Editorial 1/Half open door
Editorial 2/Unpleasant stay
Bill the blunderbuss
Letters to the Editor
Think gender/Book review
The effect of the accidental/Book review
With gusto from sin to sin/Book review
Between figure and function/Book review
Small, but not always beautiful/Bookwise

Though there was much flourish in its announcement, there are hard reasons for the Bharatiya Janata Party led government’s further opening the door to foreign direct investment. FDI suffered a massive deflation in the 1998-99 fiscal year, falling to $ 2.46 billion, about a third less than the previous year. Figures for foreign portfolio investment were bleaker still. They were actually negative, with more dollars leaving India than coming in. This was a far cry from the government’s once proud talk of soaking up $ 10 billion in FDI, let alone catching up with China which still racks up foreign investment in the $ 40 billion region. Though the government has hidden behind the excuse of elections or sanctions, there is clearly something rotten in the state of foreign investment in India.

The latest set of decisions regarding FDI are a step forward, but less exciting than the Centre makes them out to be. There is something to cheer about in the raising of the ceiling on FDI in eight industrial sectors, including allowing foreign investment in advertising, films and tourism for the first time. However, whatever concessions the government has made, half are lost in the small print. For example, it claims there will be automatic approval for FDI in films. But it has tacked on five conditions, including an outdated insistence on dividend balancing. Banking, aviation and telecommunications are among the sectors in which it has not raised ceilings, but has granted automatic approval. The latter only means the foreign investment promotion board is out of the picture, but a thicket of terms and conditions remains. The fingerprints of Indian domestic industry seeking to avoid foreign competition are evident in much of this. In civil aviation, the government has reduced investment opportunities in domestic air transport. Finally, there is still a negative list. Foreign investors will need approval from the FIPB to invest in sectors in which they already have a collaboration. All investments in the form of equity purchases also have to get approval. This is particularly unfortunate given that investments through share buying are one of the few FDI methods that saw figures go northward in 1998-99. Equally mindless was the retention of obstacles to foreign investment in the small sector, alcohol and tobacco products. The problem with this sort of creeping, two steps forward and one step back, reform is that it does little to encourage FDI. Investors look at half measures and assume that if they wait another year or two, the door will be opened even wider. FDI figures are expected to redound this year, but the real issue is how to boost them into China’s league. There is nothing about the present policy that indicates FDI will continue to do more than trickle into India.    

It was an unlucky three for Ms J. Jayalalitha, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu and the general secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. The Tansi land scandal and the coal import case had not landed her in jail. But the Pleasant Stay Hotel case has brought a conviction with it on the counts of conspiracy and criminal misconduct. Four others have also been convicted, but obviously it is Ms Jayalalitha’s conviction that has caused the most ripples. Some of the ripples have taken a lethal turn. Three students were burnt to death when a bus was set on fire allegedly by AIADMK supporters led by a partyman in protest against Ms Jayalalitha’s conviction. The complete hideousness of this outcome is an index of the violence that underlies political life in the country today. It seems immaterial to AIADMK supporters that the party leader’s conviction has come from a court of law. The immediate response to a lawful exercise has been, as is usual now, an eruption of extreme lawlessness.

It is up to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government to deal firmly with this kind of violence, whether or not it has the Centre’s backing in the matter. Because this is just the beginning. The DMK government has two other cases on which it hopes to nail the former chief minister: the television scandal and the disproportionate income case. There is absolutely no doubt, as politicians keep on repeating piously, that the law will take its own course. It has done so in the cases of Dara Singh and Indrajit Ray, there is no reason it should not do so in Ms Jayalalitha’s. But in the highly politicized atmosphere of the country, it is not always easy to disentangle political motivations from the initiation of a judicial process. It is inevitable that political motives will come to mind in the case of Ms Jayalalitha, if only because she and her party have kept jumping from one political bandwagon to another in order to try and stall the judicial process. It is not so much the DMK as Ms Jayalalitha herself who has kept the political colouring behind the corruption cases firmly in people’s minds. Already the AIADMK’s newfound allies are murmuring their support. Things do not look too bad after all. Ms Jayalalitha has been given two sentences of one year’s rigorous imprisonment — to run concurrently. In other words, there is no bar against her running for elections, since the Election Commission demands a bar against those with two year imprisonments. It is a pity that a politician who has been proven guilty of criminal misconduct and conspiracy while in the highest office in a state should be allowed to run again for elections. Public money has been spent in a case brought against a leader who had betrayed her electorate. The people may now ask what else needs to be proven against her so the court might think it fit to save them from her depredations.    

