Monday, September 20, 2010
I took the first flight to Srinagar from New Delhi on the morning of 31st August, 1965 as suggested by Ashok Sen, Joint Secretary in charge of J & K affairs, in the Ministry of Home Affairs the previous day, when I had called on him as advised by LP Singh, Union Home Secretary. That turned out to be the last flight to Srinagar, as Indo-Pak War of 1965 broke out by late that evening. I was the first one of the six young IAS officers, drafted by the Union Home Ministry to serve as Staff Officers to the Chief Secretary, J & K, in the wake of massive infiltration by armed tribals across the LoC, at the behest of the Pakistan army in July that year, overrunning large tracts of Indian territory and undoing civil governance in the areas thus overrun. The rest of the five officers were to join a week later, traveling by road to Srinagar from Pathankot. I was earlier Sub-divisional Officer and Magistrate Lalitpur, which I was asked by the Athar Hussain, District Magistrate of Jhansi to leave within 48 hours to report to LP Singh, Union Home Secretary in New Delhi at the earliest.
Asok Sen's first suggestion to me was to take the Indian Air force plane going to Srinagar, but he wisely advised that since, in the event of the plane getting shot down, my family was not likely to get any compensation for my likely certain death, taking the Indian Airlines morning flight the next day was the best option for me. I told him that I had no money to buy the air ticket and he promptly gave me a princely sum of Rs. 2000/- for my air ticket and some warm clothing to protect me from the cold of J & K. Sitting in the crowded Fokker Friendship plane of the Indian Airlines that morning, my very first plane ride, I was gratefully ruing the wise counsel of Ashok Sen to avoid the Indian Air Force plane for this journey. The impending Indo Pak War was till then not in my mind at all. My sense of excitement at this sudden adventurous turn in my IAS carrier, new no bounds that morning as I hungrily savoured the frugal breakfast and hot cup of tea that was soon served to us by the Indian Airlines.
The plane landed with a smooth touch down on the Srinagar Airport, which had been imminently threatened by the first massive raid of armed tribals across the Indian border in late 1947 (and miraculously saved by the brave men of the Indian Army, led by late Major Somnath of the Kumaon Regiment, who was awarded Param Vir Chakra posthumously), at the scheduled time of 8 am (flights in those days were very punctual). As I faced the cold morning breeze of Srinagar, I made a beeline to the Public Call Office (PCO) to ring up Sushital Bannerji, the Additional Chief Secretary of J & K to inform him of my arrival and to seek his instructions. He picked up the phone himself (officers did that in those days in emergencies) and gave me a warm welcome and asked me to drive straight to his residence in Srinagar. Sipping a hot cup of welcoming tea in Sushital Banerji's house as I faced him, it was a great relief to me to be addressed with warm affection, after the travails of the long hectic journey starting from Lalitpur four days ago. He told me to drive to the Tourist Centre (where we as IAS Probationers had stayed in 1961 during Bharat Darshan, but since burn't down and consigned to flames by rampaging mobs inspired by the separatists) in the heart of Srinagar, where a room had been reserved for me to take care of my board and lodging. I was asked to report to the Central Control Room in the State Secretariat, which was overseeing the fast changing scenario since the infiltration began a few months ago.
The War was to last for the next twenty two days, during which the six of us Staff Officers to the Chief Secretary were doing duty in shifts, round the clock in the Control Room, seeing the Chief Minister Mir Qasim, his Home Minister DP Dhar and other high ranking dignitaries of J & K State Government and the Indian Army every morning, deliberating on the fall outs of the fluctuating fortunes of the War and the infiltration. I distinctly specially remember the fall of what was known as the "Chicken's Neck" in the Chamb Jorian Sector, the only road link between J & K and the rest of India and the subsequent decision of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Prime Minister of India to order the Indian Army to attack Lahore, whereupon the Pakistani troops withdrew from the "Chicken's Neck" and the sense of elation in the Control Room that morning hailing Shastri ji for his courageous leadership. Shastri ji had already won the hearts of the people of the Valley, after his deft handling of the "Muwey Mukkaddas" crisis pertaining to the Holy Relic in the Hazratbal Shrine, during the previous winter, when the chill air with snow flakes wafting down and the snow covered streets of Srinagar were rented with the cries of milling crowds shouting "Shastri ji kee jai-Bharat kee jai". It was indeed, a rare experience for us young IAS officers to be witness to this drama of Indian history, unfolding before our own eyes, so early in our carriers.
