Citizens' Issues
SC seeks details of religious sites damaged in 2002 Gujarat riots

The apex court also asked the Gujarat government to quantify the amount needed for building and repairing those sites that were affected by the riots in 2002

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Gujarat government to file a survey report of the religious sites which were damaged and destroyed during the 2002 riots in the state, reports PTI.

A bench of justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra also asked the state government to quantify the amount needed for building and repairing those sites that were affected by the riots.

The court gave the directions on an appeal filed by the Gujarat government challenging a Gujarat High Court order directing it to pay compensation for damage and destruction of the religious sites.

At the very start of the proceedings, the Gujarat government said that the state exchequer could not be used for building and repairing religious sites.

The bench, however, said it would look into the issue whether public funds could be used for restoring the damaged sites.

"You compensate if a house is washed away in a flood or if it is damaged in an earthquake. Then why not in case of a religious place?" the bench asked.

The court directed the state government to file an affidavit with regard to the religious sites affected by the riots and posted the matter for further hearing on 30th July.

On 8th February, the Gujarat government was pulled up by the Gujarat High Court for "inaction and negligence" on its part during the 2002 post-Godhra riots that led to large-scale damage or destruction of religious structures.

A high court division bench of Acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice JB Pardiwala had ordered compensation for over 500 places of worships in the state on a plea by Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCG), an NGO.

The NGO had contended that 535 religious places were affected, out which 37 remain to be repaired.

Challenging the high court's order, advocate Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government, contended that Sikh religious groups were also seeking compensation for damage to the religious places during 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

The plea by IRCG in 2003 had sought the court's direction to the government to pay compensation for damage to religious places during the riots on the ground that the National Human Rights Commission, too, had recommended it and the state government had in principle accepted the suggestion.

The high court had observed that inadequacy, inaction and negligence on the part of the state government to prevent the riots had resulted in religious structures being affected across the state.

It had said when the government could pay compensation for destruction of houses and commercial establishments, it should also pay compensation for religious structures.

If the structures have been already restored by now, the government should reimburse the amount spent on their restoration, the court had said.


China's arming Pakistan makes it second class enemy: Ratan Tata

China has been assisting and arming Pakistan, which is like a red flag to India and that already makes it a second class enemy according to the Tata group chief. However he said he would prefer to use China as a very strong ally

New Delhi: China's assisting and arming Pakistan has made "it a second class enemy", but its economic strength overpowering India is not a real concern, says Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata, according to a PTI report.

"China has of course been assisting and arming Pakistan, which is like a red flag to India and that already makes it a second class enemy," Tata said in an interview telecast on Bloomberg UTV.

Describing India-China relationship as "not adversarial, but it is not the best", Tata, however, added, "you know China has never done anything adversarial to India, and India, I think, has been more concerned about China's economic strength overpowering India, which we really don't see."

When asked if he is worried about China, he said: "No, I am not worried. I wish we could find a way to be allies with China."

Exuding confidence about India, Tata said: "I really do believe, deep down inside, that...the Indian tiger has not been unleashed."

He, however, said: "I would prefer to use China as a very strong ally, to forge a relationship with China which would be a sustaining one and I think it could be done."

Explaining the complex nature of relationship between the two countries, he said: "I think there is a concern on part of India that China is trying to dominate the region (Asia) and there is an equal concern on the part of China that India is trying to dominate the region."

Commenting on China as a car market, Tata said: "It is a very difficult country to sell cars from outside. JLR, which we have now acquired, is setting up a plant in China because China wants those cars but not Tata Motors."

He said the Tata group would be looking to source automobile parts from China, which has made lot of progress in in the sector.

"If you look at what China has done in the automotive area in a short period of time, they have produced cars which in fact exceeds what India did in the same period of time," Tata said.

"We will now be sourcing sub-assemblies from China, for Indian cars. We will buy things like automatic transmission, things which India doesn't yet prices that are unbelievable which will help us," he added.

On global economic scenario, Tata said it is "a little grim". According to him, Europe and the UK will face a "hard recovery" and it is going to take "a lot of efforts, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of pain".

However, the US is going to recover faster than the Europe and "part of it going to be the innovativeness, that is embedded in the US in the sense of entrepreneurship," he said.

