Monday, September 25, 2017

Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum

Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum

The newly launched outfit, Scheduled Caste Entrepreneurs Empowerment Forum (SCEEF) organized an awareness seminar “Opportunities for SC Entrepreneurs under the recently launched schemes of the Government of India” on September 19, 2017 in
Ludhiana. The seminar was hosted by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in cooperation with National Small Industries Corporation. It was a well attended and nicely organized programme. Social and community activist, Jiwan Singh ably conducted the seminar as Master of Ceremonies.

The inaugural session was opened with welcome remarks by Director (MSME) Major Singh. Prof. Akshay Kumar, General Secretary of the SCEE Forum presented a brief report on the first session of the SCEEF held on August 21, 2017 in Jalandhar. It is a good step and must be appreciated as it has been observed that generally no reports/minutes of such meetings are kept and things move on a ad-hoc basis. Prof. Akhsay Kumar raised very candid

queries about the social integration of dalits with the main stream of the society. Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, Working President of Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs made an impressive speech and urged the young entrepreneurs to make concerted efforts to avail of the schemes of the government to start new ventures, strengthen the existing ones and empower themselves. An RSS activist and OSD to Health Minister J.P. Nadda, Dr. Varinder Garg briefed the audience about the SC Sub-plan and said that we must try and get the SC Sub-plan initiated, executed and delivered for the economic up-liftment of the weaker sections of the society. He said that reservation was not enough. All other avenues must be explored and exploited to strengthen the affirmative actions for empowerment of dalits. Senior RSS functionary, Banveer Singh was the Chief Guest at the function. In his sober and calculated remarks, Banveer Singh said that RSS was fully committed to go all the way to help the neglected and marginalized segments of the society to stand up as equals. He frankly admitted that he was aware that many of you still lack faith in RSS and added that it was due to propaganda by the vested interests. Banveer Singh further said that we have decided and undertaken projects to engage dalits with their activities to mutual advantage and nation building.  Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of the Punjab SC Commission, who was the chief co-coordinator to host the seminar, spoke spiritedly and urged the audience to educate themselves and get ready to make full use of the liberal schemes of the government. He said we should not remain job seekers but should become job providers. The pleasant duty of presenting the Vote of Thanks fell on me which I performed hurriedly as we were running against time. I observed that it was gratifying to note that social outfits like RSS and economic and commercial entities like SCEE Forum were joining hands for empowerment of dalits. It would lead to the realization of lofty ideals of Babasaheb to transform our political democracy into social and economic democracy. I urged the aspiring SC entrepreneurs to gain a much needed sense of confidence and concluded with an Urdu couplet:

तू पहले बात फिर बात का अंदाज़ पैदा कर,
फिर तुजे दुनिआ में कोई नज़र अंदाज़ कर नहीं सकता !

The technical session was held after a brief lunch break. Deputy Director of MSME, Kamal Singh gave an overview of the special schemes of the government of India to help and facilitate the budding businessmen from the weaker sections of the society. The representatives of FCI, Bhakra-Beas Board, NSIC informed and briefed the audience about the avenues and possibilities to become suppliers of goods and services to their respective organizations under the procurement policies to help the SC suppliers.  Coordinator of DICCI in Punjab, Shammi Kapoor briefed the participants about the procedure and process to obtain Business Aadhar registration with MSME and as a Vendor with NSIC. It was a good interactive session. Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of Punjab SC Commission intervened to assure the vocal and eager businessmen to be patient and approach the issues with understanding. He said that every effort will be made to streamline the advisory and facilitatory aspects of the SCEE Forum. I spoke briefly to rap-up the technical session and expressed satisfaction on the visible restiveness in the minds of young SC businessmen to do something. I advised the SCEE Forum to set up a cell in the organization to listen and redress the complaints and answer queries in consultation with MSME, NSIC, Banks and other concerned agencies. I also advised the SC business community, in its infancy, to hone-up their computer and English language skills to catch up with the overall business atmosphere. Appreciating their zeal to do something worthwhile, I concluded with yet another Urdu couplet:

कर खुदी को बुलंद इतना की हर तक़दीर से पहले;
 खुदा बन्दे से खुद पूछे बता तेरी रज़ा क्या है !

Let me conclude this write up on SCEE Forum with a little explanatory addition. Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of Punjab SC Commission is a force behind this newly floated forum to help and empower the SC businessmen as it is evident from its name itself. He called me for a meeting and asked for my agreement to join
them in this endeavor with my wide ranging experience, keeping in line with my thinking to pay back to the society. I agreed to his suggestion to associate myself with the outfit as its Chief Patron without any political baggage. I had a lingering understanding that Rajesh Bagha being affiliated to BJP and RSS must be acting on advice and direction from his political and cultural mentors. It was indeed so. The inaugural session of the Forum was held in Jalandhar on August 21, 2017. The RSS high-ups were not only present but were active. There interaction and speeches set the tone of the things to come. SC agenda, apparently, is high on their mind. They intend to rope SCs into their fold by owning the legacy of Babasaheb Ambedkar. My cursory analysis indicates that there is no harm. Let it be as long as my SC brethren gain out of the exercise. SCEE Forum will get all due support from the governmental agencies with regard to the empowerment of SC businessmen. RSS is harping on the Special Component Sub Plan for the SC which unfortunately remained on paper so far. We should take advantage of this. Moreover, it will be good for dalits to seek understanding rather than confrontation with the main stream of the society, to my mind. RSS, it seems, is fully aware of the fact that as of now dalits were skeptical and wary of the RSS and its Hindutava. They need to do something concrete to bring them along. Let them prove themselves. We have nothing to lose except our backwardness and poverty. That is why I am with SCEE Forum.