The World Trade Organization’s Seattle ministerial conference ended in a whimper. There were two key reasons. One was the stubborn insistence of the United States to try and link trade with labour issues while ignoring developing country sensitivities. The other was the sharp divide within the developed world over agricultural export subsidies.

The debacle in Seattle has undermined the credibility of the WTO. It has raised concerns that the WTO’s structure is too unwieldy, its procedures too arcane, to cope with the centrifugal interests of 135 members. Seattle saw deep divisions between the US and the European Union, the North and South, and within developing nations — for example, the least developed countries formed their own trade group.

Multilateral trade rounds often face crises. Efforts to launch the Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade failed in 1982. They did not begin until four years later and broke down repeatedly thereafter. The GATT director general, Arthur Dunkel, saved the round by getting the US and the EU to agree to the Blair House accord on agriculture.

Three players are more to blame for the failure in Seattle than others. One was Charlene Barshefsky, the US trade representative, who chaired the talks and led the US negotiating team. Her abrasive and dominating style proved ill suited to achieving a consensus. Many countries bridled at her attempts to impose US drafts on sessions.

Player two was the US president, Bill Clinton, who infuriated WTO delegates by sympathizing with the anti-trade demonstrators who besieged Seattle. He supported their demands that labour and environmental measures be included in the WTO agenda. This was designed to woo voters during the coming US presidential elections. He publicly said the US’s negotiating objective was to set up a WTO working group on trade and labour rights. The ultimate goal would be to have the WTO enforce core labour standards through sanctions.

Clinton at one point threatened that the US might use unilateral sanctions to enforce such standards if the WTO failed to agree to do so. His statement so infuriated developing country delegates that they rejected labour linkage wholesale. The former EU trade commissioner, Leon Brittan, said Clinton dealt a “body blow” to the negotiations.

Player three was the US vice-president, Al Gore. The US administration’s overriding aim in Seattle was to boost or at least avoid harming Gore’s electoral prospects with organized labour. This “no body bags” trade policy meant the US refused to concede ground to developing countries on issues like textiles, antidumping and labour. In the end, the US chose to walk away from Seattle rather than compromise Gore’s presidential hopes.

The other key issue that led to the failure of the Seattle conference was the intransigent attitudes of the US and EU over agriculture. Two contending trade factions — the EU, backed by Canada, Norway, Switzerland and Japan, and the US, backed by Australia, Argentina and other members of the Cairns group — failed to find common ground. George Yeo, Singapore’s trade minister, prepared a report calling for a progressive phasing out of the EU’s export subsidies. The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation complained that this did not go far enough, that “anything less than complete elimination is unacceptable”. The EU commissioner, Franz Fischer, responded by saying Brussels did not accept Yeo’s text. “It does not sufficiently reflect our core positions.” This was echoed by Japan, Switzerland, Norway and South Korea.

The final blow came with last minute letters by WTO members from some African, Caribbean and Latin American countries rejecting the ministerial declaration worked out by Barshefsky and the WTO secretariat. Kenya and Egypt opposed the entire conference because of the “green room process” where decisions were made excluding developing countries. The Kenyan ambassador said, “We had spent many months carefully preparing our position papers and, therefore, this failure has disappointed us. However, in order to protect our future interests we must have transparent procedures in place.”

Developing countries began coordinating their positions more closely after the WTO’s Geneva ministerial conference in 1998 because they felt their interests were not being properly addressed. They formed a like minded group during the preparatory process, exchanging approaches on current issues, sharing information and preparing common papers despite political differences. They presented over half the 250 papers received by the WTO secretariat in preparation for Seattle. All the papers stressed the need to implement the earlier Uruguay round agreements. The US was among those that rejected this stand. The US ambassador to the WTO said it would mean opening existing agreements that “are finely balanced”.

