territorial integrity, national sovereignty, democratic arrangement, and above all, her ancient civilization and traditions. Besides all this, we were called upon to fulfil international obligations also. As violent, retrograde and exclusivist forces acquired ascendency in various parts of the world, it became unavoidable for India to build a strong defence structure and streamline defence preparedness.
Some of our detractors have characterized our pursuit of a policy of defence preparedness as militarization. That is far from truth. Self-defence preparedness is different from militarization. Much against her wishes, India had to look across for procuring more modernized military equipment for all the three wings of her defence structure as well as auxiliary forces, all of them charged with protecting the country against external threats and internal subversion. Naturally, a country of a big size has a big order list. It has to be pointed out that modern warfare is radically different from conventional warfare. Latest advancements in technology have drastically changed the pattern of conducting a war. US-NATO warfare in Afghanistan has shown how digitalization of assault equipment can produce deadly effect.
Taking her strategic concerns into account, besides the nexus of sorts formed by two inimical neighbours on our eastern and western borders, India has had to opt for modernization and upgrading of defence preparedness. This is an ongoing process. Although India has developed capacity for indigenously producing much of military equipment, yet advanced technologies at the command of western developed countries have thrown up vast scope of producing highly effective and accurate military hardware for all the three services. However, these countries have made specific legislation in regard to export of sophisticated military hardware and access to these is almost restricted. India is among top buyers of military hardware for all the three services. Currently, the Defence Acquisition Committee has cleared acquisition of defence equipment to the tune of 6,000 crore rupees and the Defence Minister has given his nod. This clearance has come after protracted consultations and discussions at various levels of the government. The purchases envisage acquisition of Light Support Vehicles (LSV), Special Operational Vehicles (SOV), Search and Rescue (SAR) equipment for IAF Choppers and many other sophisticated items to strengthen our defence muscle. Speaking at the Defence Acquisition Committee, the Defence Minister A.K. Antony laid special emphasis on the three Service Chiefs of ensuring fairness and transparency in making defence purchases from foreign suppliers. Unfortunately in the past, much mud-slinging has happened in connection with defence purchase deals. These began with Jeep purchase scandal in 1950s, followed by infamous Bofors gun scandals which rocked the then government at the Centre. Thereafter many more scandals surfaced bringing bad name to the system of acquisition by the Defence Ministry. There are middle-men in the business who receive kick-backs for helping suppliers clinch deals with the Indian Defence Ministry. The sordid affair of receiving kick-backs has brought defamation to the Defence Ministry which Mr. Antony wants to rectify by emphasizing upon all concerned, especially the Chiefs of three services, that the deal should be fair and transparent. We highly appreciate the concerns of the Defence Minster in this behalf and understand the importance and strength of his counsel to the stakeholders to be fair and transparent. He has a large programme of modernization of entire defence structure of the country as has been necessitated by circumstances. If the Defence Minister takes drastic action against defaulters associated with his ministry or among the active service cadres, and against whom cases of corruption and kick backs are proved, he will win the hearts of millions of his countrymen who are fed up with the culture of corruption eating into the vitals of our polity.

Green wealth under threat

CAG's report on Jammu district green wealth is alarming. If greenery is accepted as lungs of a city, then Jammu is on the verge of total choking of breath. Indiscriminate felling of green trees, conversion of vast tracts of forest land into non-forest habitations, allowing 123 saw mills run illegally within prohibited areas, non-reclaiming of degraded land, insensitivity of proper nursery developing projects, allowing user agencies possess land by transfer and non-eviction of unauthorised encroachments etc. are some of the glaring irregularities pointed out by the CAG in respect of forest lands in 3092 square kilometres area of Jammu district. It says that only one per cent of total forest land in the district has been demarcated and the rest 99 per cent remains prone to unauthorised encroachment. Under rules twice the degraded forest area had to be brought under conservation according to Act of 1997 but the department has failed to do so. Yes, of course 0.11 crore rupees were utilized on procurement of generators, invertors, batteries, erection of transformers, construction works of office complex, air conditioners, and furniture, all in violation of guidelines. "Miss-utilization of funds meant for plantation, protection and rehabilitation of forests defeated the purpose of the schemes", the CAG report concluded. No greater disservice has been done to Jammu than the one under discussion. It is an inexcusable crime and deserves due punishment.

