Thursday, September 25, 2014


It has been decided to shut down the HMT Watch Division after 53 years of its operations. It is said that HMT watches were a tribute to the manufacturing skills of India.  PM Jawaharlal Nehru called it (HMT watch) a jewel in India’s crown. HMT watches became a household name in India before Tata and other brands came as its competitors. My first watch, costing a princely sum of about Rs.70, sometime in 1965-66, was an HMT beauty.  Later, in the early 70’s, on my father’s requirement, I purchased, with a recommendatory slip from the PA of the Minister of Industries, a couple of watches from their retail outlet in Connaught Place in New Delhi and sent them to Jalandhar.  Later, in the early 80’s I was the Protocol Officer in the Ministry of External Affairs dealing with gifts to be exchanged with foreign dignitaries by our political and beaurocratic leadership. The HMT watches were one of the easy and acceptable options for presentation both to male and female recipients. In fact, we used to keep in stock a few HMT watches of different kinds to meet any immediate and sudden requirement. HMT watches did well. It appears that the company could not keep pace with the new market requirements. It is a pity.

My HMT watch
I still use HMT watches. Chairman of HMT gifted me in 1999 a commemorative watch issued at the silver jubilee of India’s Independence. I have an HMT pocket watch which I generally use with Nehru jackets and bandgala suits. These are my valued possessions. Sometimes things can go wrong without reason. In 1993, I accompanied a high level official delegation to Riga,  Latvia. As usual the gifts were exchanged at the end of the tour. Our delegation carried good HMT watches for the senior officials. After breaking away from the USSR, Latvia became independent in 1991 only. They were yet to establish protocol procedures. One of the recipients opened the gift there itself and wanted to show it around. On opening the gift, to our utter surprise, one of the hands of the watch was broken. It was an uncalled for embarrassment. Luckily, we had an additional gift (HMT watch) and we promptly changed the broken watch. I am sure our Latvian friends understood our right and honourable gesture.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Scottish Referendum

With Lord Mayor of Edinburgh and Foreign Mister Fiona Hyslop
With First Minister Alex Salmond
Scotland is, currently, in the news. The September 18 referendum on the independence of Scotland from the UK has negated the move. Scotland will stay with the UK. It is a momentous development of far reaching implications for the UK and Europe at large. The referendum may be seen as a tribute to democracy. People exercised their vote in a peaceful manner, in spite of the political and emotional heat generated by the ‘Yes’ campaign spear headed by First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and his party Scottish National Party (SNP) and the ‘No’ campaign led by PM David Cameron and the major political parties of the UK. It is said that the issue has been decided by the ‘Heads’ over the ‘Hearts. But it seems the ‘Purse’ i.e. economics has played a major role in tilting the scale in favour of ‘No’ vote. Nearly the two hundred thousand strong immigrant community, mainly of Indian and Pakistani origin, in Scotland, it appears, decided to go for a safe bet to remain with the UK rather than sailing in the unchartered waters. First Minister Alex Salmond has resigned and has accepted the verdict of the people.  He called for unity and urged the unionist parties to deliver on more powers."I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland," the leader of the Scottish National Party said. He tweeted to say "Let's not dwell on the distance we've fallen short — let us dwell on the distance we have travelled".

I followed these developments with keen interest with regard to my own association with Scotland as the Consul General of India in Edinburgh from 2007-08. It was an interesting time. I reached Edinburgh at the time of general elections in 2007 under the arrangements of devolution of powers. The SNP led by Alex Salmond won and came to power. Consul Generals in Scotland are a little better placed as Scotland enjoyed a degree of independence from London. It has its own Parliament and Minister of Foreign Affairs. It has a separate seat in the EU and Commonwealth structures and also separate national (Scottish) teams in sports. The Indian Diaspora, one hundred thousand strong, mostly settled in and around Glasgow, is doing well. No political party can afford to ignore them. In my diplomatic capacity, I enjoyed excellent relations with First Minister Alex Salmond and his colleagues in the Cabinet and Parliament particularly the Foreign Ministers Linda Fabiani and Fiona Hyslop and the Chairman of the Scottish Parliament at that time. The Lord Mayor of Edinburgh and his gracious wife were very friendly and considerate.