India’s role in Seattle was relatively passive. It decided to consider only issues in which it had an interest and any concession it made had to be reciprocated. India declined to become involved in all North-South issues.

However, it vehemently resisted US moves to link trade with labour and environmental standards. The Indian commerce minister, Murasoli Maran, declared, “I cannot drink a drop of poison.” Indian delegates were visibly upset when Clinton signed an international treaty banning “the worst forms of child labour” like prostitution, soldiering and slavery. The US was supported only by Seychelles and Malawi. Clinton targetted child labour used in Pakistani soccer balls, Brazilian shoes and Guatemalan fireworks.

India succeeded in thwarting US and EU attempts to link labour and environmental standards with trade. It was helped by a last minute revolt by all developing countries responding to Clinton’s sanctions threat. Seattle closed without even a final declaration to show for all its effort.

A major danger is the increasing temptation of the US to turn to unilateral trade action, using its Omnibus Trade and Competitive Act. The US congress is itching to resume its export subsidy war with the EU’s agricultural industry. The Congress is also balking at complying with a WTO ruling against US tax breaks to exporters, subsidies that help firms like Microsoft and Boeing. US legislators are due to vote in March on whether the US should withdraw from the WTO. A yes vote is unlikely, but the debate could be revealing.

The fear is that in this mood, the US will use bilateral pressure on developing countries if it fails to get the WTO involved in the business of labour and environmental standards. This could include threatening unilateral trade sanctions against countries that fail to comply with its norms. There have been at least two recent cases where the WTO has had to rule against unilateral trade measures by the US designed to further the agenda of environmentalists. One of those cases was filed by India, angered by US bans on Indian shrimp exports because of the failure of fishermen to use turtle saving devices in their nets.

The author teaches international trade and commerce at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi    


Dream runs

Sir — The under-19 Indian cricket team has shown the world how to give dreams shape even in the absence of adulation, fanatical public support and money (“Boys show the men how to do it”, Jan 29). On the other hand, the senior cricket team of the country has brought disgrace and shame to the nation. Sadly, Indian cricket fans, known all over the world for their great love of the sport, have never encouraged the youngsters. They have not looked beyond the hype and glamour associated with the Sachin Tendulkars and Rahul Dravids. Reetindar Singh Sodhi has brought for the country something all the star cricketers could not. In fact, the respective shows put up by the two Indian cricket teams indicate how stardom and money have made the seniors rather indifferent to the sport. Had the Indian team not performed so poorly Down Under, the world cup brought home by the young boys would hardly have been the cause for exultation. This too is typical. The win has only made up for the battered ego of Indian cricket fans.

Yours faithfully,
Souvik Mukherjee, Calcutta

Setting new precedents

Sir — The news report, “Govt in statute review snub to President” (Jan 29), reveals how yet again K.R. Narayanan has started to interfere needlessly into matters beyond his jurisdiction. In his speech at the special session of Parliament on the occasion of 50 years of the adoption of the Constitution, Narayanan commented on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s proposal for a review of the Constitution, saying it was more important to consider whether the Constitution had failed us or whether we had failed the Constitution. Undue zeal in the matter may lead the president towards a path of confrontation with the government.

Is it just the welfare of the people that inspires him? Could he have forgotten how he had been accused of playing politics and going beyond the Constitution when he allowed Sonia Gandhi 72 and then 48 hours to muster the numbers needed to stake her claim to the prime ministership. Surely, in that instance, he failed the Constitution. Atal Behari Vajpayee has behaved in a most gentlemanlike fashion by trying to retain the facade of a united front.

Earlier, Vajpayee had had the option of refusing to heed the president’s advice to seek a vote of confidence in April 1999. The Constitution clearly says the president must abide by the advice of his cabinet. He does not have any powers of independent action like the United States president. Thus, if he disagrees, he must keep it to himself. The National Democratic Alliance had in its manifesto promised a much needed review of the Constitution; its government has the mandate to do so. If Narayanan disagrees he only has to resign and contest the Lok Sabha elections.

Narayanan thinks “accountability” is much more important than “stability”. What about his own responsibility in the matter of the departure of a constitutionally elected government which burdened the country with the expenses of an unnecessary election?

