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View across the border

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hariharan1972

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Article by a Pakistani writer on how "effective" is the "legal system" in India. Going thru this, i only felt that the state of lawlessness in Pakistan had to be so high that to her India seems to be "better". However we know the truth, don't we ?

By Tasneem Noorani
IF INDIA’S economy has been growing at the rate of nine per cent for the last two years, why should it bother us? If an Indian company concludes a deal to buy a steel multinational at $12 billion and other Indian companies are acquiring businesses in Europe and the US by the hundreds, why should it concern us? Or if the US government announces 800,000 visas for the Indians during one year, next only to the number of visas issued to the Mexicans who live next door, should we be bothered?

Yes, it does bother one because we were carved out of the same country 60 years ago and have had a kind of a sibling rivalry ever since. If Malaysia came from behind and overtook us that is a another thing, or if South Korea borrowed our development strategy in the 1960s and is now miles ahead of us, that is a far-off country. But if India is getting ahead of us, it gives one a hollow feeling in the pit of one’s stomach.

I had the opportunity to travel through India early this month on a consultancy assignment and what I saw needs to be shared with my dear countrymen for a possible wake-up call – knowing well that it may not have the desired effect considering the depth of our slumber.

Since there was no contact with officialdom during this trip, my impressions are based on personal observations and through meeting ordinary people. To give a sense of India today, it is possible to indicate a few things that strike one as different from Pakistan. These are related in no particular order.

While I was in Amritsar, the election campaign for the Punjab state assembly elections was in full swing. In that connection I was told that the DG police (equivalent to our IG police) had been recently transferred out on the orders of the election commission, the reason being that the opposition had complained to the election commission that the chief minister of Punjab had recently allowed the conversion of a plot belonging to the Punjab DG’s brother for the construction of a hotel. Note the transfer was ordered by the election commission.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Amritsar to address a political rally to support Congress candidates. It was reported in the press that the attendance at the prime minister’s political rally was rather poor. Finding it odd I asked someone as to why the district administration was sleeping. Were they that incompetent that they could not arrange an audience for the rally of the prime minister? I was told that this did not happen in India. If the DC had tried to be efficient and to show his loyalty to the prime minister, he would have lost his job.

In the state of Bihar during the election campaign, the DG police surreptitiously visited Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, the former chief minister and the current railway minister, at his residence in a private car. The visit was reported by the press. Political opponents of Laloo Prasad reported the matter to the election commission. The DG was shunted out of the state immediately.

Now on the lighter side, we went to see a film in Amritsar. Having gotten there a little early, we had to wait in the main lobby of the cinema hall. Waiting along with us were beggar women with several small children. Nobody harassed or pushed them out because they also had tickets. Inside the cinema they sat a few rows ahead of us.

I observed with intense curiosity the behaviour of young men in the presence of young women at public places. No one stares at women, a great pastime for us Pakistani men. As a matter of fact, the sight of a girl driving a scooter does not even elicit the batting of an eyelid.

While in Delhi, we asked someone to direct us to a particular restaurant we had visited the last time we were there. We were told that the building in which the restaurant was located had been pulled down as per the orders of the supreme court as it had been built on that land against the rules. The officials who had allowed the illegal construction were being prosecuted.

In Mumbai, we spent a weekend at the farm of an affluent friend. This farm was 50km from the city. During our two-day stay we did not see a single security guard. When we asked our friend how he, despite his affluence, lived without security, we were told that a few years ago, he used to have a number of gunmen, but was now left with only one, and he did not feel it necessary to carry his gun with him all the time. We were told that a few years ago, his servants used to avoid going out at night to the town for grocery shopping, but that things had improved since and there was no longer any risk in driving on those roads at any time of night or day.

On the streets of Mumbai one was struck by the sight of thousands of taxis, all of the same brand of an old model of Fiat. They do not have air-conditioning, are run mostly on CNG and charge strictly as per a digital meter, which cannot be tampered with. There is no bargaining and no arguments on the fare with the commuters. The traffic is exasperatingly slow-moving but orderly. No one tries to push the other off the road, so while it takes hours to get from one part of the city to the other, everyone seems to be at peace with himself and there are no fights or undue blowing of horns or a show of discourtesy to each other. While walking on most roads one did not see any beggars and the only person who sometimes pesters you is the shoeshine boy.

