Tribune News Service
Ludhiana, January 29
The Bahujan Samaj Party supremo, Mr Kanshi Ram, today claimed that his party would hold the balance of power in Punjab after elections to the Assembly scheduled for February 13. He claimed that the BSP was emerging a forceful alternative to the Akali-BJP alliance and the Congress in the state.
Addressing a party rally organised in the suburbs, Mr Kanshi Ram also announced that Mr Ravi Inder Singh would be the next Chief Minister of the state. He observed, 'Mr Ravi Inder Singh is a Jat Sikh and only a Jat Sikh can make a good Chief Minister in Punjab'.
The BSP leader lashed out at both the Akali-BJP alliance as well as the Congress claiming that all of them had exploited the people of the state. 'They are all the same when it comes to fixing the responsibility of corruption that is so rampant in the state', he alleged. He criticised the Congress for its claims in the election manifesto saying it was another version of the Akali-BJP policies.
Criticising the Congress for its charge sheet against the Badal government, he claimed that the Congress was no different from the Akalis or the BJP. 'It is the Congress which had set the trend of practicing corruption unabashedly that was followed by the Akalis', he pointed out. He said, the corruption was giving rise to other problems like lawlessness and unemployment.
The BSP leader said, the Dalits, the downtrodden and other progressive people had already resolved to give the BSP a chance. Taking a dig at the BJP leader, Mr Madan Lal Khurana, for his remarks that the Akali-BJP government could provide lasting stability, as there was a friendly government at the Centre, Mr Kanshi Ram claimed, it would be stable only if Vajpayee government survived any more. He said, after the elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, the National Democratic Alliance government was bound to collapse. 'So let nobody remain in doubt on that count', he asserted.
The party candidates from Ludhiana Rural seat, Mr Gurmail Pahalwan, Ludhiana West Mr Ravinder Singh Sohal and the party leader Dr D P Khosla were also present at the meeting.
Among the most respectable names in the world of Punjabi folk singing, one that has achieved the status of a living legend is that of Surinder Kaur.
Since the 1940s, Surinder Kaur has rendered classical and folk tunes that have been admired by generations. The fountainhead of a whole new style of singing, she has earned deep respect from present-day singers and the public alike.
The legendery vocalist and her daughter, Dolly Guleria, form a mother-daughter duo. Music for them is something that comes from the heart; it is not merely a profession. That feeling continues to this day, unruffled by international recognition.
Talking to ANI, Surinder Kaur said: "Singing has been an attraction for me since childhood. My parents didn't allow me to perform, saying it was not acceptable for a Sikh girl to do any such thing".
"It was quite a struggle. I auditioned for a children's programme and started doing a programme on the radio in 1943. But I wanted to continue learning and was instructed by some eminent classical singing gurus," she added.
From a humble beginning to high-profile international honours and awards, this nightingale of Punjab has come a long way over the decades.
Her depth and intensity, the poise of her stage performances still hold audiences spellbound. That stirring feel and tingle is simply not found in the artistes of today.
"The singers of today, sadly, do not sing with the strength of their voice and control, but on the beat of the music and orchestra", the singer observed.
"We have only two instruments on stage and we don't even give these instruments a microphone so that the voice dominates. The new generation should also look to improve the selection of songs. It needs a more literary refined touch", according to Surinder Kaur.
Among all her performances, the one she recalls most vividly in this one: "An Army General was with me in the jeep and he told me the entire Sikh regiment was sitting on snow, eagerly awaiting my arrival. I said I would go to them. They were housed in a gurdwara on the border".
"I was young and eager. When I began to sing, the soldiers danced in joy and I too danced with them. It is a scene I shall remember all my life", she said.
Today it is her daughter, Rupinder, better known as Dolly Guleria, who holds the centrestage, singing on the lines of her mother. ANI
Chandigarh, February 1
'Article 16(1) of the Constitution of India does not create or recognise any fundamental right of reservation but infact provides that there shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office in the state' the Central Administration Tribunal(CAT) said in its order while rejecting a petition filed by five employees of the Accountant-General, Punjab.
The employees had filed a petition against the Union of India through the Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, New Delhi and the Accountant-General of India, Punjab, Chandigarh, for seeking CAT directions to promote them from the post of Assistant Account Officer to the post of Account Officer under the policy of reservation enshrined in Article 16(4) read with Article 16(1) of the Constitution of India.
While dismissing the petition, a Division Bench of the CAT comprising Mr Jasbir S. Dhaliwal and Mr J.L Negi, said in its order that 'promotion selection against a reserved vacancy will be made from those reserved officers who are within the normal zone for consideration. All the employees fall nowhere near the zone. Being outside the zone of consideration their claim for being considered for promotion is, thus, not made out at all.