Yours faithfully,
Manojit Sanyal, Chandernagore

Sir — The president’s Republic Day speech on the need to proceed cautiously with economic reforms highlighted the misgivings of many that the reforms will not solve or even alleviate the problems of the have-nots in India (“Back to the basics”, Jan 30). In 1973, I. Adelman and C.T. Morris in Economic Growth and Social Equity in Developing Countries, studied the development patterns in 43 nations. It found no evidence of any automatic “trickle down” of the benefits of economic growth to the very poor. On the contrary, there was reason to believe the growth process was skewed in favour of the middle class and the rich.

As the article points out, the recent reforms process has increased the number of people living below the poverty line. A higher per capita income, per se, is no indication of poverty amelioration because it masks the problems of unequal distribution of economic power. Supporters of the reforms process may do well to remember what Adam Smith, the “father” of laissez faire economics, had said way back in 1776, “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which by far the greater part of the numbers are poor and miserable.”

Yours faithfully,
Suparna Sanyal, Howrah

Sir — The news report, “President, PM in statute face off” (Jan 28), reflects the growing differences between K.R. Narayanan and Atal Behari Vajpayee. Narayanan is becoming increasingly assertive and even seems to be overstepping his authority. There was another controversy sometime ago about his apparently favouring caste based reservations in the judiciary. This was unfortunate. Besides, his speech at the special session of Parliament was a challenge to the government and unfortunately gave rise to the suspicion that he is not entirely free of political bias. One hopes he does not become an obstacle in the way of the smooth functioning of the Vajpayee government. Certainly his heavyhanded approach to sensitive issues has succeeded in lowering the dignity of the office of president.

Yours faithfully,
Hrishikesh Chakrabarti, Agartala

Sir — The editorial, “Wrong Occasion” (Jan 28), says the Republic Day speech by the president, K.R. Narayanan, was “couched in socialist rhetoric”. Although the president must act within the parameters of the Constitution, he is also in a way the conscience of the council of ministers; and if the elected representatives fail to discharge their responsibilities, the president has every right to censure them. The president’s speech may be an occasion for soul searching, necessary to for every welfare state. His reminder that development must not lose sight of the poor, the evils of inequality and dangers of consumerism is especially relevant in the golden jubilee year of the adoption of the Constitution.

Yours faithfully,
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge

Sir — The English language media tends to go up in arms, quite unthinkingly, at the slightest hint of any opposition to economic reforms (“Wrong occasion”, Jan 28). The first round of reforms have failed to benefit the urban middle class, let alone the very poor. The government seems unruffled as it surges ahead with the second round of reforms. The principal opposition party could not care less. Somebody has to bell the cat — express the concern of everyone but the super-rich. Towards that end the president’s speech is reassuring.

Yours faithfully,
Rajib Kumar, Calcutta

Party in trouble

Sir — The editorial, “Heat of a moment” ( Jan 25), rightly observes how the Communist Party of India (Marxist), once called the people’s party, has now completely transmuted itself into an anti-people’s party. Violence is rampant now as events in Sonarpur and Kasba indicate. The CPI(M) has lost all credibility in the eyes of the people on account of corruption among its top leaders and their closeness to criminals. Violence and lawlessness in the city have made the people insecure. In spite of all this, the chief minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, suggests that the state is still among the most peaceful in India.

Yours faithfully,
Dhaneswar Banerjee, Bolpur

Sir — The recent difference of opinion in the CPI(M) reveals that most of the top leaders of the party do not favour intra-party democracy. Yet this can only help the party in the long run. The state’s transport minister, Subhas Chakraborty, has been censured by his party for interacting with the Union railways minister, Mamata Banerjee. Is their interaction not natural, since they must work together to improve transport facilities? Can’t members of two political parties, with diametrically opposed ideologies, exchange opinions on issues that concern the people? Saifuddin Chowdhury has been called a dissident for talking about the need for democracy. CPI(M) bigwigs must deal fairly with the “dissidents” so the party does not seem to be intolerant of criticism.