India has historical ties with Scotland. It is said that the English ruled the empire but the Scots ran it. In the early years of the colonial period, many Scotts worked in India on tea plantations and railway network. The founder of the Indian National Congress A.O. Hume was a Scot. The first Geographical Survey of India was done by a Scot Colin Campbell. India has much to do with Scotland, no matter whether it stays with the UK or  otherwise. It is the internal matter of the UK and the people have decided the matter in a democratic vote. I wish the UK and Scotland all the best in the years to come.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

One Life Is Not Enough

Natwar Singh
I have just finished reading Kunwar Natwar Singh’s autobiography “One Life Is Not Enough”. Though I love reading autobiographies yet I do not intend to spend money on books. In the recent months, it is third autobiography which I could not resist and purchased. The other two were that of APJ Kalam and Khuswant Singh. Before I say something on the book, my first comment is that Natwar Singh remained elitist throughout in his living and thinking. He loved to be called Kunwar Sahib and always write his name as K. Natwar Singh. He likes that his wife Hem (full name not given in the book anywhere) should be called Maharani.  To me, it shows a feudal mind set. The time has changed in democratic India. Nevertheless, I must say that Natwar Singh writes well. I enjoy reading him in various newspapers and magazines. One myth which the book has exposed is that claims to royalty and sophistication are skin deep only. The ongoing exchanges between Captain Amrinder Singh and Natwar Singh in the media, with regard the autobiography, and washing of dirty linen in public is of bad taste on both the sides.

Being a member of the IFS fraternity, though in junior capacities, I have been watching Natwar Singh and his functioning.  Natwar Singh has been a first class diplomat of India. His observations on China and its leadership particularly Mao and Chao are candid. Natwar Singh’s special interest in Africa endeared him to the African leadership particularly Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. His encounters and not so happy experience with PM Morarji Desai tells poorly on our political leadership.  It is known and the book clearly establishes that Natwar Singh enjoyed good rapport with PM Indira Gandhi. It seems Sonia Gandhi recognized his diplomatic skills and abilities but did not trust him. In the end they fell out and the book clearly shows the bitterness of Natwar Singh. His case which he calls ‘Volcker Conspiracy’ is not convincing.  May be Sonia Gandhi will add to the story someday. I recommend the book to the practitioners of diplomacy and politics.

There are a couple of errors, inadvertent and otherwise. The name of Foreign Secretary should be R.D. Sathe and not R.B. (page 215). The name of Major General Shabeg Singh has been misspelled as Shahbeg (page 232). The caption of the photograph with PM Narender Modi is misleading. Narender Modi was not PM designate in February 2014. He was a Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP.
मस्जिद तो बना दी सब भर में; इमां की हरारत वालों ने,
मन अपना पुराना पापी है; बरसों से नमाज़ी हो न सका !

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dalits – A sleeping tiger


Yet another wonders of democracy is fast appearing on the political firmament of India. Dalits remained a neglected and marginalized segment of the society in India. With the efforts of many social reformers in the past and political crusaders like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker in the contemporary times, particularly after the independence and the democratic polity under the constitution, the fate of the suffering humanity took a turn for the better. Political weight of Dalits was clearly established in the process of elections and otherwise. The resultant economic and social empowerment of dalits in the overall process of development and progress of the country also contributed positively to the cause of dalits and made then aware of their rights and space in the governance of the country. The political movement of Babu Kanshi Ram and the leaders like K.R. Narayanan, Jagjivan Ram, Mayawati and others further consolidated the position. The current position has reached a stage where it is not easy to ignore the dalit community any more. The political and social leadership fully understand that dalits are a sleeping tiger. Some of them intend to awake the tiger and some of them think it fit to let it sleep depending on the agenda. The great game is in the making.

RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat releasing the books of Vijay Sonkar Shastri
I wrote earlier in my blog that Ambedkar’s acceptability is increasing by the day in the last two decades. Earlier both the Congress Party and Jan Sangh/BJP and other Hindu outfits were allergic to the name of Ambedkar. The Hindu intellectuals like Arun Shourie and Sudhendra Kulkarni tried their best to down size Ambedkar but could not sell themselves in the fast changing scenario owing to the inherit strength of the dalit community.  No political force in India can afford to ignore the community now. Efforts are being made to placate the community by owning their leadership including Kanshi Ram. Of late, RSS has taken a renewed agenda to bring along the dalit communities. Chief of RSS, Mohan Bhagwat last week released books written by a BJP leader Vijay Sonkar Shastri on the three prominent  dalit castes and said that it was not Hindus who treated dalits badly and pushed them to margins but the Muslim  and British rulers. Ashok Singhal of Vishav Hindu Parisad also came out with a similar theory. They showed interest in bring the dalits to the Hindu fold and recognized their identity with the Hindus. PM Narendra Modi further reinforced the new agenda. He spoke at a function in New Delhi to observe the anniversary of social reformer and dalit icon of the south, Ayyankali. PM Modi said “Equality among dalits and forward classes is not enough. There has to be a sense of compassion and brotherhood as well.” 

कुफर टूटा खुदा खुदा कर के !