Without Comment:

"When brothers live together; they solve the most difficult problems - Xiongli Tongxin Qili Duanjin"

A chinese saying

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 7

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 7

Hardeep Singh Puri – Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, IFS (Retired), one of the finest and most decorated diplomats of India, has been inducted into the Council of Ministers of PM Narendra
Modi. Puri Sahib is the right choice. IFS and we in the fraternity stand taller with this honour conferred on one of our senior colleagues. It is not the first time that IFS has contributed to the national politics and governance. K.R. Narayananan adored the Rashrapati Bhawan as President of India. M.H. Ansari aptly handled the position of Vice President of India. Kunwar Natwar Singh manned the coveted Ministries including the MEA with élan. Mani Shankar Aiyar remained a vocal Minister in PM Rajiv Gandhi’s government. Meira Kumar not only remained Minister but also occupied the coveted position of the Speaker of
Syed Shahabuddin
Lok Sabha. Romesh Bhandari remained in the thickness as Governor of UP and also as Lt. Governor of Delhi. P.N. Haksar, besides working as Principal Secretary to PM Indira Gandhi, worked as Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission. N.N. Jha became Lt. Governor of Pondicherry. Mohammad Yunus delivered
Yunus Mohd extreme right
as Special Envoy of PM Indira Gandhi many a times. Syed Shahabuddin served as an active Member of Parliament and one of the most articulate politians concerned about issues pertaining to minorities.  Brajesh Misra, J.N. Dixit, Shiv Shanker Menon contributed their might to the security of India as NSA in the governments of PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and PM Manmohan Singh with Ministerial status. These sons of India, if I have not missed any name inadvertently, belonged to the IFS, a coveted civil service of India. I am confident that Hardeep Singh Puri will not be the last in the process. It is a matter of satisfaction.

Hardeep Singh Puri’s father Bhagat Singh Puri was also a diplomat. I have had the pleasure of knowing him in my initial years of service in the early 1970s. He was a dignified and cool officer fully justifying his name “Bhagat”, a thorough gentleman. It is a compliment. Later, I got the chance to work and interact with Hardeep Puri and his diplomat wife Lakshmi Puri in Sri Lanka in the difficult years from 1986-89. They were stationed in Colombo and I was posted in Kandy.  Both of them were always kind and available for any help and advice in the discharge of our duties. We all know that Hardeep Puri is one of the finest diplomats of India. He is a go-getter with quiet dignity. I always felt that Hardeep Puri had a special corner in his heart for the juniors and not well connected members of staff, perhaps, owing to his family background and connect with the IFS.

Visit to Rashtrapati Bhawan – I visited Rashtrapati Bhawan along with a delegation of Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs headed by its Chairman, Charanjit Singh Atwal on September 8, 2017, as a member of the advisory committee of the Forum, to meet and congratulate the newly elected President of
India, Ram Nath Kovind. It was a short and brief but a memorable joint encounter with the first citizen of India. The visit revived and recalled my earlier several official visits to the seat of the highest constitutional authority during my long diplomatic career. I last visited  Rashtrapati Bhawan in August 2010 to meet President Pratibha Patil in the official programme of the HOMs Conference arranged by the Ministry of External Affairs.

President Ram Nath Kovind entered the meeting room with quiet dignity where we were all seated. Charanjit Singh Atwal and MOS Arjun Meghwal received him at the entrance and presented him a bouquet of flowers. Charanjit Singh Atwal made his crisp remarks to congratulate and wish the President all success in his coveted position. President Ram Nath Kovind responded with his usual
calm and cool style and thanked the delegation. Invoking Babasaheb Ambedkar, he said that we all must learn and follow the visionary leader in addressing many of the issues of concern and interest to the nation for our further progress. Charanjit Singh Atwal handed over a Memorandum on behalf of the Forum to the President in which my proposal to declare April 14, birthday of Babasaheb Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality was included. President Ram Nath Kovind exchanged pleasantries with us and left after a group photo with the delegation. I must acknowledge the involvement and behind the scene work being done by Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, the scion of Charanjit Singh Atwal for the functioning of the Forum of Schedule Caste MPs and MLAs. I am told that the grouping of Schedule Caste MPs was first initiated in the early 1950s by Babasaheb Ambedkar and since then it has been existing with some modifications conforming the current requirements. Hot and crisp snacks like samosas, pakoras and pastries from the traditional kitchen of the Rashtrapati Bhawan revived my memories. Incidentally, the GHO Hostess Anita, who was earlier working at Hyderabad House, was present to look after the hospitality. Since, I also worked for sometime in the Government Hospitality Organisation (GHO) of the MEA and later used to visit Hyderabad House frequently during the course of my duties, Anita happened to know me. She extended all courtesies.