Jalandhar, January 31
With 'freedom from corruption' as its main poll plank, the BSP today released its manifesto. It promised tax exemption for small-scale industrial units, free health services for the poor, appointment of unemployed teachers on contract, free residential plots for Dalits and implementation of Mandal Commission report.
Releasing the manifesto, president of BSP Kanshi Ram said here today that since the SSI units had witnessed 50 per cent closure in the state during the SAD-BJP regime, rendering thousands of labourers jobless, the BSP had offered tax exemption for these units.
The party promised to formulate a new education policy, which could help students be self-employed. Besides, it had decided to appoint unemployed teachers on contract in government schools. The wards of poor people would be offered education free of cost up to the graduation level.
The party manifesto stated that it would implement the Mandal Commission report within 24 hours of assuming power in the state.
The party further criticised the ruling SAD-BJP combine government for promoting and patronising corrupt ministers and bureaucrats.
Regarding state of health services, the BSP promised to provide treatment and medicines free of cost to patients who earn Rs 2,000 per month and those earning up to Rs 5,000 per month will be provided free treatment with medicines at concessional rates at all government hospitals and health centres.
The manifesto further states that the party will launch Ambedkar Gram Vikas Yojna in all villages having 50 per cent Dalit population. Loans will also be provided to Dalits for the construction of houses.
Tribune News Service
Dera Bassi, January 31
Atrocities against Dalits increased manifold during the SAD-BJP regime in Punjab, alleged Mrs Sheelam Sohi, the Congress candidate for Banur constituency, while addressing a series of poll rallies at Lohgarh, Kheri Gujrena, Dasmesh Colony, Zirakpur and several villages of Zirakpur and Banur today.
She said the Badal government had no right to call itself a well-wisher of the Dalits. She complained that a false case had been registered against the Dalit sarpanch of Kalaully village sometime ago. A similar case had been foisted on the sarpanch of Chhat village and certain women of the area on the orders of an Akali minister. She alleged that the youth responsible for the abduction and rape of a girl in Mahila Kalan village sometime ago were still roaming freely because of the protection they enjoyed from the Akali government. Mrs Sohi also said that although the Badal government claimed to have launched several welfare schemes for Dalits, their benefit had remained confined to only the near and dear ones of Akalis.
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 31
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has decided to set up Dr Ambedkar Chair at Vikram University in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. The chair will focus on the impact of the new economic policy on the weaker sections. The chair will be inaugurated by the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Mr Satyanarayan Jatiya, on Monday.
A press note issued by the ministry here today said the scheme to set up Dr Ambedkar chairs was started in 1993 with a corpus of Rs 2 crore. This was subsequently raised to Rs 10 crore. The other universities/institutions which have Dr Ambedkar chairs include Jawaharlal Nehru University, Madras University, Calcutta University and Nagpur University.
The main aim of the scheme is to provide well-equipped centres of learning with facilities to enable intellectuals, academicians and students undertake research on the socio-economic and cultural life of the marginalised and other weaker sections of society.
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, February 2
Haryana Government representatives today claimed that nowhere in the state were Scheduled Caste people being subjected to atrocities. During a meeting presided over by Mr C. Chellapan, Member of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Mr K. K. Sharma, DIG (Crime), Haryana, said special cells had been set up in each district for the speedy investigation and monitoring of cases registered in connection with violence against the Dalits. He also added that the state government had designated the court of a senior Additional Sessions Judge at a district headquarters as the special court for trying offences against the Scheduled Castes. Mr R. R. Jowel, Director, Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes Welfare Department, urged Mr Chellapan to help the state government get funds from the Ambedkar Trust and the Central Government for setting up hostels for Scheduled Caste students at the district headquarters.
He said more than Rs 34 crore was spent in 2000-01 under various schemes carried out by the state government for the welfare of the SCs. In the current financial year, more than Rs 36 crore was being spent on such schemes, Mr Jowel said. According to Mr Jowel, schemes being implemented for educational upliftment of SC students by providing them with training for various competitive examinations were highly successful.
Mr M. K. Kithan, MD, Haryana Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation, said the corporation was providing financial assistance of more than Rs 42 crore to 12,500 families under various income generating schemes during the current financial year. He also requested Mr Chellapan to impress upon the Union Government to be liberal in giving financial assistance to Haryana for the implementation of various schemes for the socio-economic upliftment of the oppressed castes.
Mr Chellapan, who was accompanied by the Regional Director of the commission, Mr Tazim Wangyal, said educated SC youths should be motivated to take up self-employment ventures. The youths should appreciate that the government could not provide jobs to all of them, he added.
