Sarabjeet Singh: The case of mistaken Identity, must not be hanged

PAKISTAN SUPREME COURT has rejected the mercy plea of the Indian prisoner, accused of Lahore bombing in 1990. Sarabjeet’s news is often in the news and that made me curios to know more about the case. I was doing a fair bit of reading on the same. Yesterday, a news channel has also started a campaign to save Sarabjeet. The family of Sarabjeet is toiling hard for the last 18 years.

What I have got to read from various sources creates an impression that Sarabjeet is being punished for the crime, which he never committed. Sarabjeet is accused for espionage and is labeled as the man behind the Lahaore Bomb blasts in 1990. He was awarded death sentence by a Lahore anti-terrorism court in October 1991, for allegedly carrying out serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan in Pakistan. But this case is definitely of mistaken identity. Pakistani security agencies say that he is Manjit Singh who is sought for the bomb blast case. But the fact is that Sarabjeet is a resident of Bhikhiwind, a border village in India’s Amritsar district, strayed into Pakistan territory in an inebriated state. Even the officals in Paksitan also claim the same.

Writing in Pakistan’s The News in an opinion piece titled ‘Why Sarabjeet Singh must not be hanged’ (some years back), Senator Farhatullah Babar of the Pakistan People’s Party has linked Sarabjeet’s case to that of Alfred Dreyfus — a Jewish captain in the French Army who was banished in 1894, after being accused of being a spy but was allowed to return home in 1906 when the charge was found to be untrue. “We may have serious differences with the Indians but it must not persuade us to hang every Indian at the drop of a hat. Sarabjeet Singh’s trial must not be allowed to become our national embarrassment as was the Dreyfus trial in France. He must not be hanged,” Babar, a close aide of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, said.

The key witness of this case, Salim Shaukat also said in an interview that he was forced to identify Sarabjeet as perpetrator. Rediff carried his interview and he said, “I was told by the (prosecution) lawyer that I should identify Sarabjeet as the main accused in the serial blasts and I did it,” said Salim Shaukat, cited as the main witness in the Lahore bombing, in which his father was killed. He admitted that he had not seen the accused as he had fainted during the blast. Acknowledging that he was forced to give such a testimony, he told Indian TV channels, Star News and Aaj Tak, from Lahore that “I am not sure if he is responsible for the blasts…. I was asked to say that I had seen him. But I had not seen him as I had fainted at the time of the incident. The moment I identified him as the accused, Sarabjeet asked me to swear by the Quran but I declined to do so. Sarabjeet kept looking at me after my statement but I was helpless as I was under the influence of law enforcement agencies,” Salim said in reply to questions.

Pakistan’s leading human rights activist Ansar Burney is also of the view that hanging Sarabjeet Singh would be tantamount to murder of humanity as the Indian national had been convicted without any substantial evidence. “I cannot allow the government to hang Sarabjeet Singh on the basis that he is a non-Muslim and non-Pakistani and because of pressure from extremist fundamentalist groups,” he said.

There is no doubt that Sarabjeet’s case had become a matter of prestige for the law-enforcement authorities in Pakistan. They have cooked up spying charges against him and produced false witness to ensure his conviction. There is also pressure from extremists also. Sometime back Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the parent wing of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, has come out against any move to free death row prisoner and Indian national Sarabjeet Singh.

In a statement posted on the Jamaat website, Saeed said, freeing Sarabjeet would be equivalent to ‘ridiculing’ the country’s courts.

Ansar Burney is going to file the petition again for acquittal of Sarabjeet Singh. It is extremely disappointing that his petition as dismissed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan because the counselor of Sarabjeet failed to turn up for the hearing. Rana Abdul Hamid, the lawyer who was representing Sarabjeet, had been unable to appear in court after he was appointed last year an additional advocate general by Punjab province. The family of Sarabjeet is running from pillars to post to get him freed. It is of vital importance that the government of India urges Pakistan to set free the innocent man who has already served over 18 years in Kot Lakhpat Jail of Lahore. This case of Sarabjeet is now a national case and we must urge the government to pursue for immediate release of Sarabjeet. We must also support Pakistan Human Rights Activist Ansar Burney in his battle to secure freedom for Sarabjeet.