Our duties once the War was over, was to visit the overrun areas of the state to oversee the restoration of civil governance, the development planning mechanism and other allied matters like restoration of civic morale of the people and law and order in those affected parts. I had occasion to sit with the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar, an elderly officer from UP whose name I am forgetting now, to join him in planning the civil defense of Srinagar. I had occasion to visit the famous and strategic Haji Pir Pass which had been captured by the Indian troops during the War and other border pickets of the Indian Army. Every where we found the army officers and the jawans in high spirits and felt very proud of them and their valour. The quality of governance in J & K right from the Secretariat downwards to the field level in those days, was to my mind very inefficient and I kept wandering how such a dispensation could satisfactorily address the concerns of the people at large. After three odd months in Srinagar, inspite of my Kashmiri friends insisting on my staying back, I felt that I had no place in J & K with its lax work culture, being used to the austere and efficient work culture of UP in those days. Incidentally, UP in those days was reputed to be the best administered state in India and it was to take UP another two or three decades of inept political leadership, to slide to the bottom. In my memoirs with the title "Pandit Sriram Sharma Acharya As I Knew Him... Memoirs of a Civil Servant", I have compared the governance in J & K in those days to the governance that we experience in Uttarakhand today. This book could be accessed at the website "http://www.reacha.org".
What ails J & K today appears again to be the inept governance that the state government has been practicing right since the days gone by. When a system of governance neglects its normal routine functions, overtime it gets reduced to a system of governance that is only engaged in fire fighting, which it must do in order to merely survive. I have attributed this state of affairs in my memoirs, to the sacrosanct Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which in the name of autonomy has shielded the J & K state administration from the progressive measures of governance that were communicated by the Government of India from time to time, to all other states of the Indian Union right from the early days after Independence. With poor governance, which it cannot admit, the state political leaders in power, use extraneous alibis like their unmet demand for a Political Package and the repeal of the Armed Forces' Special Powers' Act (AFSPA) etc, as the main problems of the people of J & K. It must be understood that a stance such as in favour of the repeal of AFSPA, could only be on the promptings of India's enemies across the border, who find the Indian Army as the only obstacle between them and annexation of the Valley. The Army Chief has recently stated that the infiltration of terrorists across the border and LoC has increased since the current stone throwing disturbances began. So, it should be clear to any one, what exactly is the purpose of the present sponsored stone throwing protests, that is rocking the Valley only. The sharp absence of freedom in POK needs to be compared with the freedom to throw stones in the Kashmir Valley.
A bold All-Party approach is now being worked upon and a delegation of all political parties of India is visiting J & K from Monday the 20th of September, with a mandate to meet all stake holders in the state. It must be remembered that the state of J & K comprises of the Jammu Region, the Laddakh Region and the Kashmir Valley and the concens of the other two distant and distinct regions have always been neglected by the state capital in Srinagar, which is perpetually bogged down with the sponsored protests of different varieties from time to time, on the promptings of India's enemies across the border. The various factions of the separatists are going to treat the All Party delegation differently, according to the instructions they receive from their mentors across the border and the delegation would be mercifully given all facilities to meet as many people of different colours and shades as possible by the state government. The Prime Minister is right to assert, that a decision would be taken on the basis of feedback the Government of India gets from the All Party Delegation. The Union Home Minister has stated that the promises made in the past in relation to J & K need to be revisited. By all means, these measures should prove effective if addressed honestly and sincerely, but they would still be no substitute to substantial improvements in the service delivery to the people of the state, on the part of the state government, pertaining to their basic essential needs. Lofty promises and populist policies give no relief to the people, who only want the bare essentials of good governance, comprising of safety of their life and property and a livelihood of dignity. I am firmly of the view that the "IDEA of INDIA" needs to be translated into sound enlightened good governance, based on "SATYAMEV JAYATEY", if the people of India, what to say of only the people of J & K, have to savour the fruits of freedom and democracy, so preciously won on 15th August, 1947 at such heavy cost to the Indian people.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
It was felt that this transition was likely to be multi-dimensional and broadly would have four distinct directions which were capable of multiplying as the transition progressed in each state. These could be stated as (i) new health issues such as rapid increase of problems of caring for the old due to longer life expectancy (such as in Kerala), child obesity due to lack of exercise to children leading to diabetes (nearly all over the country) and concerns relating to extending “health for all” due to greater health seeking behavior of the emerging population; (ii) new emerging reproductive and child health issues which would need to be addressed in tune with the demographic transition that each state may find itself in; (iii) the new socio-cultural responses that would become necessary to address the old prejudices in order to smother them and sublimate them to make way for an inclusive mindset conducive to social harmony. This would in turn call for a multidimensional approach to social discourse on population issues with special emphasis on also celebrating the arrival of a girl child in every family and last but not the least (iv) the legal issues arising out of the implementation of the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act or PNDT Act in short, the resort to Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act as means of family planning and the efficacy of the system of compulsory civil registration of every birth and death to deal with female foeticide. An interesting input came from a representative of a participating state government that an attitude of pro-active state intervention in population issues could have negative fallouts in the sense that the role of civil society would tend to get subverted in the long run and strangely, the civil society representatives in the conference seemed to disagree with this point of view. This article would explore these ideas one by one beginning from the last point relating to an attitude of pro-active state intervention and its perils.