Mandi Gobindgarh, February 2
The services of more than five lakh workers in coal mines were regularised within a month after his assuming charge of the ministry, said Mr Ram Bilas Paswan, National President of the Lok Jan Shakti Party, while addressing his first election rally in the state at the Dussehra Ground here today in support of Mr Harbhajan Singh Attapuri, party candidate from Amloh (reserved) constituency.
It was due to his pro-people policies that his name had been entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for wining the elections with a record margin. During his five terms as minister is different departments, not a single allegation of corruption had ever been raised against him, he asserted.
Speaking on ruling parties in the state, Mr Paswan said earlier governments had been formed on the basis of negative votes. If the Congress was in power, people used to vote for SAD and vice-versa, he explained. The process continued, but the basic problems of the people continued to pileup, he rued.
Speaking on unemployment, the party president said labourers from other parts of the country came to Punjab in search of work and people from this state went abroad in search of work. The right to work should be included in the list of fundamental rights, he opined. Health cards of children should be prepared for adequate treatment and education should be free, along with books and clothing, he added.
Policies adopted by the governments after Independence had failed on the population front and the condition was going from bad to worse day by day, he claimed. He cited the example of England, where the population was static around 5.5 crore for the past 30 years, and of the USA, where it was 22.5 crore. Equivalent of the population of Australia was added to India every two years, he stated.
Hardoi, Feb 2 (UNI)
Denying charges that Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) encouraged casteism, party vice-president and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati today said that by distributing election tickets to people from all sections of the society, the party has shut the mouths of its critics.
Addressing an election meeting here, Ms Mayawati said that her party gave equal importance to every caste and religion. ''We would also support reservation for the poor to establish of an ultimate egalitarian society,'' she said.
The BSP leader accused the BJP, Congress and Samajwadi Party of playing with the sentiments of dalits and said that these parties only knew how to raise catchy slogans to garner votes. They have nothing to do with reality and the genuine problems of people, she added. She said that under a hidden pact, the SP did not move a no-confidence motion against the BJP-led state government during its five-year-old rule. While the BSP could not move the motion due to constitutional compulsions, the SP had no such hurdles before itself, she alleged.
Ms Mayawati was of the view that the SP, only to fool the minorities, gave tickets to them in those areas where they were less in number. She appealed to the minority community to support the BSP which alone could take care of their interests
By J. Venkatesan
NEW DELHI, FEB. 3. The Ambedkar Vichar Manch has appealed to the President, K.R. Narayanan, and the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to confer on Ambedkar the titles of ``Father of Indian Constitution'' and ``Champion of Human Rights''.
In two identical memorandum submitted recently, the general secretary of the manch, R.L. Kain, said the Constituent Assembly afforded to Ambedkar an opportunity to give a shape to his social philosophy and undying faith in the dignity of human beings.
``It is a celebrated truth that Gandhiji gave freedom and Ambedkar gave Constitution to the nation. The Constitution and its debates are unequivocally testaments of their praises and contributions,'' he said.
Quoting the words of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Mr. Kain said any person familiar with the Indian Constitution in the making and the debates in the Constituent Assembly would agree that Ambedkar, by his clarity and comparative learning in the field of constitutional jurisprudence, had surpassed all others.
Mr. Kain has requested the President and the Prime Minister to translate the aspirations of the Constituent Assembly members who had bestowed adorations on Ambedkar for his significant contribution in drafting the Constitution by conferring the two titles.
The Bhopal conference makes it clear that without a share in the liberalised private capital for Dalits, the state and civil society are bound to crack.
FOR THE first time in the history of democratic experimentation in India, Madhya Pradesh, with the total involvement of the Chief Minister, organised a conference to prepare an agenda for socio-economic reform of the Indian state and civil society. Digvijay Singh's interest went beyond his day-to-day administrative problems. His inaugural speech made it clear that he wanted to combine politics and power with socio-economic reform as that alone can transform a backward country such as India and a backward State such as Madhya Pradesh. All these years, politicians made positive gestures towards Dalits only to win them over as electoral base, but never to set an agenda for their socio-economic transformation. The Dalit agenda of an average politician, so far, has been confined to affirming the reservation policy Ambedkar infused into the system. The process of privatisation began to dismantle the space of reservation.The deliberations at the Bhopal Dalit conference focussed on the Bhopal document, which charted out an economic agenda for transforming the Dalits' socio-economic conditions. The meet evolved a database for critical examination of Dalit progress based on the experience of 50 years of policy and located the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe question in terms of policy and performance of the Indian state. Though the document did not contextualise the Dalit question by critiquing the socio-spiritual institutions that evolved in India, it tried to examine the relationship between political democracy and civil-societal democracy. It was pointed out that the document should have paid more attention to the institutional causes of untouchability. Untouchability in the spiritual realm led to social segregation of people who were not allowed to participate in agrarian capital in the feudal and the pre-feudal economy of India and also in the capitalist modernity of the nation in the present context. Dalits were not mere social untouchables but were kept out of the capitalist modernity.
