There is legitimate concern about pollution in Delhi. Pollution has to be combated vigorously. Various measures have been proposed by the National Green Tribunal, inter alia banning of registration of new diesel vehicles in Delhi till January 6, 2016, and as an interim step, a ban on purchase of diesel vehicles by Central and state governments. The proposal of the Delhi government about plying of cars with even and odd numbers on certain days may not be feasible. The pollution problem is certainly alarming and warrants extraordinary measures, which, however, must be well-thought-out, particularly their implementation. Above all, the principle of proportionality must be borne in mind. The proposed measures must not be excessive. The success of anti-pollution measures will ultimately depend upon the willing cooperation of persons who may be affected by them, and also of members of civil society who should be consulted and informed about the necessity and utility of the proposed measures. Clean air should not be a fond hope for Delhiites but urgently become a living reality.
Sharad Pawar’s Birthday: Sharad Pawar’s 75th birthday is being celebrated in a grand manner in cities other than Delhi. No one grudges this grand old man of Indian politics his birthday bashes which were attended in Delhi by the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister and various political personalities, including Sonia Gandhi, about whom Pawar has made unflattering remarks in his book, Life on My Terms—From the Grassroots and Corridors of Power. According to Pawar, self-styled loyalists of 10 Janpath, including the late Arjun Singh, played a clever trick and convinced Sonia that it would be better to back Narasimha Rao in 1991 as Prime Minister over him, as the Gandhi family was not keen to let someone with an independent mind to get the top post. Pawar states that his name was considered for the top post in the party not only in Maharashtra but also in other states. In view of these statements, Sonia’s presence at his birthday celebrations was a classic example of forget and forgive in Indian politics. Is it cynical to suggest that in all probability Sonia was not aware of Pawar’s statements about her in his book?
Mindless Censorship: I firmly believe that censorship is essentially mindless. It confers power in a realm where qualifications for the exercise of power and tests for its application are from the very nature of things virtually non-existent. Salman Rushdie was recently awarded in New York the Mailer Center’s Annual Lifetime Achievement Prize that honours writers for exercising freedom of creativity and thriving on dialogue and debate. The prize is named after the celebrated US writer, Norman Mailer. Vikram Seth, one of the world’s finest writers and poets, in a recent interview referring to the ban on Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, inter alia said that “the ban was an unjustified constraint on freedom of thought and expression. If you don’t want to read a book or see a film, turn your eyes away. Boycott it if you like, but don’t prevent others from reading or seeing it. And don’t give in to religious bigots of any persuasion; it only encourages them”. Seth’s wise words should always be borne in mind, but that is a utopian hope. Proscriptions and bans emanate from the mindset of the people imposing them. A bizarre instance is the ban imposed by a Chinese university prohibiting student couples from holding hands, putting arms around each others’ shoulders or feeding each other in the canteen. The ban is sought to be justified on the ground that it would help students to ‘cultivate themselves to become civilised people’. Oliver Goldsmith was right when he exclaimed, “Logicians have ill defined as rational the human mind.”
US Presidency: The US is the oldest and most powerful democracy in the world. Its actions and policy have global implications. Its president occupies a pivotal position. The presidential candidate Donald Trump’s statement that Muslims should be banned entry into the US was appalling. Friends of the US hope and pray that it will not be foisted with Trump as its president. God save America. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorabjee is a former Attorney General of India