President Ram Nath Kovind’s gracious spouse Savita is a family friend of my sister Kamla of Delhi. They were colleagues of about 40 years standing in MTNL. Savita Behenji along with their daughter came to Jalandhar in December, 2001 for the marriage of our daughter Vaishali. Later Ram Nath Kovind visited my brothers
in Jalandhar in 2006-07 as the President of the Dalit Morcha of the BJP to prepare for the visit of Lal Krishan Advani to Bootan Mandi, our native place. Kamla and her family visited their friend Savita Behen and her family at the Rashtrapati Bhawan the following day i.e. September 9 and met President Sahib too. Kamla and my brother-in-law D.C. Kumar asked me to join them to meet the first family of India but I could not avail of the opportunity to meet President Ram Nath Kovind in a more relaxed and personal setting as I traveled back to Jalandhar with my interlocutors and hosts at the Punjab Bhawan in Delhi, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal and Rajesh Bagha, Chairman of SC Commission of Punjab.

Without Comments:-
Ten sewer workers in Delhi have died in a little over a month owing to exposure to toxic gases in sewers they were cleaning. Death of workers in sewers is not new. It was reported from Mumbai and Bengaluru earlier this year.
A feature in the Hindustan Times of September 17, 2017 “Raising Stink”

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ahisas – a collection of Punjabi Ghazals of Roop Sidhu

 Ahisas – a collection of Punjabi Ghazals of Roop Sidhu

Roop Sidhu’s maiden literary venture – Ahisas, a collection of Punjabi ghazals was released on August 16, 2017 at Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall in Jalandhar at a solemn function. The function was attended by the who’s who of the Punjabi literary elite located in and around Jalandhar. Though I stand nowhere in this galaxy of literary personalities yet Roop Sidhu was kind enough not only to invite me to the function but also made me sit on the high-table
with prominent intellectuals namely Hardial Sagar, S. Naseem, Sital Singh Sangha and Jagdish Kaur Wadia. The book release event was ably and aptly conducted by Prof. Gopal Singh Bhuttar, President of Sahit Kala Kender, as the Master of Ceremonies. It
was indeed a pleasure to be there. Yet another gratifying factor was that the event was transformed to an impromptu Kavi Darbar. Not only the high flown names mentioned above participated in the Darbar but many more, inter alia, Narinder Pal Singh, Manohar Khaira, Des Raj Kali, Madam Sagar, came forward to recite their poems to further add to the value of the function.

I have gone through the book – Ahisas as a layman. I do not know the fine nuances of poetry. But I enjoy good poetry. Roop Sidhu’s excellent contribution fits the bill with 110 ghazals in the book. I have been reading Sidhu Sahib’s poems and ghazals, off hand, on Facebook and enjoyed myself. In the process, I suggested to him to come out with a book for wider appreciation which he did and did it with aplomb. It is a matter of great satisfaction. I have observed that Roop Sidhu is a poet of life, life in its all shades. The ghazals
in the book represent normal and common attributes of a human personality such as fear, faith, love, harmony, friendship, complaint, appreciation, elation on one hand and the travails of a poor and under-privileged in the rural backyard on the other. Roop Sidhu is fully aware of the prevailing social and political scenario of the country and the society at large.

Roop Sidhu has candidly admitted in one of his compositions that he has full realization – Ahisas – that his ghazal would naturally find a mention of spades and sickles, the tools of a poor farm labourer:-

ਗ਼ਜ਼ਲ ਕਹਿ ਨਾਜ਼ਮ ਕਹਿ ਜਾਨ  ਜੋ ਭੀ ਦਿਲ ਚਾਹੇ ਇਨਾਨੁ ਕਹਿ;
ਮੇਰੀ ਲਿਖਤਾਂ ਵਿਚ ਰੰਬੇ ਦਾਤੀਆਂ ਹੋਣੇ ਸੁਭਾਵਿਕ ਹਨ !

While making a mention of the functioning of our parliament, the author says:

ਸੰਸਦ ਵਿਚ ਹੋ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ ਇਨ ਬਿਨ ਓਹੀ ਵਤੀਰਾ;
ਇੱਲਤਾਂ ਸ਼ਰਾਰਤਾਂ ਜਿਓਂ ਗਲੀਆਂ ਬਾਲ ਕਰਦੇ!

Narrating the economic condition of a common man who finds it difficult to earn enough to meet his needs, Roop Sidhu says:
ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਆਮਦਨ ਤੋਂ ਖਰਚ ਵੱਧ ਹੁੰਦੇ; ਊਨਾ ਦੇ ਘਰ
ਸਦਾ ਮੂਧੇ ਪਏ ਛਾਵੇ ਫਾਟੇ ਪੋਣੇ ਸੁਭਾਵਿਕ ਹਨ !

An advice to exercise control on unbridled speech is timely:

ਰਹਿਣ ਬਚਕੇ ਨਵਾਂ ਕਿਧਰੇ ਕੋਈ ਕਾਰਾ ਕਰਾਵੇ ਨਾ;
ਜੋ ਰੱਖੀ 'ਰੂਪ' ਆਪਣੀ ਜੀਭ ਏਨੀ ਬੇਲਾਗਾਮੀ ਤਾਈਂ !