Yours faithfully,
Basudeb Bhattacharya, Calcutta

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Off the Beaten Track: Rethinking Gender Justice for Indian women
By Madhu Kishwar, Oxford, Rs 495

The nervousness about reviewing a book by Madhu Kishwar has its source partly in the fact that her image in readers’ minds is somehow larger than life as the founding editor of Manushi, her most enduring contribution. This journal, focussing on the struggles and contribution of Indian women, came at a time when no such thing existed and when mainstream newspapers allowed not more than 150 words for news on women.

There is more cause for trepidation. There was a report in an English daily that she had “advised” its editor that she would rather this book — Off the Beaten Track, Rethinking Gender Justice for Indian Women — was not sent to “well-known feminists” for review. She reasoned, “My essays have provoked a great deal of anger and upset those in the feminist establishment in India. Past experiences tell me that these reviewers are likely to present a hugely distorted version of my analysis of various issues.” (Thank god, I am not well known, though I must confess I am a feminist). Since the editor of this newspaper has not let on whether the author has set certain preconditions, I must stick my neck out, as they say.

Many of Kishwar’s essays in the collection had created a furore when they were first published in Manushi, between 1980-97. Some of the 18 essays in the collection were reactions to debates by feminists on dowry and women’s property rights, conducted on the pages of Manushi and of other academic journals. Unfortunately, there is no reference to or synopses of these other articles, which could have given a sense of other voices, making the volume richer.

Kishwar’s introduction addresses the most serious question facing the women’s movement today: why is it that despite so much attention being focussed on women’s rights, the vast majority of women in India are still so disadvantaged? Most of the essays, she claims, are an attempt to re-evaluate interventions made by Manushi and leading women’s organizations on specific issues. Through this self-audit, she examines her own estrangement from mainstream opinion and from those “who view themselves as social reformers, feminists and progressives”.

In reality, it is the latter category that she crosses swords with in her essays. In the Eighties, during the nationwide anti-dowry movements following numerous deaths of young married women, Kishwar argued dowry was a share in the parental property which gave women a certain status. This argument is dangerous because it links a woman’s status only to marriage and property. Does this then mean that women can share parental property (that is, as dowry) and obtain a certain status only if they are married? Then in the absence of one or both, the woman, as an individual, is a zero.

It is with her reflections on “family” that one’s discomfort with Kishwar’s arguments grows further. She makes the valid point in “Love and Marriage” that in a self-arranged marriage it is wrong to assume that simply because the two “chose” each other they will have a more egalitarian relationship. But her advocacy of family-arranged marriages and the joint family as being a “safety measure” for women since “the support of the in-laws will help a woman keep her husband disciplined and domesticated” or if the husband were to start extramarital affairs, the “in-laws would pressurize the man to behave better” is pathetic in its naivety.

The experience of women reveals otherwise. The only safety measure both parents and in-laws provide the woman is to advise her to “adjust” and “sacrifice” her own self-esteem in the name of the honour and wellbeing of the family. Reported data, which is only the tip of the iceberg, show that it is within the confines of the family that the instances of domestic violence, wife battering and incest are high and are increasing. Most women are unable to confront the family because of their dependence on it and because it provides a form of institutional support to its members.

This should not distract from the fact that the collection provides stimulating and challenging insights into debates that are relevant even today. Kishwar was among the first to warn against activists getting entrapped into formulating unimplementable laws, which only serves to strengthen the hands of the state and not empower women. “It was the lack of will on the government’s part not the lack of a law, that resulted in its failure. Yet the anti-sati campaign assumed that a stringent law was all that was needed to solve the problem,” she wrote on the burning of Roop Kanwar. She pointed out that Kanwar’s sati was not an act of murder (as it was simpler to argue) but the case of a woman “being hounded to death under a specious religious cover, and of her death being made a symbol by certain power groups to demonstrate their clout”.

The articles not only capture Kishwar’s own comprehension of the issues at that particular juncture; for the reader they are valuable because they reflect debates spanning almost two decades. Written spontaneously in a most down to earth style, the volume is exciting in the vast range of subjects she has tackled, ranging from love, sex, marriage, dowry, sexual harassment, sati, sex determination tests, denial of inheritance rights to beauty contests. The book is readable, lucid and hard hitting and worth the buy.