The Sample Registration Survey (SRS) figures released by the Registrar General of
It may be of interest to quickly go over the various phases through which the FP movement in the country passed from an entirely clinical approach in the first two decades with the slogan HUM DO HAMARE DO. The main emphasis in this phase was to target the male population in the reproductive age group by fixing targets of vasectomies to be performed on the basis of the population of an administrative unit such as the states, the districts, the development blocks etc. This phase was characterized by quality work on the part of doctors in adhering to strict standards of surgical procedures etc but in terms of numbers of vasectomies performed they were few and far between to have any impact on the rate of growth of population and the targets set were seldom met. The decade of seventies saw a change in the strategy of implementation in the FP movement with the districts becoming the focus of attention. Each district was encouraged to hold FP camps in selected months of the year to suit the farmers and a camp was organized keeping in mind the highest standards of surgical procedures with a team of doctors working round the clock during the camps. Each case of vasectomy was treated like a VIP from beginning to the entire follow up right through the week after the surgery till the stitches were removed. Each camp was able to perform tens of thousands of vasectomies with each case of even a minor complaint being addressed at the level of the district magistrate.
Then came the year 1975 when all of a sudden district magistrates began to be coerced to adopt fair or foul means to achieve the impossible targets that began to flow from Government of India. Cinema halls began to be encircled to round up people to be taken straight to the operation table for getting a vasectomy nick and then to be driven away to make way for the next victim. Cinema halls across the country went deserted to avoid such a fate and in 1977 when Parliamentary elections were held the ruling party was decimated in
The steady decline in the SRS figures year after year relating to the rate of growth of population since then only go to confirm that the change in policy by Government of India in 1996 was a step in the right direction. It is strange that the critics of the target free approach are unable to see the absurdity of top-down approach to the fixing of targets which they seem to be beholden to, thereby compromising the quality of the family welfare services which would concentrate on meeting the targets (to avail Government of India grants for the targets met) instead of concentrating on client satisfaction. The point regarding the perils of a policy of pro-active state intervention has clearly emerged from this narrative. The state policy would best be such as to enable a couple in the reproductive age group to be able to decide how it would like to plan its family and the state system should provide an efficient delivery mechanism to enable the family planning services to perform at their optimal best without invading the privacy of each couple. It must be remembered that the sensitivity relating to maintaining the privacy of every couple in this most intimate of human relations was an important part of the training of FP workers when the programme was launched way back in the First Five Year Plan in 1950.
The New Health Issues:
Kerala is an example of a state which is witnessing the demographic transition very close to a stage of stabilized size of population. The number of aged persons is increasing rapidly with a totally changed spectrum of disease burden falling on the health-providing system whether in the state sector or the private sector, along with the socio-cultural aspects of looking after the old family members by the nuclear families. Similarly the incidence of obesity amongst the children, due to a progressively sedentary life style being adopted, as a status symbol of prosperity, is making them diabetic leading to a decline in their longevity. A doctor made bold to assert that it is for the first time in human history that people are going to see their children die during their own life-time. The health seeking behavior of the population has also undergone a drastic change with economic prosperity and increase in longevity and the increased disease burden due to newer strains of viruses of different kinds invading the rapidly urbanizing conglomerations, has greatly complicated the health scenario. This coupled with the states aiming at providing “health for all”, has imposed a greater responsibility on the health-providing system which would have to be addressed effectively in future with the help of progressively ascending investment in public health.