Humility is a family trait with Roop Sidhu. I can say this safely after meeting his family. One of the ghazals in the book amply demonstrates this much needed attribute:

ਜੇ ਗ਼ਜ਼ਲ ਅਜੇ ਤੇਰੀ ਚੱਜ ਦੀ ਨਹੀਂ; ਤਾਂ ਰੋਸ਼ ਕਾਹਦਾ
'ਰੂਪ' ਜੀ ਚੁਕੋ ਕਲਮ; ਕੁਜ ਹੋਤ ਚਾਰਾ  ਕਰ ਲਾਵਾਂਗੇ

These were some of the examples to appreciate Roop Sidhu’s meaningful and thought provoking ghazals which would ultimately be availed of as food for thought by the connoisseur of good poetry.
Roop Sidhu has dedicated the book to his mother Smt. Swaran Kaur and rightly so. She witnessed the release of the book of his worthy son from the high table and was visibly moved when Sidhu Sahib rendered one of the couplets as a word of gratitude to the mother. Hardial Sagar, a renowned poet and ghazalkar himself, sitting by my side, instantly commented that this ‘Sher’ will remain as a much acclaimed Sher in the years to come.

ਕਾਸ਼ ਰੱਖ ਕੇ ਅਕਾਸ਼ ਨੂੰ ਖੜਮਾਂ;
ਉਸ ਵਿਚ ਤਸਵੀਰ ਮਾਂ ਦੀ ਜੜ ਲੈਂਦੇ !
The foreword of the book has been written by no other than the literary guru of Roop Sidhu, Amrik Ghafil who taught Sidhu Sahib the nuances of poetry and ghazal and turned a raw talent into an expert handler of the sophisticated art of penning excellent poetry. Sidhu Sahib and Ghafil Sahib met in Dubai where they both went for greener pastures. They not only registered success in respective professions but also created good social and community life for themselves. Amrik Ghafil is a recognized poet by his own right. He recited his own poetry at the function which touched the audience.  He quotes Sidhu Sahib to pay rich tributes his style and matter and involves “Ahisas”:

ਤੋੜ ਹੀ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਜਦ ਰਿਸ਼ਤਾ ਵਫਾ ਦਾ;
ਫਿਰ ਕਿਸੇ ਅਹਿਸਾਸ ਦੀ ਹੁਣ ਲੋੜ ਹੀ ਨਹੀਂ!

Commenting on the egalitarian outlook of Roop Sidhu, his literary mentor quotes him:

ਕਦੇ ਜੇ ਤਿੱਤਲੀਆਂ ਦੇ ਖੰਭ ਗਿਣਨੋਂ ਵੇਲ ਮਿਲ ਜਾਵੇ;

ਅਦੀਬਾ ਕੌਮ ਮੇਰੀ ਨੂੰ ਜਗਾਉਣੇ ਦੇ ਲੇਇ ਵੀ ਲਿਖ !
He further quotes the author:
ਮਾੜਾ ਹੀ ਘਬਰਾਈ ਜਾਵੇ; ਏਦਾਂ ਥੋੜੀ ਹੁੰਦਾ
ਐਂਮੇ ਝਿੜਕਾਂ ਖਾਇ ਜਾਵੇ; ਏਦਾਂ ਥੋੜੀ ਹੁੰਦਾ !
The publisher Gurdial Roshan has rightly commented on the book and said, “It is the next phase of the Punjabikaran of ghazal, to my understanding, as in these ghazals one finds the heartbeat of the villages of Punjab. Roop Sidhu has started his own style of Punjabi ghazal.”

Roop Sidhu and I came to know each other from our common interest and concern in some of the community matters pertaining to the weaker sections of the society particularly dalits. He is a knowledgeable man with all positive traits to contribute to the social well being of the community and the society at large. I take this opportunity to congratulate my friend Roop Sidhu and wish him all the best in the years to come.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

International Day of Equality

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 6

International Day of Equality - Greetings on Independence Day

PMO, in a routine circular E-mail message, asked for ideas and suggestions for the PM’s Independence Day address to the nation on August 15 from the ramparts of Red Fort. I also got the message and just off hand it came to my mind to reiterate my suggestion made to EAM Sushma Swaraj in June, 2015 to make a demarche to the UN to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality in the run up to observe and celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the greatest son of India. The proposal was duly acknowledged by the UNES Division of the MEA in August, 2017. I followed up the matter with MEA and also wrote to PM Narendra Modi. PMO also sent an E-mail acknowledgement.  It encouraged me and I started to spread the message to garner support to my proposal. Many individuals and organizations came forward and supported the proposal in the regular media and also social media and some of them wrote to EAM and PMO in this regard. Forum of Scheduled Caste MPs and MLAs under the patronage of the then Speaker of the Punjab Legislature, Charanjit Singh Atwal, submitted a Memorandum to PM Narendra Modi in November, 2015 and supported the proposal. Atwal Sahib included
the proposal in his speech at the UN celebrations of 125th Anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar at New York in April, 2016. He took up the matter with PM Modi, on his return from New York, in his letter to PM and urged him to officially take up the proposal to declare International Day of Equality with the UN through official channels. Since then, much water has flown in the Hudson Waterfront (Gold Coast) in New York and the Jamuna in Delhi. I am not aware of any formal response from the MEA or PMO in this regard. Again on my own, I made a New Year Resolution to follow up the matter with the concerned leadership and wrote to EAM Sushma Swaraj again in February, 2017. I also urged various outfits to support the proposal wherever I happened to speak and interact. Many of these tended to support. But it is a matter of regret, that most of the followers of Dr. Ambedkar and their organizations are still living in the Jai Bhim and Jai Gurdev Syndrome and as such have no wherewithal to carry forward their agenda. The dalit politicians are either ignorant or have developed myopic vision on the basis of their party affiliations.