References for this post has been taken from REDIFF

Kasab: A National Hero????????

FOR SOMETIME now, I am really wondering that when wills this case of Ajmal Kasab will end. I don’t see it ending in near future. I was always of a view that we should try him at court and not to hang him without a trial. But the snail pace of judiciary is making mockery of the trial. Seven months have passed and we haven’t been able to bring a terrorist caught on camera killing innocent men/women/children to justice.

What a shame?

The media has gone a long way in making a hero out of Kasab. The number of reports on him in last seven months has made him a well known figure of world. His photograph has been flashed on television and print media umpteen number of times. By now most Indians know where Kasab was born and what his parents did. What made him run away from home and how did he come contact with the LeT. We also know Kasab’s love for mutton and chicken dishes and his sole wish to meet Amitabh Bachchan.

We have up to date information on how Kasab is reacting in court or whether he is repenting his crime or not. Why the hell we need this information? This reporting can be termed as callous behaviour of media towards the one who suffered in the 26/11 attacks.

Imagine what pinch they must be feeling when the news channels show over extended coverage of the culprit. I was just reading the story of Captain Amitendra Kumar Singh, who was part of NSG team carrying operations in Oberoi hotel. Hearing about captured terrorist Ajmal Kasab, the 28-year-old braveheart admits, makes his blood boil. “He has become a bigger hero than us.

They should have stoned him to death at some crossroads in Mumbai that time itself.” How true he is when he says that Kasab has become a hero. He is so popular that the producers of reality shows might consider him as a contestant. When Monica Bedi and Rahul Mahajan can become celebrity then so can Kasab!

The money that is being spent on his security and trial could have been efficiently utilised in updating the security infrastructure and helping the kin of the deceased. He must be executed at the earliest. The case should get over now.

This is the apathy and irony that the so called ‘concerned citizens’, who came out in lakhs on December 3, 2008 at Gateway of India forgot the date of election. They preferred spending vacation than doing their duties. The same set of people were crying and shouting on politicians after the attacks. The numerous groups that were formed after the attacks have lost the steam and MA Naqvi’s comments of ‘lipstick wearing socialites’ stands true. The soldiers who risked and laid down their life for us have faded from our memory and media has found a bigger hero in Kasab…

What does the readers of targetgenx think??????

26/11 Mumbai Attack: Scam in procuring Bullet Proof Jackets for Police?

The bullet proof jackets procured for Mumbai Police were of low quality.
This allegation has been levied by the opposition and media on Government of Maharshtra post 26/11 attack on the financial capital of India, Mumbai.

A reply given by Mumbai police to an RTI application seeking the information on bullet proof jackets used by Mumbai Police has raised some sort of suspicion. The reply shockingly stated, “Since the file relating to bulletproof jackets cannot be found, the queries cannot be answered.”

CNN IBN claims that sources in Mumbai Police that the file was not lost, but was being protected from public scrutiny to possibly avoid controversial details from coming out in the open. If this is the truth then it is certainly a matter of great concern. The news channel also says that these jackets were sent for testing and they failed. Every single bullet went through the jackets even though the rounds were fired from a distance. The trial was followed by an enquiry into the spurious jackets but the results of which were shrouded in mystery and now as the police has been claiming, lost along with the file. Sources have claimed that the quality of cloth and special wire mesh used in the jackets was inferior and the vital steel plates were usually corroded.

This is yet another case of rampant corruption in political circles. After Bofors and coffin scam this is yet another instance where the politicians have insulted the saviors of the city and nation. This is perhaps the saddest part of the whole issue. It is directly related to the organization which has to ensure that law and order situation is maintained in the city which is always under the threat. If we cannot provide best equipments to our soldiers and police then that is really very pity. The brave officers laid down their life for the people but it saddens me that have they given better jackets many of the officers might have been saved. It seems that the life of a patriotic soldier has no value for the politicos.

CM of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan has his own sets of arguments. But whatever be the case both government and opposition must ensure that truth does comes out. If the opposition is so concerned then they must provide the proofs of their allegation and government who is “so determined” to tackle terror must also not try to cover up the whole issue.