Vallbhbhai Patel
One who united India

O P Sharma

Sardar Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, popularly known as Iron Man of India, was a renowned barrister, an able administrator, statesman and one of the founding fathers the Republic of India. He was in the forefront of the freedom struggle and played a pivotal role in integration of over 500 princely States into a united Indian nation. In India and across the world, he was often addressed as Sardar, which means chief in Hindi, Urdu, and Persian.
He was raised in the countryside of Gujarat in a family of Gurjar Leva-Patidars. Vallabhbhai Patel practised as a lawyer when he was first inspired by the work and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. First, he organized the peasants in Gujarat for non-violent civil disobedience against oppressive policies of the British Raj; in this role, he emerged as an influential leader. He led freedom struggle in 1934 and 1937 and later participated in the Quit India movement.
Sardar Patel became the first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of independent India who effectively organized relief for mass influx of refugees and restored peace. Patel took charge of the task to forge a united India from the British colonial provinces allocated to India and more than five hundred self-governing princely States, released from British suzerainty by the Indian Independence Act 1947 by using diplomacy as also strong arms options. Patel's leadership persuaded almost every princely State to accede to India.
Down to Earth man
It is worth mentioning that Sardar Patel is also instrumental in re-invigorating the civil administration for functioning in a new democratic spirit with full devotion to nation-building.
Born on October 31 at Nadiad in Leva Patidar community of Gujarat and mostly lived in Karamsad village in the Anand district of Gujarat in then Bombay Presidency he kept day-long fast, abstaining from food and water which helped him in physical fitness and mental alertness. Patel at 18 years of age married from a nearby village, Jhaverba, who was then only 12 or 13 years girl.
Patel during the students days was living with simplicity, self-reliance and strong character. He travelled to England for study and became a barrister in Godhra and earned reputation as a fierce and skilled lawyer.
Another interesting feature of this life is reflected during 1909 when Patel's wife Jhaverba passed away in a hospital while Sardar Patel, who was cross-examining a witness in a court, was given a note informing him of his wife's demise. It is stated that Patel read the note, pocketed it and continued to intensely cross-examine the witness and only then went for last riles of his wife. He won the case. Patel who had a son and a daughter himself decided against marrying again.
Sparkles of leaderships
At the age of 36, he journeyed to England and studied at the Middle Temple Inn in London finishing the 36-month course not only in 30 months but Patel topped his class. Returning to India, Patel settled down in Ahmedabad as a barrister, wore European-style clothes with urbane mannerism and only in later years that under influence of Gandhiji he took to Khadi. He was a pure vegetarian.
Pate in 1917 won election and became the Sanitation Commissioner of Ahmedabad and often clashed with British officials on civic issues. Patel was, however, deeply impressed when Gandhi defied the British in Champaran to support oppressed farmers. Patel fully supported Gandhi's demand for Swaraj (independence from the British). Meeting Gandhi a month later at Godhra,, Patel became active in public life and took up popular causes.
Satyagraha in Gujarat
Supported by Congress volunteers, Patel successively led a satatewide revolt by refusing the payment of taxes. The government agreed to negotiate with him and also suspended payment of revenue. Patel emerged as a hero to Gujaratis and admired across India. In 1920, he was elected president of the newly formed Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee which he continued to serve till 1945.
Patel fully supported Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement and toured the state and made bonfires of British goods in Ahmedabad and set an example by shunning in all his English-style clothes. With his daughter Mani and son Dahya, he switched completely for wearing khadi. He worked extensively against alcoholism, untouchability and caste discrimination, as well as for the empowerment of women. It was during the struggle and after the victory in Bardoli that Patel was increasingly addressed by his colleagues and followers as Sardar.
Gandhiji's Follower
As Gandhi embarked on the Dandi Salt March, Patel was arrested. Once released, Patel served as interim Congress president. Subsequently, after the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was elected Congress president in 1931 during Karachi session which ratified the pact and committed itself to the defence of fundamental rights and human freedoms, and a vision of a secular nation, minimum wage and the abolition of untouchability and serfdom. Upon the failure of the Round Table Conference in London, Gandhi and Patel were again arrested in January 1932. During this imprisonment, Patel and Gandhi grew close to each other, and the two developed a close bond of affection, trust, and frankness.
Patel was released on June 15, 1945 when the British were realy preparing proposals to transfer power to Indian hands.
In the 1946 election for the Congress presidency, Patel stepped down in favour of Nehru at the request of Gandhi. The election's importance stemmed from the fact that the elected President would lead free India's first Government. Gandhi asked all 16 states representatives and Congress to elect the right person and Sardar Patel's name was proposed by 13 states representatives out of 16, but Patel respected Gandhi's request to not be the first prime minister. As a Home Minister, Patel merged all parts of India under federal control but Jammu and Kashmir was left out because of Pt Nehru was handling it.
Proud Achievements
Patel's popularity in post-independence era is evident from the fact that he is remembered as the man who united India. Gandhi had said to Patel "the problem of the States is so difficult that you alone can solve it". He was considered a statesman of integrity with the practical acumen and resolve to accomplish a monumental task. This senior leader in the Constituent Assembly of India and was responsible in a large measure for shaping India's Constitution. Patel was a key force behind the appointment of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar as the chairman of the drafting committee for Constitution of India and the inclusion of leaders from a diverse political spectrum.
After a brief illness, Sardar Patel breathed his last on December 15, 1950 and as per his wish he was cremated like a common man in Sonsapur in Bombay at same place as his wife and brother.
The Sardar Patel Memorial Trust organizes prestigious annual Sardar Patel Memorial Lectures and conducts other programmes. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour posthumously in 1991 and he still lives in the hearts of millions of countrymen.