All said and done, on an invitation from the PMO, I reiterated my proposal in an E-mail message on August 12, 2017 and requested that it may be included in the PM’s address to the nation on the auspicious occasion of Independence Day on August 15.

Text of my message to PMO:

"Thanks Sir. It is a true democratic practice which PM Narendra Modi has introduced to as the citizens of the country for their inputs for the national agenda. I appreciate this.
Now coming to my humble input, I may add one point. After GOI decision to observe 125th anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar in 2015, I wrote EAM followed by my various demarches to PM and other high ups and suggested to approach the UN to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality. Subsequently, then Speaker of Punjab Assembly, Charan Singh Atwal also followed up the matter with PM in writing (my last letter to EAM and Atwal Sahib's letter to PM are enclosed for ready reference). The matter is resting at that in spite of my attempts to follow up the matter with MEA and PMO.

To cut the matter short and keep it focused, my humble suggestion is to consider and include this appropriately in the speech of the PM to be delivered from the Red Fort on August 15, our Independence Day. and declare the resolve of the GOI to approach the UN to declare April 14 as the International Day of Equality to honour the greatest son of India Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and to extend support to the millions not only in India but in the world at large to stand up as equals to bring about much needed harmony and sense of brotherhood.

I am confident, Sir, my humble suggestion will find favour. I am open to any consultation or explanation in this regard.

With regards

(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador - IFS (Retired)
Tele: 09988510940”

Let us hope somebody in the GOI, particularly EAM Sushma Swaraj and PM Narendra Modi, pay due attention to the proposal and decide to make a suitable approach to the UN to declare April 14 as the International Day of Equality to honour worthy son of India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on one hand and to raise the flag of equality in the world at large.

इक तर्जे तुगाफिल है; सो वह उनको मुबारक;
इक अर्जे तमन्ना है वह हम करते रहेंगे!

Greetings on the Independence Day. Long live India.

 Jai Hind. Jai Bhim. Jai Bharat.

Without Comment:

“When we speak of a New India, what do we mean? There are some obvious parameters – like a house for every family, power on demand, better roads and telecom, a modern railway network, rapid and sustained growth. And yet there is more. New India must include that integral humanist component that is in our DNA, and which has defined our country and our civilisation. New India must be a society rushing towards the future, but also a compassionate society,”

President Ram Nath Kovind, Independence Day Eve Address on August 14, 2017.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book Review – Ambedkar Mission Atey Bodhi Dham

Book Review – Ambedkar Mission Atey Bodhi Dham

The Punjab Chapter of the Samta Sainik Dal invited me to a book release function on July 2, 2017, of a recent Punjabi publication “Ambedkar Mission Atey Bodhi Dham” compiled and edited by Sohan Lal Sampla of Germany at Ambedkar Bhawan in Jalandhar.  Sohan Lal Sampla is a staunch Ambedkarite and a Buddhist. The book in Punjabi is a simple narration of some of his visits to
various countries like Japan, Hungary, among others to the see the commemoratory sites and venues pertaining to Gautama Buddha and the main reviver of Buddhism in India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, in the contemporary times and also some of the articles of others like K.C. Sulekh, Sohan, Surinder Ajnat and Soma Sablok and also poems of Sohan Sehjal, Monika Ambedkar and Pammi Madhopuria.  Sohan Lal Sampla has provided good and interesting information on his visits to Japan and Hungary not only about his impressions about these countries but also about his interlocutors and followers of Lord Buddha and Babasaheb Ambedkar. I must add, with due respect and regard to its author, that the book is not strong in its content but the motivation and spirit behind it is genuinely compelling.  