We as a citizen have shown in the recently concluded Parliamentary elections have shown our concern for the city by “coming out in large numbers to vote”. Hopefully we will show greater concern this time and ensure that we get the satisfying reply. The families of slain police officers have already demanded an enquiry on the entire issue. We must also pressurize our politicians to tell the truth. And if allegations found true; stern actions should be taken against the culprits.

But will it actually happen?

It all depends on us. If we are genuinely concerned about our safety and regard soldiers with the highest respect then we must act and act tough!!

Reference: CNNIBN

The Challenges ahead for UPA Government

The people of the country have voted United Progressive Alliance to form the government. Dr Manmohan Singh and his new team will be formulated by the end of next week. But the faith and expectations that people have in the abilities of Dr Singh will be the tough task for the alliance. Though Left parties are off the shoulders of the Congress but still they need to deliver on few of the key issues at great pace. There are few areas which need to be looked after with immediate concern and rectify the problems gripping these areas. 

The first and foremost will be to revive the economy. With India’s best economist in the driver’s seat, a lot is being expected from the new government. PM has said in one the election rally that he will revive the economy in 100 days. Well that might be too optimistic approach but definitely a lot needs to be done to bring economy on 9-10% growth. He also needs to tackle the job losses due to current crisis. The stimulus packages need to cover both of the problems together. 

The second challenge will be the internal security and robust foreign policy. There is growing concern with volatile neighbours around. Taliban is barely 500 km away from India and hence it is imperative to revamp the security and intelligence agencies. There should be special law to prosecute the ones caught for waging war against the nation. The Police needs an overhaulment on priority basis and they should be equipped with latest gadgets and weapons. The home growth threat of naxalites should also be taken care off. Without peace all the efforts to make India stronger and leader in economy will be futile.  

The third biggest challenge for the government will be bringing the agricultural growth back on track. Not only the growth rate of agriculture sector is low but also the share of the sector in country’s GDP has come down drastically in past some years. The problem of low rate of capital investment, smaller capital formation and low share in the national income are some of the main problems facing by this sector that needs to be addressed very urgently. There are many reasons for this crisis, which mainly includes absence of adequate social support, uncertainty of agricultural enterprise in India, lack of credit availability etc. Need of the hour is to increase the productivity of the primary sector by ushering in a new green  revolution to raise the annual average growth rate of this sector to about five per cent per annum. 

One of the other major concerns should be the legitimate demand of the forces. Personally i feel this should be top agenda as well. For long time, they have not been deprived of their due by bureaucrats and policy makers. Indian Armed Forces are finding it tough to attract youth and is facing shortage of officers. If the Army cannot get youth just for the sake of low renumeration, then future is really bleak for our country. A nation is as strong as the military of that nation. Hence it will be good in the interest of this nation that the demand of Armed Forces is paid heed and their grievances are solved at the earliest. We cannot show callousness towards our soldiers who sacrifice so much for the safety of the borders and us.  Hopefully, the new government will do something positive on this front as well.  

There is tough task ahead for the new government. The way in which new cabinet will handle these issues remain interesting. Only time will tell whether Dr MMS can deliver in the tough time. I feel that he will be able to as there are no clutches of Left this time.

BJP should be a Strong Opposition in 15th Lok Sabha

The Lok Sabha Elections have thrown some unexpected results. The results are unexpected for almost every political party. You can take example of Congress, BJP, Left, BSP, TC, etc. It is very clear that UPA under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh is going to form the government again. With Left out of the government, it is being hoped that India will push for economic reforms and policies. The stable government is advantage in this time of economic depression.

Bhartiya Janta Party has lost the elections and the results are very surprising for them. They hoped to encash the incumbency, economic crisis and internal security but failed in doing so. The party needs to do some serious introspection. If not then their might be some existential dilemma for the BJP. But for smooth functioning of the democracy, it is of great importance that BJP does some rethinking and revives itself. The strong government must have strong opposition and this is the essence of the democracy. The one step towards the revival of BJP will be the role it plays as the opposition in the next 5 years. The government will pass some bills/amendments/laws and it is the roles of opposition to scrutinize assess, seek for clarification and have a healthy debate on the same. If BJP can play the role of constructive opposition then it will be good for the country’s health. With every single party pledging the support to UPA, BJP’s role assumes further importance.