The situation is changing and changing fast. It is up to the dalit communities now as to what they want. Do they want their due share in the economic and political structures of the country or they want to remain marginalized and degraded? Does the tiger still wants to sleep or get up and roar.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Teachers Day – September 5

At Shiv Jyoyi Public School
I have been successively writing on the Teachers Day in this blog. I feel like doing so again as it is an important and solemn occasion to think about ones alma mater and the gurus who contributed a great deal in making ones career and space in life. I am indebted to my teachers right from the primary school at my native place Bootan Mandi, high school in Basti Nau and DAV college in Jalandhar.  Over the years I have felt that every thinking person somehow relate himself or herself to his/her school or college and feel like retaining that association.

My teachers Prof. K.C. Mahendru and Prof. K.K. Ghai
Teachers Day at Jalandhar School of Careers & Opportunities
I have been fortunate to have good connection with my teachers in DAV college particularly after my retirement from IFS. One of them was Prof. K.C. Mahendru who passed away last year. He was not only a sterling teacher of Political Science bt also an able educational administrator. Prof. Mahendru was a gentleman to the core. He invited me his school as the Chief Guest at the annual day of the school. He introduced me to Shiv Jyoti Public school, a leading school in Jalandhar. Shiv Jyoti school invited me as the Guest of Honour at their annual function. In the process of social interaction, I met and revived the memories of my college days with Prof. K.K. Ghai, a known authority on Political Science in the educational circles in Jalandhar.  As my post retirement activities, I engaged myself in the education sector. I visited and spoke, during the last three years at a number of educational institutions  like Babasaheb Ambedkar School at Dhanal, my ancestral village, Shiv Jyoti Public School, HMV College, Mehr Chand Polytechnic college, Sant Baba Bhag Singh Educational Complex etc. I have started a small educational institute named Jalandhar School of Careers and Opportunities to impart cost effective education to the weaker sections of the society. I interact with our compact teaching faculty at the school comprising of Priya Chander for Biology, Ruhi Khambra for Physics, Lovisha Punj for Chemistry, Amanpreet Singh for Mathematics, Lovely Bhola for Commerce, Neeraj Paul and Rupesh Chander for English and Computers. The management of Sant Baba Bhag singh Educational Complex is kind enough to take me on their Board of Governors. I enjoy these educational related activities. We celebrated the Teachers Day on Septemer 3 at Jalandhar School of Careers and Opportunities on the birthday of one of the teachers, Priya Chander.

PM Narender Modi is speaking to the students directly this year. It is a good idea. There is a mindless controversy on this issue. If the PM of the country cannot speak to the students of his own country, what should he do. Let us not belittle the importance of the Teachers Day. I take this opportunity to greet the teachers and students of India and remember my own teachers and alma mater.

गुरु गोबिंद दोनों खड़े, किस के लागूं पाएं;
बलिहारी गुरु अपनों जिस दर्शन दिए दिखाए !


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kashi and Kyoto

Signing of Kashi-Kyoto Areement
PM Narender Modi is, currently, on a state visit to Japan. It is yet another mile stone in relations between India and Japan, two important countries of Asia and the world at large. Obviously, during the visit, many important and decisions and understandings will be reached to further strengthen the already excellent relations between the two countries. One important outcome has already emerged at the outset of the visit, the co-operation and bonds of friendship to develop Kashi (Varanasi) as a smart city as Kyoto, the heritage city of Japan. An agreement to this effect was signed in Kyoto by the Mayor of Kyoto and Ambassador Deepa Wadhwa on August 30, in the presence of PM Narender Modi and his host PM Shinzo Abe.

With Rev. D.S. Uchida at Kyoto
At a Temple at Kyoto
With the formalizing of these arrangements, it is a good beginning as we are much to take and learn from Japan.  My thoughts go back to Japan and my personal visit to Kyoto during my tenure as the Counsellor of the Indian Embassy in Tokyo from 2001-04. PM Modi has started on a right note to further strengthen cultural ties between the two countries particularly in the background of our Buddhist heritage. Both Kashi and Kyoto are ancient cities of temples and spiritual moorings. Kyoto is a clean, green and well maintained city of Japan. Kashi is no where near Kyoto in this regard. If we are to realize the dreams and plans of PM Modi to make hundred cities of India as smart cities, let the Kashi-Kyoto co-operation be a pilot  project. My gut feelings and personal experience tell me that Japan has the capacity and will to do and deliver. It would depend on India to make it feasible and viable. I know the Japanese friends of India have been keen to cooperate with India in projects like cleaning of the Ganga. Rev. D.S. Uchida, one of the active friends of India in such projects, is around in Tokyo. I am sure he will be happy with the Kashi-Kyoto project. I take this opportunity to renew my association with Kyoto and Japan and wish India-Japan relations are further cemented in the years to come.