It is not surprising that the book has been dedicated to his ideological and spiritual inspiration Lahori Ram Balley of Jalandhar, an ardent Ambedkarite and Buddhist. In a sort of introduction, Fateh Jung Singh of Chandigarh has appreciated and thanked Sohan Lal Sampla for publishing and free distribution of books with a view to spread the message of Buddha and Ambedkar.
Sampla Sahib’s account of his Japan visit via China is interesting as it comes from a layman’s understanding and narration. He is impressed by the Japanese culture and tradition. His visit to the statue of Dr. Ambedkar in a prominent park in the city of Wakayama was of great satisfaction to him. Similarly his journey to Hungry gives a sense of over-whelming reception with regard to the fact that Dr. Ambedkar was increasingly being recognized in European countries and rightly so. His interaction with the leaders of the Roman-Gypsies and his elation to see Ambedkar High school in a prominent city in Hungry is clearly evident from his narration. A bust of Dr. Ambedkar, given by the Indian Embassy in Budapest, has been installed in the school. Sampla Sahib paid visits to various places of interest in India like the birthplace of Dr. Ambedkar in Mhow, Chaitya Bhoomi in Nagpur, and Ambedkar Smarak in Lucknow and pilgrimaged the important sites pertaining to Buddhism namely Lumbini, Sarnath, BodhGaya, Kushinagar etc. In the book, some interesting and informative articles on various issues of interest and concern like Poona Pact of 1932, Karva Chauth, Ravana, Raksha Bandhan etc. written by various writers have been included in the book. One may or may not agree with them but these made a good reading. Sohan Sampla’s movements of involvement and pride in the community affairs find a detailed mention in the book particularly his Cycle March to Delhi in 1964 along with The volunteers of Republican Party of India and participating in the Sit-down Hunger Strike in front of the official residence of the then PM Lal Bahadur Shastri and also his Jail Yatra in Jalandhar in support of the RPI agitation for the demands of the poor and under privileged of the country.

One can see and observe that Sohan Sampla and his family are fully dedicated to the community causes even after his migration to Germany many years before. He tends to distribute free of cost not only his own publications but also other literature on Dr. Ambedkar and Gautama Buddha. Yet another feather in the hat of Sampla
Sahib is that he, with a sense of paying back to the society, often offers financial help to various individuals and outfits connected with the community matters which has been much appreciated. Though I don’t know Sohan Lal Sampla personally yet I felt that people like him must be recognized and appreciated in the larger interest of the community. Hence this humble effort. Being a proclaimed Buddhist, Sampla Sahib does not believe in God as such. In one of the articles he has quoted likeminded poets like Allma Iqbal, Akbar Allahabadi and Mohan Singh respectively which I myself enjoyed:

ਬੈਠਾ ਕੇ ਅਰਸ਼ ਪੈ ਰਖਾ ਹੈ ਤੁਨੀ ਬਾਯਜ਼;
ਖੁਦਾ ਵੋ ਕਯਾ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਬੰਦੇ ਸੇ ਇਤਰਾਜ਼ ਕਰੇ
ਜੇਹਾਂ ਮੈਂ ਜੀ ਘਿਰ ਗਯਾ; ਲੈ-ਇੰਤਹਾ  ਕਯੋਂ ਕਰ ਹੂਆ ,
ਜੋ ਸਮਜ ਮੈਂ ਗਯਾ; ਫਿਰ ਵੋਹ ਖੁਦਾ ਕਯੋਂ ਕਰ ਹੂਆ!
ਰਬ ਇਕ ਗੁੰਜਲਦਾਰ ਭੁਜਾਰਾਤ; ਰਬ ਇਕ ਗੋਰਖ ਧੰਦਾ,
ਖੋਲਣ ਲੱਗੀਆਂ ਪੇਚ ਇਸ ਦੇ ਕਾਫ਼ਿਰ ਹੋ ਜਾਇ- ਬੰਦਾ!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 5

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 5

Cashless transactions: - PM Narendra Modi and FM Arun Jaitley and other ministers and functionaries of the government preached and propagated cashless transactions by electronic means to the perceived advantage of the common man and the financial system of the country. The loud pitch has died down as the dust raised during the demonetization has slowly settled down. These cosmetic
steps remained for sometime in the media and the government tended to claim lot of mileage of these facilities and reforms. But the situation on ground has not changed at all. The vested interests say the tax evaders and the corrupt are interested in this. They have failed the system. There is no body to check. It is unfortunate. Let me mention about one of my personal experiences in this regard. Most of the restaurants do not accept cards. During one of my visits to an old and established restaurant in Jalandhar at the time of demonetization, it was found that there was a notice to say “Sorry. We do not accept Credit/Debit Cards” kept at the entrance.

Will the authorities look into some of these irritants being faced by the people? It goes without saying that it will be difficult to curve these unethical practices and tendencies as long as easy cash generated through corruption and other illegal means remains in circulation. Corruption is the mother of all these ills.

Insensitive Media: - Over the last week, there have been reports in the media that somebody is chopping the hairs (choti or hair buns) of ladies for some ulterior purposes in some towns of UP and in and around Delhi. One does not know the veracity of the news but the rumour mongering had a field day. There was a news item in the Tribune of August 4 with the caption “Braid Cutter Dalit Lynched in Agra”. Yet another paper, Hindustan Times carried a
story “”Braid Chop Hysteria: Agra Villagers Lynch Dalit Woman”. I was wondering why the reporter has identified the old lady as a “dalit”. Was the word dalit needed to explain anything which could not be done otherwise? Did the reporter feel that such activities could only be done by dalits?  I think it is nothing more but a Manuwadi mindset of the insensitive media. Dalits are, of course, being lynched by anti-social elements mostly belonging to upper castes everyday in one pretext or the other in the caste ridden society. Generally, these stories are ignored by the biased and insensitive media. It is an unfortunate ground reality.