The Emerging Reproductive and Child Health Issues:
These issues are going to change as demographic transition of different shades get underway in different states in order to rearrange their priorities to choose out of the various strands and components of the entire strategy of population stabilization as it has evolved with the National Population Policy 2000. That policy emphasizes the sovereign right of each couple in the reproductive age group to decide for itself the means it would like to adopt to limit its family size. The nationwide surveys carried out in the last decade have established that the need for a small family is now universally accepted and the paradigm shift which came about after the Cairo Conference on ICPD in the realm of population concerns has underlined the significance of the role of women in this area. In this context the statistics of sex ratio in different states acquires special significance, and this happened to be the burning concern in the Chandigarh Conference organized by PFI for the three states of
States like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan which have historically been for long victims of internecine warfare and which have prided themselves for their manly vigour have had a tradition of prizing a male progeny in preference to a girl child, because the male would in any case be killed sooner or later in some skirmish either due to external aggression or some feud with a neighbouring chieftain. Changing this mindset nurtured for centuries in the past is not going to be easy and the social activists engaged in this area of social engineering must take into account the susceptibilities of people in these states while going about their mission to bring about change. The social discourse which needs to be initiated to bring about the necessary change in the mindset would have to contend with all the lewd and uncultured vocabulary that casually goes on at the level of people to assert their point of view to counter efforts to change their established mindset which they happen to cherish. This is where a multi-dimensional, multi-sectoral approach to social engineering in states undergoing similar demographic transition would need to be initiated both by civil society and the public sector in conjunction, to generate maximum synergy. The goal of such efforts would be to engender a mindset which would begin celebrating the arrival of a girl child also in each family as heralding the entry of goddess of wealth and prosperity Luxmi in the family. Taboos such as a daughter cannot light the funeral pyre of the deceased parents (giving mukhagni) or that old parents cannot stay with their married daughters need to be got over in order to minimize the significance for son-preference. These social mores have been engrained over centuries when they were perhaps relevant in the past, but now leading persons in such societies have to come forward to set examples so that others who may not be having the courage to go against the established traditions can make bold and help in modifying them.
The Emerging Legal Issues:
It has been mentioned earlier that the desirability of a small family has been well accepted in India by nearly all sections of society, but the traditional preference for a male child had by the decade of nineties of the last millennium introduced strange distortions in the prevailing social practices putting a premium on sex determination of the foetus prior to a child being delivered by a pregnant women. To counter this tendency Government of India promulgated the PNDT Act to come into effect from 1996, whereby sex determination before birth through ultrasound machines was made punishable. The implementation of this Act has come in for sharp criticism due to many legal and procedural lacunae. The significant input which came in the Chandigarh Conference was that each machine should be legally mandated under the rule making powers of the executive to maintain automatic records of ultrasounds performed, to be made available for inspection by the prescribed authority. This would effectively rule out any subversive activities to pander to local social pressures in return for a consideration. This coupled with an effective system of compulsory civil registration of births and deaths would go a long way to minimize chances of foeticide which apparently is being resorted to at the cost of the girl child. Yet another sensitive issue of a pregnant woman seeking abortion in the early stages of her pregnancy who has often to take resort to the services of quacks at great risk to her health and life came up for discussion in
The population stabilization movement known by different names during the last fifty years has always stressed on networking of all the agencies of civil society to address the concerns relating to population explosion in
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Every incident of such violence only involves members of those communities some of whose selected leaders have sponsors abroad or amongst the political parties in the country. These foreign sponsors are to the north, east and west of
What is the solution to this problem? The straight answer is "
Now let us come back to the Parsi community. Why cannot other minorities adopt the ways of this community? What is the most prominent aspect of the Parsi community? It is 'Live well and let others also live well' and this dictum seems to extend to all fields of national endeavors, with Parsis excelling in all fields. It has never been heard that any one in
Let us recollect the names of prominent Parsis in contemporary
