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Balance of Pawar

There are two hurdles which unless crossed in the next two months, may spell government’s doom. One is the spiraling prices of foodstuffs like vegetables, pulses, onions, cooking oils, sugar etc, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2010 00:31 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

There are two hurdles which unless crossed in the next two months, may spell government’s doom.

One is the spiraling prices of foodstuffs like vegetables, pulses, onions, cooking oils, sugar etc.

The other is to restore law and order in the Naxalite controlled areas extending from the Nepal border through West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh to Karnataka.

The responsibility for overcoming the first rests principally on the shoulders of the Minister for Agriculture, Sharad Pawar; the other on that of the Home Minister P Chidambaram.

What Pawar has done so far does not inspire confidence. And what he said about the shortage of sugar being good for diabetics was downright silly. His close association with the sugar industry should have enabled him to come out with some positive proposals.

If prices of eatables don’t come down, the aam admi aur aurat will rise against the state.

The only answer to food shortage is to produce more food from the land available for agriculture.

There is plenty of scope for that and many progressive farmers have shown the way. Some have added production of honey or breeding fish and prams and exotic fruit to agriculture produce.

The government must provide them with the means and also harness wind and solar power to lessen dependence on conventional ways of generating electricity.

On no account should we be compelled to import food as we had to before the Green Revolution. We have to have a second Green Revolution of wider dimensions.

The Naxalite problem has been granted time to be resolved.

Tribals deprived of land and means of earning their livelihood have been driven to take up arms. Their deprivation has been increasing.

Chidambaram rued intellectuals sympathising with Naxalites. They do have sympathy for the tribals’ condition but no one approves of their war-like methods. It is an opportune time to open a dialogue with their leaders and meet some of their demands.

It is time for Chidambaram “to grasp the nettle danger to pluck the flower safely.” I keep my fingers crossed.

The Pathans
The Oxford English dictionary defines Pathan as “another term for Pashtun”. And Pashtun is “a member of a Pashto-speaking people inhabiting North West Pakistan and South East Afghanistan.” I found both the definitions inadequate as I have known many Pathans during my years in Lahore and know quite a few in India today.

They are an important part of our history. They came as conquerors — the Suris and the Lodhis are the most prominent. The mention of a Pathan created fear in the minds of our forefathers, because they were fierce warriors. The one I know best is Mohammed Abid Saeed Khan of village Bugrasi in district Bulandshahr.

He is an imposing six-foot four inches. Far from being fearsome, he is gentle as a lamb. There is nothing martial about him. He has orchards and grows a variety of most delicious mangoes I have ever tasted. He generously brings crates of them during the mango season. I never have to buy any.

Once during his visit, I told him that of all the books I had written none had given me the sense of fulfillment I got after writing my two volumes of The Religion & History of the Sikhs — I felt I had done my life’s work. The notion germinated in Abid’s mind.

A couple of weeks ago, he triumphantly gifted me the first copy of his book Meri Bastiyaan Merey Log Ma ijmali Tareekh Afghanan Wa Sawana-e-Hayaat Sher Shah Suri aur Khan Jahan Lodhi. There are many different tribes of Pathans spread all over India.

Abid has concentrated on 12 bastees adjacent to Bugrasi of his tribe. He has illustrated it with photographs of their mosques and havelis of the well-to-do. It is written in simple Urdu prose. To the best of my knowledge, it is the first publication on the subject.

Fighting Inflation
India is indeed a lucky country
With a leader like Pawar and a party like NCP
Whose mouthpiece has given
A panacea and not just a remedy
For the biggest worry
Corroding the nation
The food inflation
If sugar is costly
Eat less, avoid diabetes
Reduce intake of wheat,
Vegetable, fruit and meat,
Remain slim and trim,
And you’ll never need the gym.
If the minister forecasts increase in price
Of milk, sugar and rice,
He should be given Bharat Rattan
For taking care of the nation
By whipping up inflation.

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Mar 06, 2010 23:43 IST