The conference examined the Madhya Pradesh model of distribution of grazing land, empowering Dalits and tribals through decentralisation by devolving powers to the panchayat raj institutions. It examined the process of making the tribals direct sellers of forest produce and direct buyers of necessary goods and commodities in a market where the system of middlemen from the business class was abolished. It, however, went beyond this model. This model, for that matter any model in India, had not worked out a blueprint for the full-blooded participation of Dalits in capitalist entrepreneurship and market. In other words, no model has so far created a capitalist class from the country's quarter of a billion Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. No class of contractors, businessmen/women have evolved from these communities. This does not mean there are no administrative and managerial skills among the Dalits and the tribals. Their talent does not have the seed capital required to match the labour capital they poss ess. The Dalit bureaucratic class and the political leadership were unable to become a class in themselves to turn it into a social capital of the community as the upper castes have done.
The conference posed two questions: one, is it possible to adopt the American model by developing diversified assets, capital, entrepreneurship and skills, as the Americans have done by giving a share to African-Americans in all kinds of national assets? The American economy grew from strength to strength with the robust participation of African-Americans in every sphere of economy-capital ownership, business, capitalist farming and so on. By applying their skills, which had many innovative abilities that the whites lacked, the African-Americans contributed a whole range of new ethics to capital growth. Why does Indian capital not allow that kind of creative and productive diversification with Dalit participation? Second, is it possible to create a democratic civil society, which would strengthen the political democracy, by creating conditions of social equality that become the backbone of national development? The answer to these two questions lies in the state repositioning its strategy in both economic and political spheres going far beyond the models of all schools of economic thought that the upper caste economists have so far worked out. No mainsteam Indian economist has, so far, advocated active Dalit participation in entrepreneurship and capital ownership. Why? The Dalit intellectuals felt that Dalit entrepreurship and capital ownership should not be seen as a drag on the economy (as many have been seeing reservation in the job sector), but must be seen as a springboard for the whole economy. The truth in this argument can be realised if we understand that creative labour power still exists only among the Dalits and if that labour power owns the capital it has a tremendous ability to reposition the dignity of labour in India. The innovativeness of capital grows only when we combine the dignity of labour and capital. Since capital in India is arrested in the Brahmin-Bania culture, it suffers from an enormous indignity of labour. When capital and markets operate in the larger cultural environment of indigni ty of labour they can never take revolutionary leaps. The Bhopal conference makes it clear that without a share in the liberalised private capital for Dalits, the state and civil society are bound to crack. Further, the question of social democracy is related to establishing the spiritual democratic relations within all religions operating in India. Caste discrimination within the religious order structuralised the undemocratic relations within civil society which led to a casteisation of state, land, capital and development. The state must step in through the Endowment Departments to abolish caste practices in all religious and educational institutions. For example, Hinduism and some Christian institutions practice casteism in temples and churches. The secular state that grants lands and other benefits cannot allow religious discrimination to be practised in the nation. Caste does not allow secularism to operate in any meaningful way because religions claim many assets from the state's collective property, w hich belongs to all people of that state. The Chief Minister's promise that the State shall make 30 per cent of its purchases from Dalit and tribal business establishments to begin with, starting from this financial year, is a great leap forward. Let us not forget that many upper caste entrepreneurs and business establishments prospered because of the support of the state and nationalised banks. All these years the upper castes have used the national assets as if they belong to them alone. Now Dalits are asking for a share in all forms of state property and the state must understand their aspiration on the basis of citizenship. The notion of citizenship gets institutionalised only when Dalits share all forms of national wealth equitably. The Central Government told the world at the Durban conference of the United Nations that India was working towards the abolition of caste within its national interest. But so far the Centre has not come up with any meaningful strategy to transform the casteist socio-economic and spiritual realms. Dalit intellectuals believe that the BJP does not have any reform agenda because it evolved its ideology within the bonds of Hindu Varna dharma. It, in fact, would negate all the fruits of socio-economic reforms that earlier Governments had achieved with some belief in Gandhian and Ambedkarite initiatives. The Dalit intelligentsia still seems to repose confidence in the Congress (I) and left-wing political formations as they have some agenda for social transformation on their cards. Digvijay Singh's initiative comes as reassuring process in the context of post-Durban developments. One hopes the leaders of all parties make some effort to see the Dalit writing on the wall and evolve a national agenda for total diversification of national wealth to avoid a civil war in the 21st century.