Chanakya Niti:- Saam-Daam-Dhand-Bhed: Chanakya  also known as Kautilya whose name was Vishnugupta was a philosopher adviser to Chadragupta Maurya in the 3rd-4th century BC. His political treatise ‘Arthashastra’ provides tenets of good governance and also advice on strategic and tactical approaches to deal with various aspects of governance and diplomacy. The crux of Chanakya’s philosophy is as valid today as it was before.  One of these dictums is the famous “Saam, Daam, Dhand and Bhed” The meaning of this is: -

Saam: to advice and ask or to express commonality with your counterpart.
Daam: to offer and buy or to offer monetary compensation.
Dand: to punish or threaten of harm.
Bhed: exploiting the secrets or try to single your opponent from his associates and cause division and dissention.

It is a considered and well thought of strategy to deal with ones opponents or enemy. In the present context in India, PM Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah are skillfully applying and practicing this Chanakya policy to deal with their political opponents. The recent developments in, inter alia, Gandhinagar,
Bengaluru, Lucknow, Patna to deal with Shankar Singh Vaghela, D.K. Shivkumar, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav are some of the clear pointers in this direction. There is no harm in practicing the traditional Indian wisdom in politics, diplomacy and governance. But I think it should not be done sparingly and selectively. Moreover, the same very Shastras also teach matching morality and Dharma. As Dr. Ambedkar also said, ‘Gyan without Sheel is dangerous’.

Incidentally, PM Narendra Modi in his message to a multilateral meeting – Sambad – Global Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environmental Consciousness the other day referred to yet another traditional gem from the Tarka Shastra to fight with the global challenges of terrorism, climate change and to eradicate religious prejudices that cause conflict across the world and said, “The ancient Indian concept of Tarka Shastra is founded on dialogue and debate as the model for exchange of views and avoidance of conflict.” May the traditional Indian wisdom finds favour with the Chinese leadership to end the ongoing standoff at Doklam – India-China-Bhutan border tri-junction.

Without Comment:-

“Fallout of Doklam may be that China will now openly back Pakistan in border disputes.”

Will There Be War – a story in India Today, August 15, 2017 issue.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 4

Bits and Pieces – As I Please – 4

President Ram Nath Kovind:- President Ram Nath Kovind took the oath of office on July 25 as the 14th President of India at a befitting ceremony at the Central Hall of the Parliament of India,
keeping with the tradition of such change of guard. Mahamahim Ram Nath Kovind appeared on the scene quickly from nowhere and true to the dictum ‘he came, he saw and he conquered’ reached and occupied the coveted position of Rashtrapati of Bharat. I wish him all success in the days to come.

I wrote about President Ram Nath Kovind a couple of times earlier in these columns. Many including the media and political observers and also the common people were apprehensive of the qualifications and standing of the new President to begin with. It is a matter of satisfaction, for people like me who thought otherwise, that his two formal speeches – one short statement after his election on July 20 and the second his statement after his oath taking on July 25 have clearly set things in the right perspective. He could clearly register that he should not be taken lightly. He presented himself with dignity and confidence befitting to his stature as an experienced and astute statesman with matching moral authority of a constitutional Head of State of a great country.

In his statement on July 20, President Kovind thanked all for the trust reposed in him. He recalled his humble origin in a “Kuchha House” in a remote village.  Referring to many poor people like himself struggling to earn their livelihood, he said, “I represent all those hard working people.” And added, “This is also a message to those who earn their livelihood with hard work and honesty.” He termed his election as “the greatness of the Indian democracy.”  Many of us, particularly from the dalit communities, expected him to invoke the names of Babasaheb Ambedkar and his first worthy dalit predecessor K.R. Naryananan in his first delivery but it was not to be. It was a brief statement as President-Elect. The second, his first official speech after the oath of office, was fulsome. Like a statesman, President Ram Nath Kovind began by saying, “I enter this office with all humility.” Referring to his journey from a “Mud House” to “Rashtrapati Bhawan”, he invoked the “basic mantra” of Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity enshrined in the preamble of the constitution of India saying, “I will always follow the basic mantra.”  He rightly mentioned, Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar instilled in us the value of human dignity and republican ethics.”  Cleverly like a seasoned and experienced politician, he avoided all other religious icons and invoked Lord Buddha and reiterated the main tenet of India’s foreign policy by saying, “It is appropriate that the land of Lord Buddha should lead the world in its search for peace, tranquility and ecological balance.”  The concepts of an egalitarian society and integrated humanism of Mahatma Gandhi and Deen Dayal Upadhaya found a mention in the much meaningful speech. There were some, probably considered, omissions like the role and place of Jawaharlal Nehru and his dalit predecessor K.R. Narayanan which were noticed and talked about by the critics and opponents. The name of new icons, belonging to the ruling outfit, found mention in the speech. It was natural and cannot be avoided.

President Ram Nath Kovind, a calm and quite personality, who was relatively unknown on the day of his nomination as a candidate for the highest office of the country, has made a mark on the day one itself. The speech in Hindustani was excellent both in its delivery and content. I am confident that the new President will come up to the expectations of the nation at large. Going by the oath of his office, apart from preserving, protecting and defending the constitution of India, President is expected of devoting himself to the service and well-being of the people of India. I wish him good health and further success in the days to come.