The problem with Kishwar’s articles is that though she has contributed to the realm of ideas, she does not invite debate. This is most stark in “Why I Do Not Call My Self a Feminist” where she traces her estrangement from feminist ideology beyond it being a personal statement. But she ends up making personal and vicious attacks on her opponents and though she herself hates to be labelled, her article is replete with name calling: “self-professed followers”, “coterie”, “label feminists”, “self-appointed theoreticians” to “self-appointed certificate givers”. The name calling and the obsessive use of “I” ( five in a paragraph of six and a half lines) sadly distract from and blur her arguments that otherwise raise important points about “ism”-driven politics. “The focus of my writing,” she writes passionately in the introduction, “is to make our society more humane and compassionate...how to ensure that the means we use are in conformity with the ends we seek...” Kishwar at times tends to lose sight of this focus.    

The Penguin Book of Twentieth Century Essays
Edited by Ian Hamilton, Allen Lane, £ 15

The essay as a literary genre was probably invented by Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1535-92). Reflecting on his own essays, he noted, somewhat self-deprecatingly, that they had been pieced together by nothing other than accident. Ian Hamilton makes the telling point that all essayists from the time of Montaigne have shied away from making any “high-flown or dogmatic claims for what they do’’. One reason for this, Hamilton suggests, is the form’s lawlessness.

The essayists for reasons best known to themselves are a trifle disingenuous. They deliberately overplay the lawlessness of the essay at the cost of the coherence, the rigour and the lucidity which hold together a good essay. The seeming lack of coherence grows out of the flexibility of the form.

Ian Hamilton writes in the foreword, “An essay is not poetry, an essay is not fiction, and yet now and then it can partake of both the fictional and the poetic. It can philosophize, it can polemicize, but it can also fail to look beyond its author’s own backyard. It can be an extended book review, a piece of reportage, a travelogue, a revamped lecture, an amplified diary-jotting, a refurbished sermon. In other words, an essay can be just about anything it wants to be, anything its author chooses to ‘essay’.’’

In this collection Hamilton presents a 20th century selection, but avoids essays on literary subjects. Thus, readers should not be surprised if they do not find favourites like George Orwell’s “Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool’’. The essays follow a chronological sequence so the volume is also a record of this century’s history. It begins with G.K.Chesterton’s piece called “Woman’’ which will make any feminists blood boil, and ends with Julian Barnes’s absolutely delightful review of Margaret Thatcher’s The Downing Street Years.

In between, there are wellknown essays without which a collection of this kind would be incomplete: T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and Individual Talent’’, F.R.Leavis’s “Mass Civilization and Minority Culture’’ and George Orwell’s “England, Your England’’.

But there are unexpected gems here. Graham Greene — a writer one does not usually associate with the essay — recreates his childhood reading (“The Lost Childhood’’) and the impact this had on his career as a novelist.

Hamilton includes most unexpectedly, but to this reviewer’s great joy, Nancy Mitford’s masterpiece on the English aristocracy, an essay which introduced the wonderful distinction between U and non-U. In a post-modern age, when one celebrates interpretation that is indifferent to the author’s intentions (the author is dead, they say), it is worth reading Mitford as a piece of outstanding sarcasm on the most eccentric of all social groups.

Maurice Baring’s little known essay called “King Lear’s Daughter’’ more than makes up for the absence of Orwell’s essay on the play. Baring’s essay takes the form of a letter that Goneril writes to her sister Regan. The clue for this is in the play itself, in Act I, Scene iv where Goneril says, “I have writ my sister’’.

In the letter, Goneril is not only self-righteous but also suggests that Lear and his entourage of 100 knights may not be very endearing company. In a telling P.P.S. she adds — and this is the great Baring touch — “It is wretched weather. The poor little ponies on the heath will have to be brought in.’’ The ponies will be in their stables during the ensuing storm but Lear will be out on the heath in the howling wind.

This is a very rich collection which showcases the various forms that the essay can take and the range of subjects it can cover. It shows also that writing a successful and readable essay is tough business. No wonder they say that the most difficult examination in the world is the one in Oxford in which on a cold autumn morning a don appears before the candidates and utters a single word. That word is the subject of the essay.    