Somewhere I feel that BJP didn’t play the good role of opposition and went on to oppose and criticize each and every move of the government. The good opposition should oppose genuinely and support the government in the hour of crisis. The blame game should be limited. LK Advani once said that Congress and BJP should be political adversary and not enemies. This can be replicated for the government and opposition as well. It will be interesting to see if the BJP passes the post of leader of opposition to some younger member. Though LK Advani has agreed to be leader of opposition but mostly he will leave the post within a year time. A young leader of opposition chosen with consensus within the party is also essential for BJP to do well in future.

Bottomline:
We have got a stable government and now we should get the stable, strong and constructive opposition. The responsibility of this lies with BJP and hope they will meet up the expectation of voters who have given them mandate to sit in opposition and play an important role there.

A battle is lost, but not the war

Kanchan Gupta / Analysis

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was given to moments of jocular frivolity at times of great stress, for instance on the eve of election results. At the fag end of the 1999 election campaign, a senior journalist asked him what would rate as one of the most banal, if not asinine, questions: “Mr Vajpayee, who do you think will emerge winner?” Without batting his eyelids, Mr Vajpayee replied, “Of course the BJP.” That was contrary to what opinion polls, including one commissioned by his party, were saying: The Congress, according to pollsters, had an edge over the BJP. Later that evening, I made a passing reference to the ease with which he was predicting a BJP victory in the face of a concerted Congress assault. Mr Vajpayee laughed it off and then said, “Nobody can predict the outcome of an election, never mind what politicians and pollsters say.” Placing three fingers of his right hand face down on his left palm, he added, “Any election is like a game of ‘teen patti’ (three-card game). Till such time you turn the cards and see them, you can only guess what has been dealt to you. Similarly, till the votes are counted, nobody can say with any certitude what lies in store for the contestants.”

On the face of it, such wisdom may appear commonplace. After all, veterans of electoral wars would be the first to agree that no battle is won or lost till the last vote is counted. Yet, come election time and every politician and pollster tries to outguess the voter, more often than not coming to grief. The 1999 opinion polls, including the one commissioned by the BJP, turned out to be way off the mark. The BJP and its allies were returned to power with a majority of their own; the Congress had to eat humble pie. So also with the exit polls that were telecast 72 hours before the results of the 2009 general election were declared on Saturday — they didn’t quite forecast such a stunningly stupendous performance by the Congress and the BJP’s astonishing failure to meet its own expectations, fuelled by internal assessments that failed to reflect the popular mood. Whoever predicted on the basis of an ‘exit poll’, and thereby made the party look silly on Saturday, that the NDA would get 217 seats compared to the UPA’s 176 owes more than a mere explanation.

The Congress, no doubt, has won a splendid victory; not to accept this fact would be sheer cussedness. Having said that, it would be equally incorrect to subscribe to the view that at the moment the Congress is riding the crest of a tidal popularity wave which in the coming days will turn into a tsunami of support for the party. Yes, the Congress has made stupendous gains, but a close scrutiny of the results will show that they are not entirely at the expense of the BJP. Nor have the gains accrued to the Congress on account of either policy or programme. For instance, the Congress has picked up a large number of seats in Kerala and West Bengal for reasons that are entirely different. In Kerala, the Left has paid a huge price for infighting within the CPI(M) that has spilled into the streets: A divided cadre couldn’t get their act together. In West Bengal, the Left has been decimated because popular resentment with the CPI(M) for the various sins of omission and commission of the Marxists reached tipping point in this election, helped in large measure by the alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress.

In States where the BJP has lost seats to the Congress, the credit largely goes to saboteurs within the party. It is no secret that a section of the BJP worked against the party’s nominees in certain constituencies in Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan, the reasons that led to the BJP’s defeat in last year’s Assembly election remain unresolved. In Uttarakhand, infighting has led to the BJP’s rout. In Jammu & Kashmir, the BJP could have won in Udhampur and Jammu if the local party units had not abandoned the candidates whom they saw as ‘outsiders’. In Maharashtra, the BJP failed to correctly assess the strength of Mr Raj Thackeray’s MNS which has turned out to be a spoiler in Mumbai’s urban constituencies where the party stood a good chance of winning. By default, the Congress has benefited on account of the BJP’s deficiencies. Nowhere is this more evident than in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP clearly failed to sense the shift in voter preference and ended up under-estimating its ability to pick up additional seats which have now gone to the Congress, swelling its national tally.