Changing Political Discourse
Will Kejrewal make a dent?

Syed Ali Mujtaba

India's changing political discourse and its implications on the 2014 election is something that is being hotly debated among certain sections of the intelligentsia.
Significantly, this new discourse came in to limelight with Gandhian and social activist Anna Hazare's movement to bring in an effective Lokpal Bill to check the menace of corruption that has seeped into the body politics of the country.
Buoyed by the social and electronic media, particularly 24x7 news, this fresh political discourse took off with a flying start. Many compared Anna Hazare with Hamilton's pied-piper, who would banish corruption from the country.
Indeed, the sheer number of people, who came out on the streets to support Anna Hazare, demonstrated that a new freedom struggle has begun in the country.
While there was a general consensus on controlling corruption in high places, the demand for an extra Constitutional authority to adjudicate on governance was unacceptable to the people. Undoubtedly, it is this realization that dampened the initial euphoria for Anna's movement.
Besides, the movement further lost its sheen when it started dictating terms from the streets, attacking the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues by levelling corruption charges. Whereby, the people, who had firm faith in the system of governance, started cold shouldering those trying to bring a systemic correction to the political apparatus of the country.
Eventually, the fledgling Anna Hazare movement fizzled out. The Gandhian unsure whether his vision and mission could ever be achieved disassociated himself from his team and withdrew from centre stage. It seemed he was more bothered to salvage his personal integrity rather than changing the political discourse in the country!
However, from the debris of the Anna movement emerged another harbinger of social change, India Against Corruption's (IAC) founder Arvind Kejrewal, who is currently trying to hold aloft the flag that Anna unfurled to start a new political discourse.
Towards that end, Kejrewal, armed with documents, he acquired through RTI, shot his first salvo at Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra.
The IAC founder's next target was former Union Law Minister and presently Foreign Minister Salman Khrshid over his "corrupt deeds" in a NGO run by him and his wife. Next Kejriwal trained his guns on BJP President Nitin Gadkari, and exposed alleged fraud, forgery, benami holdings et al in his Purti group of companies.
This strident campaign heralded Kejrewal's entry into politics. Buoyed by the public response, he now aspires to win a majority and change political dissertation.
Raising a moot point: Will he be able do all this? Needless to say, one will have to wait till the 2014 election results are out to ascertain if the people believe in the IAC outpourings.
Undeniably, in changing political discourse, the media, particularly the 24x7 news channels are supposedly playing a big role. However, the question remains how far they are positively inclined?
Remember, even as Assam burned with human exodus reaching unimaginable numbers; the 24x7 media focused on Anna's fast in Delhi. For them, Ramdev and Anna's fast were more important than Swami Nigmmananda's fast who died trying to save River Ganga from pollution.
This is not all. In order to change the political dialogue, trial by the media has become the order of the day. Namely, performing the role of courts, wherein people like Kejrewal rush to media cameras and level charges against public figures. Thereby, their coverage assures huge eyeballs. But one needs to assess at what cost?
Thus, instant charges, instant prosecution, instant justice, have all become the trade mark of the electronic media reportage these days. Not a few, equate the functioning of these TV channels with the Khap Panchayats because of the similarities between them.
Arguably, if Kejrewal is so convinced about his allegations, why he is not going to the courts to seek justice? Why he is rushing to the media? Speculation is rife that there is some quid-pro-quo arrangement between Kejrewal and the media, which is giving him undue coverage.
Pertinently, former Supreme Court judge and current Chairman of the Press Council of India Markandey Katju commented on this phenomenon. Stated he, "The Salman Khurshid incident is not just an isolated one, because often complaints are made that in their hurry to give breaking news, the media, specially the broadcast media, does not do proper investigation before attacking someone's reputation. For a self respecting man, death is preferable to dishonour."
In fact, in this context, two important developments have taken place. The first, a defamation suit has been filed by Salman Khurshid against the media channel for damaging his reputation. The outcome of this case is eagerly awaited because it will decide whether the free run the 24x7 television media is enjoying now would continue or would it be made accountable, as demanded by Katju.
The second is the defamation suite filed by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, against Kejrewal, for tarring her reputation as a public figure. This verdict too could have a far-reaching impact that might give a new direction to future political discourse. ----- INFA