By Protima Bedi, Viking, Rs 395

Protima Bedi’s memoirs is exactly what its title proclaims — purely “timepass”, but addictive for those who like their daily dose of scandal. By the standards of the conventional society, Bedi’s life was nothing short of scandalous and the book follows one such episode after another. One is reminded of Errol Flynn’s autobiography which had the same scandalous quality about it, but much of which was later proved to be fictitious.

There is an element of rationalization in the account of the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of a male relative when she was a child. This is a somewhat charitable way of looking at things. But it is difficult to sustain it considering the pain felt by her parents or the family of the several men she estranged from their loved ones. From the details she herself provides, some of the relationships left destruction in their wake.

Even in a permissive age, it is difficult to accept Bedi’s extolment of “sin”: “Living with Kabir ‘in sin’ was a wonderful experience. Just the idea of ‘sin’ made it so adventurous, so colourful, so utterly wicked.” It will be unfortunate if Bedi, who has all but faded from public memory, is looked upon as a role model for all the wrong reasons.

She puts the record straight, though, with regard to her original claim to fame — streaking outside the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai. The book reveals that the streaking took place in Goa among other streakers. A magazine superimposed this photograph on that of a Mumbai street. Bedi says she kept quiet since it would have been useless to deny it. So there!

What impresses, however, is the author’s dedication to dance. Protima Bedi got attracted to the Odissi dance form after watching a performance by Kelucharan Mahapatra and literally begged the guru to take her on as a disciple; with training, the gadfly metamorphosed into a classical dancer at a comparatively advanced age and took the orthodox world of classical dance by storm. She even studied classical literature, religion and mythology — a far cry from an adventure seeker who left home to live “in sin” with Kabir Bedi.

Bedi’s dedication to dance and her dream of setting up an Odissi dance centre, Nrityagram, are the two elements which contribute to the readability of the book. Nrityagram was founded in virtual wilderness with snakes for company. One of the first things done was the digging of a snake pit! A forest fire caused destruction and dacoits struck at the farm next door, increasing the sense of isolation and panic.

Through all the trials and tribulations, Nrityagram took root with five volunteers. Reluctant sponsors were roped in and renowned musicians performed in gratis to raise funds. Most important, it changed the attitude of the people around it towards the arts. Gradually, a number of students were inducted from the nearby villages. Thanks to the author’s connections, the centre was inaugurated by the then prime minister, V.P. Singh.

Sadly, Protima Bedi never believed in anything permanent, either in life or in the arts. When problems cropped up, she deserted Nrityagram to run away with her new love who had walked out on his wife to be with Bedi. In her last phase of near sanyas, one detects the influence of Kabir Bedi’s mother, a Buddhist nun. The eventful life was cut short by a landslide on the way to Kailash-Manasarovar.

In a way, the book may serve as a homily on how not to waste one’s life. Evidently, Protima Bedi had tremendous energy; to master a classical dance at a late age and then to enthral knowledgeable audiences could not have been easy.

It is a pity the energy was not harnessed in the right direction. Had it been, the world of classical dance would have been richer and the hip a little less outré.    

Governor: Preserver, Protector and Defender of the Constitution
By Chandra Bhushan Pandey, Vikas, Rs 495

The role of the governor, particularly in the post-1967 era of coalition governments has undergone a metamorphosis. The governor has emerged as a crisis manager. Chandra Bhushan Pandey tries to explore the role of the governor particularly over the issues of the appointment of chief ministers, imposition of president’s rule and granting sanctions for prosecuting ministers, even chief ministers.

He deals with other functions of the governor — granting pardons, summoning the assembly, assent to bills and their reservation, ordinances, appointment of judges and the discretionary powers.

With regard to Article 164(1) — which invests the governor with the power to appoint the chief minister and the other ministers — Pandey feels the controversy it raised remains unresolved even after court judgments. Based on his analysis of the role of the Uttar Pradesh governor, Pandey points to certain pertinent questions: does the governor have the power to dismiss the chief minister and the council of ministers if he believes the government has lost the confidence of the house?

Can the courts examine the order of the governor and his discretionary powers? Should the court exercise restraint or should matters as grave as this be disposed of on equitable grounds?