These reasons apart, at the end of the day what emerges is that the Congress has reached where it has on account of four factors whose impact could not have been predicted at any stage during the campaign when popular mood is palpable. First, the ‘Chiru factor’ has put paid to the TDP’s hopes of staging a comeback. The Congress has gained in the process. Second, the ‘Vijaykant factor’ has spiked the AIADMK’s electoral prospects. The ‘Black MGR of Tamil Nadu politics’ has turned out to be a classic spoiler. Third, the ‘Mamata factor’ was never seriously factored in, especially by the Left, while calculating the possible outcome of this election. Ironically, the amazing collapse of the Left has worked to the detriment of the BJP. Fourth, the ‘urban factor’ continues to elude logical interpretation. If the voting trend is any indication, we must come to the conclusion, and regretfully so, that India’s middleclass is no longer guided by the moral compass. Nothing else explains why corruption should cease to be an election issue and the brazen exoneration by the Congress of those who have looted India fetch no more than a cynical, couldn’t-care-less response. It is equally surprising that the middleclass should have chosen to overlook the mishandling of the national economy by the UPA Government and the pitiable state of internal security. We would have thought that these are concerns that agitate the middleclass the most since they shout the most about corruption, price rise and terrorism.

There is, however, no percentage in looking back. The BJP remains a national alternative to the Congress, more so after this election which has pushed regional parties and their identity politics to the margins of national politics. The BJP’s tally is nothing to scoff at. There is no shame in sitting in the Opposition and preparing for the next battle. Elections come and go, but parties remain. It is for their leaders to use the interregnum to reflect on mistakes, regain organisational strength and revive hope among the faithful. There are, after all, no full stops in politics, and life does not come to an end with the declaration of results.

From: kanchangupta.blogspot.com

Have we forgotten Kargil already?

Kargil makes me sad. I served in Ladakh long before Kargil happened and know that terrain very well.
A lot has been written about the conflict which includes the lessons that the Indian Army  should learn and what we should do to avoid another Kargil. Therefore, I am not going to write about matters military, but matters that are more relevant for our countrymen, especially our leadership and people.

For any nation, the soldiers are its assets. You can replace a weapon or buy new weapon systems but it takes years to train a soldier and make him fight as part of a group that is willing to sacrifice its life for protecting the country.

It takes years to train a combat pilot or a sailor. Soldiers, sailors and airmen give ‘their today for your tomorrow,’ which I quote from the graves in Kohima, Nagaland, left behind by the British after World War II, but still taken good care of. They continue to pay their debt of gratitude to those who laid their lives in that war, fought so fiercely for a tennis court in Kohima.

The Americans too care for their armed forces personnel. Their leaders show genuine concern and match their promises with action. Their veterans are the blessed lot and, what they get for what they gave is something the veterans in India can only dream of.

America is a land of dreams but they convert their dreams into reality especially, when it comes to taking care of the men and women who fought to protect their freedom in all corners of the world. Love, affection, respect and genuine concern shown for the armed forces personnel in these countries and in many more countries in the world is what we need to study and more importantly, emulate.

In our country, soldiers are remembered only in times of need. When Kargil happened many in our country were unaware of what happened and many did not care since it did not affect their daily lives. Yes, there was some war happening in a far off land beyond Srinagar . In any case, the Valley has seen so much of action, it was assumed that it was one more of such action, may be slightly larger in scale like the Taj and Oberoi hotels in Mumbai  that were attacked by terrorists last November.

The general reaction of the public is: Some soldiers died and in any case, soldiers are meant to die for the country. So what if a body of a soldier who belonged to your city or town is brought for cremation? It is just another dead body and don’t we see so many every day in our towns and cities?

So what if a soldier’s widow and children are struggling for their livelihood after he laid down his life for the country? After all, so many widows are languishing in our country and one more does not matter. The soldier’s widow cannot get a ration card. Many others also do not get one, it hardly matters…

That is the general apathy, even to the family of the soldiers who laid down their lives. If the soldier is disabled in war, people think it is nothing that affects them.