Indians despite their numbers and recent success have not dropped their bias towards Pakistan. We could not find any Pakistani television channel in any hotel or home on cable TV. When asked we were told that it is so because there is no demand from the Indian public to watch Pakistani television. This is an unbelievable argument, but they give it to you with a straight face.

Newspapers also carry only negative news about Pakistan, especially news pertaining to terrorism. I came away with that impression that the image of Pakistan in the eyes of the Indian public is being lowered day by day as they are not being encouraged to see the normal face of Pakistan. Most Indians who visit Pakistan, therefore, go back pleasantly surprised.

An Indian businessman, who visits Lahore very often, on being asked what he found different in Lahore, said that two things stood out. Firstly, Pakistani hospitality is overwhelming. (This is the impression of not just one Indian). Secondly, he got the distinct impression that in our society the maxim of might is right fits well and he felt that important people in Pakistan could get away with anything. According to him, the Indian judiciary and the press make sure that nobody feels that they are above the law in India.

Actor Sanjay Dutt, who is very popular amongst the masses because of his role in film Munna Bhai, was recently convicted by a terrorist court for an offence committed in 1993 on the charge of possessing illegal weapons. He was cleared of the charge of terrorism. Since the mandatory term for possessing illegal arms in India is five years, he is attending court to receive the final verdict on his sentence. The anti-terrorist court took years to decide the case but did not lose sight of it and did not let it die. Also the message of law being equal for all is clear, and the offence of possessing arms is highlighted for everyone to note.

These may be small observations but they pertain to a country of which we were once a part. The earlier we get out of our state of denial the better it would be for us and, more importantly, for our future generations.

The writer is a former interior secretary.
Email: [email protected]
 
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lotus_quartz

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Your referral to article by tanseem noorani made interesting reading. Had the author made study of Indian society and commented on it, it could be even more interesting to know what they think of our country infinitely divided on the lines of caste, colour, creed, economic status, political affiliations, linguistic divisions and what not.

The positive side of our society still remains the 'live and let live' attitude and a general level of tolerance to everything including the good, the bad and the ugly!

It remains an undisputed fact that Hindi movies (in particular, indian movies in general) and cricket have been great binding force and unifiers that have culturally integrated the vastly diverse groups of endogamous groups that constitute the Indian population.
 
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hariharan1972

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Read the dawn.....www.dawn.com

Visit the dawn website daily....especially sections - letters, editorial & opinion. They hold a wonderful kaleidoscope into the minds of the Pakistani.

Every friday there is a new article posted by 3 wonderful writers - Ayaz Amir, Irfan Hussain & Cowasjee....simply fantastic...

Oflate there is Jaweed Naqvi of India who is listed as one of the columnists. Sadly & perhaps typical of indian mindset, he chooses to find fault with india more often than not, clearly eyeing some brownie points from the pakistani readers.

My impression of what pakistan thinks about india is :

a) They clear resent India "assuming" to be a "better" nation than Pakistan. If india boasts of "economic superiority" they are quick to point out the teeming millions in India who are below poverty.

b) They are clearly impressed with the fact that in India democracy has flourished & flourished well despite odds.

c) Ofcourse a section of readers clearly toe the "predictable line" of hindu fundamentalism accusing BJP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal et all

d) Yet another fact they are impressed about india is the "strength of the indian education system" in churning out students good enough to gain entry into choicest institutions like MIT, Harvard etc...

They suffer from similar apathy of their rulers be it in civic amenities, public services etc.. & in that sense they are no different from us.

One fact i found very encouraging is that lot of indian readers do write to dawn & they don't flinch in publishing letters which are critical of pakistan or a pakistani's view point. Contrasting this with Hindu, i am pleasantly surprised. (I wrote once to dawn about the violence unleashed in bengaluru after dr rajkumar's death which got published).

It's a damn good site & you'll love it for sure.

Also if you are one of those who follow cricket live scores, dawn has a section for that too & doesn't get timed out too often unlike cricinfo.
 
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