On the basis of reports sent by the governor, the president can proclaim emergency in a state. Pandey analyses the grounds for the use and misuse of Article 356 with specific reference to Gujarat and UP. Judges have questioned whether the use of Article 356 is subject to judicial review. Interestingly, there is no explicit provision in the Constitution which regulates this power of the governor nor has any convention developed in this regard.

As for giving assent to bills passed by a majority of both houses of the state legislature, Pandey mentions the steps that a governor can take before giving assent to a bill, or before reserving the bill for consideration of the president.

The power of the governor to promulgate ordinances when the legislative houses are not in session, has been enshrined in Article 213. Pandey clarifies that the governor cannot promulgate an ordinance if it contained some provisions requiring prior sanctions from the president. Promulgation of ordinances does not fall under the discretionary powers of the governor but must be exercised with the aid and advice of ministers.

The governor also has some special responsibilities like the administration and control of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes, and tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, besides according sanctions for prosecuting government employees. The author compares governors with presidents with respect to their position and powers — executive, legislative, judicial, discretionary and others. Last, he examines the role of the governor as the chancellor of universities.

The appendices in the book highlight the governor’s emoluments, allowances, the Privileges’ Act of 1982, warrant of precedence and notification on president’s rule.

B.R. Ambedkar classified the duties of the governor into two parts — to retain the ministry in office and to advise and warn the ministry and to suggest to it an alternative and ask for a reconsideration.

The governor’s role has now become largely functional. Pandey, a judge, an advocate and legal advisor to the governor of U.P., has observed the functioning of the governor’s office from close quarters. The book is an authoritative document on the functioning of the office of the governor and undoubtedly an excellent addition on the literature on the subject.    

The Book Fair is teeming with books published by small presses on all subjects for all ages. But “small presses” is a relative term. Compared to the dozen or so conglomerates, the rest of the publishing world may seem to be comprised of small presses. What are the relative advantages or disadvantages of going to small presses?

First, realistic small presses do not try to compete with the likes of Bantam, Random House and Oxford. They realise that everything about them operates on a smaller scale. Most small presses entered publishing (and this includes distribution too) for the love of it, not just for profit. Of course all publishers want successful books. But small publishers often measure success differently — not just in monetary terms as the big publishers do.

Many writers actually prefer to work with small presses. Since these are usually based on the publisher’s commitment to the subject matter and since they work with far fewer authors than the conglomerates, small press authors and their books receive more personal attention than the larger publisher can afford to give them. It is this that attracts many to the small publisher. In practical terms, “attention” means detailed editorial care, discussions on design and layout, meticulous proof-reading and indexing — generally done along the stages of the editorial and production process. The author feels “wanted” by the small publisher, while with the big boys, he is just another cog in the vast machine.

But a book being well-published and the author satisfied is not the end of the story; the real problem begins now with the distribution—the marketing and sales of the book. It has been argued that since small presses only commit to a few books every year, they are vitally interested in the promotion and sale of each title they publish. Others feel that although the big houses have a far greater promotional budget, much of this is siphoned off by the “big” books by well known authors that they have decided are likely to succeed. This leaves hundreds of “mid-list” books underpromoted and so, destined for failure.

There is some truth in the argument that the real problem with the big publisher is the sheer numbers they have to cope with: personal attention is an impossibility and hence, all promotion computer-driven: computers are programmed to “drop” titles after review copies and other promotionals are over. Thereafter a book becomes part of the vast catalogue and left to the vagaries of the market.

The case for authors moving over to small publishers may seem fairly strong. But in the publishing world today, everything boils down to money and affordability, and in that area small presses cannot compete with conglomerates. For one, their print runs and royalties are smaller and distribution infrastructure left to just one or two field representatives; promotional budgets pathetic compared to that of the big houses. The hard fact: small presses are understaffed and undercapitalized.

So what do these small presses actually do? In distribution, they lean on the bigger houses to do their job for them, by offering hefty discounts — up to 60 percent of the published price and hoping the “big brother” will do the rest. The big houses tag on the title to their promotional lists and do the rounds of booksellers, libraries and wherever there is a change of it being accepted. Sadly, the days of Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press, started in the basement of a house with a hand press “small enough to stand on a kitchen table” are over.    


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