Incidentally, I have had opportunities to meet and interact with some of the Presidents of India. My immediate boss in PMO in 1974-77, Vimla Sindhi, popularly known as Behanji, who was a family friend of President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, took me to a cricket match at Firoz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi and we witnessed the match sitting with President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and the family in the VVIP stand. I worked with President K.R. Narayanan in Bejing (China) in 1977-78 when he was India’s Ambassador to China. I met and interacted with President Giani
Zail Singh during his visit to Sanaa (Yemen) in 1984, President APJ Abdul Kalam in 1998-99 when he was the Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defense. The incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind in 2001 when he kindly came for the marriage of my daughter Vaishali along with his gracious wife Savita Behan who is a close friend of my sister Kamla of Delhi. Subsequently, President Ram Nath Kovind visited my brothers at Bootan Mandi Jalandhar during the visit of Lal Krishan Advani.  I cherish memories of my association and interaction with these high-ups and may write about this separately at some later date.


Political Hopping – Undemocratic Circus: - The recent somersault of CM of Bihar, Nitish Kumar is the provocation to write about this undemocratic circus of changing sides. It is a negation of democracy and must be curved forthwith. It will prove to a “Grammar of Anarchy”, in the terminology of the father of the Constitution of India, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, for the polity and our country. Harish Khare of the Tribune has commented on the Nitish
saga, “A neat coup has been staged in Patna. Brilliantly conceived and cleverly executed.  Not with tanks and commandos but with a convenient conscience and gentrified opportunism. Within a space of 24 hours, a chief minister resigns, divests himself of his designated alliance partners, teams up with his declared political rivals and becomes chief minister again after getting sworn in at an unseemly superfast speed by a very obliging Governor.”

Our constitution has worked well in the face of many challenges of poverty, illiteracy, caste system, graded inequality, feudalism, religious dogmas etc. There are some glaring failures too, not because the constitution is bad but because “man is vile” as assessed by Dr. Ambedkar himself. One of the major failures, to my mind, is that even after 67 years of our becoming a democratic republic, polarization of political forces could not happen on the basis of ideology, programme and agenda. Ideally, there should be only three political main streams, keeping in mind that the Communists are increasingly getting out of reckoning not only in India but also in the world  – (i) Centre – Let us say Middle path – Socialists, Communists, Janta Dals and Lok Dals of all hues, etc.  (ii) Left of the Centre – Congress, TMC, BSP etc. and (iii) Right of the Centre – BJP, Shiv Sena, Hindu outfits etc. All regional parties like Akali Dal, DMK, AIDMK, BJD, National Conference, PDP, Assam Gana Parishad etc. should be confined to their respective states. They should align themselves with any of the three streams before elections by law. Any MLA or MP who intends to change his or her affiliation will automatically loose his or membership of the legislature or the house of parliament. Political parties too should not be permitted to change their group affiliations or say coalition partnership mid-way. It can be done only at the time of elections. It has been observed over the years that politically disgruntled elements and opportunists tend to subvert the system for personal advantage rather than caring for the ideology and programme of the party they belonged to. The electoral reforms introduced so far could not help the matter to prevent and eliminate political hopping, unfortunately. This undemocratic circus must be stopped forthwith. The national status of political parties should be determined not only on the basis of percentage of votes polled but also in a given number of states. These measures are needed to deter the Aaya Rams – Gaya Rams of Indian politics to negate the democratic system for their selfish motives. India has come a long way in its constitutional development but it has yet to attain the political culture conducive for democracy. Political opportunism has to be checked, the sooner the better. My motivating guru of ‘As I Please”, Kunwar Natwar Singh has commented very candidly, “Loyalty and politics are strangers. The past few days have displayed low-class political opportunism. The enemies of yesteryears have become friends today. When the next opportunism appears, opportunists cannot be far away.” It is sad commentary on this aspect of our polity.

Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar was very particular in placing morality above other things in electing the people’s representatives. He said, “The education can hardly be the sole qualification for membership of the parliament. If I may use the words of Buddha he said that
man requires two things: one is ‘Gyan’ and the other is ‘Sheel’. Gyan without Sheel is very dangerous. It must be accompanied by Sheel by which we mean character, moral courage, ability to be independent of any kind of temptation, truthful to ones ideals. I am very keen to see that no member enters this august assembly who does not possess Sheel in adequate degree.”

We may ignore these hard realities at our own peril.

Barbaadi-e-gulshan ke liye
Jab ek hi ullu kafi tha
Har shaakh pe ullu baitha hai
Anjaam-e-gulistaan kya hoga..!?


Without Comment:-
Mao Zedong a keener student of the Art of War than of the Das Kapital saw Tibet in strategic terms. He said the Tibetan plateau was the palm with Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh as the five fingers. With China gaining influence in Nepal, now threatening to recognize Sikkim as independent and obliquely hinting at stoking a democratic revolution in the Kingdom of Bhutan, Beijing may have plans to join the five fingers to the palm.”

Thumten Samphel, Director of the Tibet Policy Institute in his article “China’s Great Game” published in the Outlook Magazine – July 24, 2017 issue.