The enormity of the situation, the lessons learnt and the corrective action that were needed after Kargil were discussed and forgotten. Kargil is a blur in our memory, an event of history to be forgotten only to be remembered when reminded that we need to celebrate Kargil Diwas! Sadly, we have even stopped doing that!

It is not selective amnesia but permanent dementia. And as for the soldiers who were disabled or who lost their lives, less said the better.

India and Indians need to change their attitude towards its soldiers, both serving and retired. Indians need to remember the families of those who made their supreme sacrifice in conflicts like Kargil or anywhere while performing their duty. We need to pamper our armed forces personnel not because they wore that uniform for 30 years, suffered deprivation, found it difficult to make both ends meet while running two establishments when separated from family because of service conditions.

We need to because a nation which forgets its soldiers and which lets its bureaucracy dictate terms to the leadership to manage the armed forces in the manner that suits them or prove their supremacy, which ignores their genuine demands, is bound to suffer when the time of need comes again. History strangely repeats itself.

That is what is happening now. Why should the ex-servicemen (ESM) ever need to demand their legitimate rights? Why is the country’s leadership not doing its duty to meet their legitimate demands without them asking for it? Do they not have any duty to perform towards the soldiers and their families as the soldiers have performed in silence, asking for nothing in return? Are the words honour, loyalty, duty applicable only to men and women in uniform?

The current ESM agitation which was characterised by many of them undergoing fasts in many places or returning their medals, including the ones awarded posthumously to the gallant officers and soldiers who died fighting in Kargil does not happen any where but in India.

The ESM have been forced to come out in large numbers onto the streets, shouting slogans to attract attention. The country as a whole has forgotten them and it is a pity that the ESM need to remind our countrymen to remember them by adopting agitation as the means to achieve their end.

Sadly, what they are asking for is One Rank and One Pension — a small price for what they have given to our country for so long.

Why is it that our nation has pushed its veterans to this state of helplessness that today this apolitical force is taking sides with political parties to make their demand met? Does our country’s leadership realise that the armed forces which had remained apolitical so far are now becoming politicised? Surely this is not a healthy trend.

The answers to all the question is known to all of us. Yet we are mute spectators because it does not affect the civil population in any manner. If war is an instrument of State policy, the armed forces are the means to achieve that policy when the time comes. Kargil is one more event in our history. The soldiers in and out of uniform are not. They are the ones who make that history happen.

Can Kargil rekindle the hearts of every Indian to make a pledge to give our soldiers the dignity and respect and give their legitimate demand without them asking for it? Surely that is not asking for much, unless we are a thankless nation.

Wriiten by: Colonel A Sridharan VSM (retd)
Source: Rediff

Always a blind spot

I look at the rhetoric surrounding Elections 2009 and wonder – has any political party promised to improve the state of the environment for you and me? Or thought about our right to fresh air or clean water – commodities that have become a rarity in an urbanising India?

Over the past few weeks I’ve studied the manifestos of all political parties and silently witnessed the city around me change. Ancient trees are being decapitated for wider roads, a park’s been taken over for a multiplex and a storm drain, a barrier against monsoon floods, has been filled with sand to make way for a parking lot. Grab and construct is the new mantra for the ‘development’ of our cities.

We spend three hours on an average on roads, stuck in traffic jams, while one in every five Indians suffers from respiratory disorders. Indian cities are headed towards an urban disaster. Take the depleting quality of the air we breathe or the water we drink (that’s if we get it in our taps); while rivers turn into noxious black threads with methane bubbling on their surfaces and landfill sites expand.

Analysts predict that in the next thirty years, more than half of India will be living in urban areas. But does any leader or political party have a vision to address the impending environmental problems? Caste and religion continue to dominate the rhetoric of Election 2009, but is global India, with a growth rate of 9 per cent, doing anything about the toxic gas chambers that are our cities or the brown sludge flowing from our taps?

You could dismiss my angst for clean air and water as an elitist preoccupation that doesn’t affect a majority of the population. But take a look at the alarming figures collected by the Central Pollution Control Board and the Centre for Science and Environment. Out of the 100 Indian cities monitored, almost half have critical levels of particulate matter. Fifty-two cities hit critical levels, 36 have high levels and a mere 19 are at moderate levels. Only three cities – Dewas, Tirupati and Kozhikode – recorded low pollution levels.