Fast-Track clearances
Projects Vs peoples rights

Dr S Saraswathi

The Government appears to be in a tearing hurry to get a National Investment Board (NIB) in place to fast-track clearances of major infrastructure projects. Considering the enormous bureaucratic delay and the role played by vested interests in the processing of development projects, this step may seem necessary. But, in view of the undue haste in initiating further economic reforms and in commencement of projects in the pipeline at the fag end of the term of the present Government, the step seems to collide with the requirements of environmental prescriptions.
No wonder, the Minister of State in charge of Environment Jayanthi Natrajan has expressed serious concern" about it. She finds the very concept of fast-track clearance "unacceptable" in infrastructure projects, notwithstanding that the NIB shall be headed by the Prime Minister and will include principal Ministries such as Finance and Law and Justice. It is proposed that it will hear appeals from companies whose projects have been stalled on environmental grounds and speed up clearances. At the same time, media reports reveal the presence of antagonistic views within the Government.
While conflict of interest between the corporate giants pushing many of the mega projects and the Government is understandable, the differences between pro-reform Ministries and the Environment Ministry are undesirable and indeed disturbing. Another, and in fact, the more serious factor implied in this move is the growing clash between development projects and people's rights in relation to their environment. Expediting the process of clearance raises questions over ensuring the right to clean environment.
These rights encompass several aspects - sheer livelihood, health, etc. of the people living in and around the area selected for the major projects. In the affluent western nations, environmental conflicts arise from the threat to public health and leisure options. But in the Third World, it is an economic conflict as well as involves grave subsistence and survival problems.
In Part IV of the Constitution on the Directive Principles of State Policy, Article 48(A) added by the 42nd Amendment, introduced in 1976, provides directions to the States to protect and improve the environment and safeguard forests and wildlife. Likewise, Article 51-A (g) imposes a fundamental duty on every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.
Over the years, the Central Government has adopted several legislations for promotion of clean environment. Among theses are Forest (Conservation ) Act 1980, the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act. These laws aim at protecting the rights of the people and go farther than legislations for prevention and control of pollution of water and air. Additionally, a Ministry of Environment and Forests was established in 1985 and a National Forest Policy was adopted in 1988.
Apart from broad principles and specific laws governing preservation of the environment, India has specifically accepted the concept of sustainable development. It means "development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs". The concept is known since the 1970s and has been used to describe an economy "in equilibrium with basic ecological support systems".
The Rio Declaration of 1992 proclaims that "Human beings are the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature".
Towards this goal and to promote the principles of sustainable development, a statutory National Green Tribunal has been established. It provides an opportunity to any individual to approach the Tribunal Bench to ensure adherence to these principles and to the policy to make the polluter pay.
Development as a civil process should be so conceived as to include not just material progress, but also the natural environment, social relations, production, consumption, and distribution, and social well-being of all sections of the people.
Development has both qualitative and quantitative dimensions. Social goals are as important as economic growth. One cannot supplant the other. As a derivation, the Ministries concerned with growth need to work along with those concerned with environment. Therefore, the general tendency to take environmental clearances for granted as a matter of routine is no longer possible. There is some definite awakening among people and there are civil society organizations to speak for the common man.
It is also feared that only mega projects worth over Rs.1,000 crore can have recourse to the fast-track approach. It means that the proposed NIB is meant to assist big investors and not the ordinary people wanting to work small and intermediate projects that are blocked or caught in red tape.
Interestingly, the Government is going all out to encourage investments in the country. Therefore, the proposal to set up the NIB has moved unusally very fast. However, we cannot overlook the fact that mega projects affect the people and the natural environment more intensely than minor ones and need careful consideration by all the stakeholders.
This Board is not empowered to look into the questions of rights, feasibility, and environmental aspects of the projects. A legitimate doubt may be raised whether in the name of fast-track, big industries are going to be allowed to side-track environmental and human issues. Needless to mention that no project should be allowed to ride rough shod over the rights of the people enshrined and protected in our legislations.
Sadly, the question of resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced by projects, adequate compensation for the affected, and provision of alternative means of employment for those who are losing their livelihood are coming up again and again. But unfortunately, these issues do not get the priority they deserve. Indeed, a board with representatives from the authorities, the corporate houses engaged in big projects, and the common people must be immediately set up to fast-track consideration and decision of all factors affecting both people and the environment on account of mega projects.
The National Investment Board as presently conceived will assist corporate houses to speed up their projects and not the people to get their rights. This gives room for a legitimate grievance that development is fast becoming more and more pro-rich and anti-poor. This impression, and any truth in it, must be removed first and foremost. ---INFA



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