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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

The post of President is no longer decorative

Khushwant Singh   May 05, 2012
First Published: 22:25 IST(5/5/2012) | Last Updated: 22:27 IST(5/5/2012)

Journalists who claim to be  Sabjantawallas (know-all) have pounced on men and women who will be in running for the posts of President and Vice President.  In a recent issue  Outlook Weekly has a picture of Vice-President Hamid Ansari with the caption "from Pranab Mukherjee to  Meira Kumar, from Badal to Kalam, the list of contenders is long and luminous.  But the Vice President is the top bet."

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Before  I publish my choices for these posts, let me make it clear that the posts of President  and Vice-President are no longer decorative but should go to people with proven ability to fulfil tasks expected of them.  That is why so many have exposed their disappointment with the present incumbent, Pratibha Patil.  She is colourless person who also subscribes to the irrational belief in astrology.

I have drawn up my own list of men and women from whom we should choose the ablest to hold these jobs.

The first name that comes to my mind for the new occupant of Rashtrapati Bhawan is that of Gopal Krishna Gandhi, former governor of West Bengal. Besides his impressive  linkage, to Bapu Gandhi and  C. Rajagopalachari, he has proved  to be an able administrator. Two other names that come to my mind are those of Ela Bhatt, founder and Head of SEWA - Self Employed Women Association which has opened opportunities to thousands of women to earn their own living and Leila Seth who was a topper in England's Barristers’ Exams and  Chief Justice of the Himachal High Court.  She happens to be the mother of Vikram Seth, India's  leading poet and novelist.  It must be emphasised that our Presidents must have good command of the English language as they have to travel widely across the globe as well as receive Heads of other States visiting India. Most people judge India by the  personality of its President.

For the post of Vice-President, I have only one name  to offer which will be acceptable to everyone.  It is Salman Haider of the Indian Foreign Service who retired from the post of Indian High Commissioner in London a few years ago. A more affable and able  civil servant I have not met.

Excellence in Book Production   

Niyogi Books have set  up standards of book production which few other publishers can match.  Their latest offering Zohra Segal: Fatty, by Kiran Segal is a good sample of her skill in book production. Their choice of subject and author are to be lauded.  If there was an election to select India's sweetheart number one, I have little doubt Zohra Segal, known to her family and friends as Fatty, would come out as the outright  winner. She was born of Muslim parents and joined Uday Shankar’s dance troupe.  She travelled round the world dancing in the big cities of Europe and United States. She married a Hindu some years younger than her.  For reasons  not disclosed, he took his own life.  Her daughter Kiran has written a highly readable account of her mother's private life as a dancer.  It will make a good  gift to give to relations and  friends on their birth or marriage anniversaries, or as simple gesture of goodwill.

I love my India

While the country experiences prosperity
Society is evolving, spirituality spreading
Alongwith ethics and morality
Giving a fillip to feelings of kindness, love and  sympathy -
Except that a maid in the house is beaten blue and black
Except that she is branded and kept hungry -
To learn a little more humility;
Except that minor girls are sold out in prostitution -
For thorough education;
Except that cut-off for  admission flies to the skies
Except that the suicides rise
Except that inquality increases with every reform
Except that an MLA on horseback rides to the railway platform
Except that patriotism has a new definition
Which is competition in corruption -
Dignity equality fraternity are to us a religion,
We love our country, we're proud of our nation.

(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

Vidya Balan in "The Dirty Picture"

Face and figure
Health and height
She has all the ammo right
Hold her tight
For turn she might
And shoot at sight
In broad daylight.

(Contributed by C.K. Rawat, Delhi)

The views expressed by the author are personal

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