Adding to the gas chambers are toxic gases like nitrogen oxide – a major contributor to acid rain and global warming – that are on the rise even in smaller cities like Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Nashik and Chandrapur. Indian cities can be cured of the curse of pollution, but various policy measures will have to be initiated. One way out could be the introduction of compressed natural gas in the public transport system, and financial incentives for people to buy more fuel-efficient cars or to switch to public transport.

If we look at the availability of water in Indian cities, the situation is no different. According to a 2007 World Bank study on 27 cities, the average duration of water supply was not more than four hours and in some, like Rajkot, it’s less than 0.3 hours. Not even one Indian city gets continuous water supply, and a majority are in the red in terms of plummeting ground water tables. Besides, in the poorer parts of our nation, people have to buy water and have to spend, on an average, one to two hours per day foraging for it.

And what about the impending threat from climate change? There is now enough scientific evidence to show that climate change will first affect the poor, with disastrous consequences for India’s farmers and fishermen. But has any political party woken up to this threat? The BJP, interestingly, has a separate section on the environment in its manifesto, referring to the need to move towards a low-carbon economy. Does that mean it will scrap the 54-odd thermal power projects that were cleared under the UPA government? Climate change may already be upon us in many ways. But one look at the National Climate Change Action Plan launched by the Prime Minister will tell us that most of the targets under the eight missions are non-measurable, so there’s no way to measure the outgoing government’s performance.

And how ‘green’ are our politicians themselves? While one has drained the wetlands of an endangered bird only to build an airstrip in his native village, another, with strong prime ministerial aspirations, spent more than Rs 80 crore ravaging a green belt on the edge of the Okhla bird sanctuary, while yet another in Madhya Pradesh got the course of a river diverted, to make it flow close to his private resort. Media campaigns ask voters to stop complaining and go out and vote. Yes, I too will go and vote. But I am still waiting for that one political party or candidate who promises me, a citizen of India, my right to clean air and water.

By: Bahar Dutt
(This article appeared in ‘Hindustan Times’ on May 5, 2009)

Samajwadi’s Party Manifesto is a Joke!!

THIS IS a time when the nation is looking forward for some able and determined leaders. But Samajwadi Party (SP) has made a mockery of everything. The manifesto released by the party has a few very ‘good’ points, which can take India back to the year 1900.

The vision or should I call it a joke, has come as soother for many of us, who were bugged with the promises of various political parties. Samajwadi Party’s manifesto has established it as an antonym to progress. This is the party, which has a bonding with leading corporate houses. Big names like Jaya Prada, Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt and Nafisa Ali are associated with the party. 

This party claims itself to be the champion of secularism and appeasement. After reading the manifesto, I was only laughing on these big wigs and wondering what vision this regional party has. The SP has truly redefined the meaning of retrograde. 

Here are the key ‘promises’ made by Samajwadi Party’s poll Manifesto:
 
1) Put a ban on English medium education.
2) Remove English language as a medium from all offices and educational institutions
3) Remove all computers from offices and institutes.
4) Ban the use of machinery in agriculture. Tractors will be replaced by bullock carts.
5) No to share trading and stock market operations.
6) Take action against high corporate salaries.
7) Mall culture will be stopped.
8) The salaries provided by private companies should be at par with the minimum wages for labourers. 9) All English medium schools, providing expensive education, will be abolished.
10) Improve relations with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
11) Action against communal powers and attack on the roots of terrorism.
12) Unemployment Allowance Scheme for unemployed youth.
13) Welfare schemes for lawyers and the business community.
14) Farmers’ cause to be taken up with the highest priority.
 
If this is the vision of party, which is hoping to be the ‘king maker’ in the upcoming General Elections, then this is the time to rethink before voting. This manifesto is totally against time. It seems that Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh have lost their mind somewhere. They are now in a damage control mode but this has clearly exposed their parochial state of mind.

But despite this, Samjawadi Party will win some seats in the elections. This is the irony of this country that people have always voted without thinking. Even if I neglect all the points in the manifesto, I cannot neglect the eleventh point. They haven’t talked of generating employment and have proudly agreed to give the allowance to unemployed. I would request all the voters that please use your vote judiciously. It is high time to set a few things right in our democratic set up.