OTHERS

Between You & Me

THE SUSPENSE over whether the AIADMK general secretary can contest in the forthcoming elections to the Assembly or not is at last over - she cannot, as determined by the Returning Officers and the Chief Electoral Officer of the State. They were going strictly by the relevant sections in the Representation of the People Act. The last-minute nominations filed by Ms. Jayalalitha for two other constituencies, as she must have known very well, were quite illegal, and did not help her at all. None of this prevents her from declaring that injustice has been done to her, and that she will seek redress from the courts. This latter course, I think, though I am not a legal pundit, will not be possible until after the elections are over. What is of greater moment is her declaring that if her party wins, she will certainly become Chief Minister again. This statement offends several obvious positions. First, her calm assumption that her party will again elect her leader. It certainly looks as though the party will, but anything can happen between now and the end of the elections. The more important point is that it is the Governor who has to appoint the Chief Minister on the basis of the facts available to him or her. I don't see how any Governor, with all respect due to him or her, would want to anoint as Chief Minister someone who is not a member of the Assembly, and who has a conviction hanging over her.

The general secretary of the AIADMK is also making much of the point that in Kerala a similarly convicted person has been allowed to contest in the elections. Here again, the Returning Officer went strictly by the provision of the Act, which allows a sitting member to contest even though he has a conviction looming over him. I agree this is unjust but the law will have to be changed to eliminate this anomaly. As it is it does not help the AIADMK general secretary at all.

While on the subject of elections, readers would have seen that pre-poll surveys are being undertaken. These are said to be very scientific and based on the latest psephological theories, but we have seen the polls contradict one another before. The idea seems to be to choose a few hundred people on the basis of certain qualifications, question them, and universalise the findings. Let us see who comes closest to the final result. Incidentally, if I were you, I wouldn't sit at home, waiting for the knock on the door or a telephone call from the poll-taker. In a population of over one hundred crores, it is hit or miss that any particular person is likely to be polled. I am reminded of a story. One of the poll-takers of the famous American Gallup Poll (which started the trend towards poll-taking) was stopped by an angry Boston dowager, who wanted to know why she was never polled. The young man said: ``Madam, your chances of being polled are about the same as your being hit by lightning''. The lady drew herself to her full height, and said witheringly: ``Young man, I have been hit by lightning.''

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ASTROLOGY - THE response from readers has generally been gentle, no one going to any extreme, but with most agreeing that it is not a science. An eminent gardener wrote to say that he started a garden at a most inauspicious time (because it was the most convenient for him) against dire predictions, but it has turned out to be one of the most beautiful in town. He says there is no wrong time to do the right thing. Another reader, who is no believer in astrology himself, points out how the predictions of his great-grandfather, an eminent astrologer, almost always came true. I think most people are agreed that astrology is not a science, but that it is a source of comfort to those who believe in it. I am personally curious about how a course in astrology can be introduced as a discipline at the university level.

In what languages will it be taught? Are there enough qualified teachers in the subject? And text-books? Will an M.A. in astrology be eligible, let us say, to join the IAS? Can the Collector of a district be a Hindi-speaking astrologer? So on and so forth.

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CORRUPTION - I pointed out a week or so ago that one view was that the bureaucrat was the middleman between the corrupt political official and the corrupting businessman. In my kindly fashion, I said that this did not apply to 999 bureaucrats out of a thousand. Several readers disagree, and the average figure is that only 10 per cent of bureaucrats are incorruptible. I am not going to go into this at all any more since I have never known a corrupt bureaucrat. Whatever, corruption is an unhallowed practice in our country for centuries, intellectuals like Chanakya making a fine art of it in statecraft. In my younger days it was common to see retired parents encourage their young sons, usually in the lower levels of clerkhood, to get as much by way of bribes as possible, to keep the home fires burning. The one response to my statements on corruption that was truly gratifying and thought-provoking was the genuine feeling of young persons that we the people are solely responsible for corruption at every level. My pastors and masters, think about it.

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A SENIOR citizen, aged 75 writes, and this is a question for the Telephone Department: ``I remember to have seen... that senior citizens have been exempted from payment of Rs. 2,000 to get a new telephone connection. But when I approached the Telephone Office on Greames Road, I was informed that the exemption would apply only at the time of application, and the registration fee and other charges would be included in the first bill after installation and telephone connection given. ``He would like to know the correct position, and so would the readers of this column.

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I AM sorry this story is not for you Parthasarathy, but for a lawyer-friend named Kartik. A man was hauled into court for stealing a coat from a shop-window. His lawyer came up with an ingenious argument that the man did not steal the coat, but his arm did. The judge decided to be equally clever, and sentenced the man's arm to six months. Whereupon the accused unscrewed his arm, and walked out of the court - it was an artificial arm.

S. KRISHNAN

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