It would be of interest to my distinguished readers if I were to take them back in history to trace the story of the initiation of the poison of what now-a-days passes for communalism practiced in the garb of minorityism by the ruling establishment which seems to have forgotten the mantra “Satymaiv Jayatey” meaning---‘Only Truth Prevails’ inscribed in the logo of the Government of India. This concern relating to minorityism is also practiced by a host of other political parties too to further their prospects in the periodic elections. Even the hated JAZIA TAX imposed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb on the Hindus could not provoke a violent response from the local people, but the East India Company had brought about the first communal riot in India within less than hundred years of the Battle of Plassey won by their army without firing a single canon in 1757 AD with the help of their deceitful ally Mir Jafar. This was in 1936 AD on the occasion of mourning relating to Moharram observed by the Muslims during the procession which was passing through a narrow street in a Hindu mohalla and the TAZIAS which are normally carried high above the shoulders and which are not supposed to be lowered while in the procession, happened to get obstructed. That was pretext enough to launch a massacre of Hindus in that mohalla. This was the new face of Islam in
Contemplating that eventuality, keeping in mind the state of terrorism in the name of Islam today which was actively promoted by the British since the twentieth century, would be an interesting exercise for those western powers who brought about India’s partition and who would have had to contend then, with their latest concern for tackling the global face of terrorism (earlier promoted by them only), not to mention the likely fate of the Christian minority, their latest other concern, in such an undivided India. Such are the quirks of history!! Both the minorities, Christians as well as Muslims are safe in India today in spite of all the provocations that the foreign sponsors of selected members of their respective communities are promoting assiduously ever since India became an independent nation in 1947. In fact, India was and continues to be a paradise for all shades of minorities of all faiths as well as for all its sons and daughters on account of an unbroken tradition of inclusive ideas, religious thoughts and cultural practices going back to over 5000 years of its recorded history and springing from the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Puranas. An average Indian (I do not count the highly educated and very rich Indians as being part of the average) is naturally living the twin perceptions of ‘Atmawat Sarbhuteshu’ meaning ‘all living beings are like me’ and ‘Vasudhaiv Kutambakam’ meaning ‘The World is a Family’. It is
Dealing with this matter chronologically backward I must take my readers to the times of Mughal Emperor Akbar who made a determined effort as an article of state policy known by the name of “SULAHKUL” to bridge the Hindu-Muslim divide perceived to be the most pernicious of divides in India right up to the present times, since the arrival of Islam in this country in the seventh century AD initially and later in strength in the eleventh and twelfth centuries AD. It may be of interest to know that it was in the reign of Akbar that Hindi as a link language of
Such has been the intolerance of the so-called leaders of this minority community after Akbar the Great. All the successors of Emperor Akbar not only reversed his policy of “SULAHKUL” but even adopted a policy of persecution of the Hindus of the day. The persecution of the Sikh Gurus who were initially only propagating harmony amongst all faiths was carried to such an extent that by the time of the Tenth Guru Govind Singh Sikhism had become the KHALSA which was dedicated to defend the faith of the faithful by violent means if necessary. It was the first war of independence in 1857 AD that for the last time the Hindu-Muslim divide was forgotten under the leadership of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’ when all the people of
The story after that is almost contemporary history.
There is no political solution to this problem in sight now, so terribly are the issues mixed up with petty power politics where capturing power any how is the order of the day. Those in power want to make as much money while in power and their sole objective is to save for the rainy day, for they have no hope of winning the next elections. Those out of power are busy scheming their moves to come to power. The politicians of the day have no stomach for reforms, political, electoral or administrative. People are fast losing faith in the politicians. The only solution lies in what I have hinted already in the suggestions made in the earlier paragraphs of this article i.e. adopting a corrective and creative process by which the best elements of all concerned groups including all the minorities, begin to get together in a nationwide effort to give the right social values to the younger generation which is still free from the weight of past history. This is going to be a long and tortuous process for which honest efforts would have to be made by all concerned in a spirit of genuine camaraderie. The cream of Indian genius, which is on the verge of retirement or has retired from their active carrier-oriented lives in the recent past, need to put their heads together, for they have the time as well as energy enough to pull India out of the morass in which our politicians have landed her during the last 60 years. This they must do for the sake of their next generation, which would not forgive them if they fail to do so RIGHT NOW.