Tata said there are opportunities in Asia, Africa and some parts of Latin America. "Asian countries may be finding more trade between themselves that they did before," he added.

"So you got a shift of industrial activity, economic growth moving to these so called South-South areas," Tata said.


Boosting trade in Iraq and Saudi Arabia

The reference books, following visits and subsequent boosting of trade in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, were of great use to Indian exporters. The 57th part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business

The construction activities in Iraq and Saudi Arabia caused builders and other merchants to look for new and guaranteed sources of supplies. Among Indian merchants, one of the most dynamic was MS Dewan, a pioneer in marketing a great number of products to Saudi Arabia.

As all his buyers were looking forward to increasing supplies of bathroom fittings, etc, he was shrewd enough to open an office in London; his eldest son began to make inroads in Italy and soon they were one of the leading suppliers to Saudi Arabia.
In case of Iraq, however, there was hardly anything that was left in the private hands. Almost every item relating to building materials were imported by the government-owned companies, with whom suppliers had to register and only actual manufacturers were given orders. From time to time tenders were floated; government offices closed by 3pm and the main banker, government-controlled, would open the Letters of Credit.
Thanks to the continuous support I received from NK Nair, the former commercial attaché in Baghdad, I had made a few trips and cultivated a number of contacts in various departments.  At this point of time, we had a bright Iraqi named Khalid George Talia in the Indian Embassy, who was not only bright, but had spent a few years in New Delhi as a student and knew the Indian conditions. Most importantly, he was fluent in Hindi and could understand a little Punjabi as well. He was an invaluable asset to the Embassy.
Another regular visitor was Krishnan from the leading steel and pressure vessel exporter, VD Swami & Co of Madras.  I would say that Krishnan spent almost six months a year in Baghdad and as many in Beirut. He was kind enough to pass on many of his contacts for promoting Indian goods in the region.
I remember that one of the most important features was the Baghdad International Fair, held in September each year. There was great demand for participating space and for displaying goods in the Fair, because this gave an opportunity not only to exhibit the products, but also sell them at the end of the Fair. Most of the exhibitors also got orders for goods displayed.  There were, of course, complaints of favouritism for getting the quotas on these orders; and, for the first time, as I was present during the fair, we organized a meeting of all the exporters at the Ambassador hotel, invited the commercial secretary to join the deliberations and in the end, everyone appeared to be happy with the quota distribution.
It was during this fair, we had the pleasure of being exposed to an important and yet luxurious delicacy called 'masgoof'. Actually, it was on the banks of the river Tigris, where one could walk around and find, many restaurants, with live fish (3 to 5 kg each), swimming in the bathroom tubs!  The buyer would choose the fish, and in a few moments the fish would be killed and vertically cut, like opening a banana leaf, with basically some salt and pepper, and exposed to fire in a bon-fire like circles. Only beers and onions will be served along with khubbas (Arabic bread). It was my first experience, but, the next Friday, I managed to get a masala made with garlic, chilly, pepper and onions etc and even the restaurant owner enjoyed the fare!
The Market Survey Report of Iraq, after my submission on my return to Beirut, was actually published as a handy reference book in January 1974. It became a popular seller for the Council.
Once again, my services were required by exporters, which this time, involved supplies of galvanised steel pipes to a customer in Jeddah. The supplies were delayed and the ship had short-landed the goods in the port, part of which were still lying in Bombay.  This fact was unknown to the exporter, and the importer on receipt of documents, had been to the port only to find that popular items like 1/2 to 2 inch sizes were missing! He refused to accept the documents because of this serious lapse and discrepancy. Ghulam Masood of Indian origin, who had settled down in Jeddah, was a regular visitor to Indian Embassy.
Though the courtesy of Bijli, the commercial attaché, I was introduced to him earlier. I did find him to be frank and straight forward in his dealings. But because of the circumstances in the market, he was not in a position to clear the goods, pay for the full consignment and wait for the balance to arrive, which was not guaranteed. Any amount of assurance by the shipping company would not pacify his anger, and for a businessman it was the question of making money at the most opportune time, when the market needed the goods! Meantime, the goods were incurring demurrage, and he demanded that this be paid first and sought an agreement that he was willing to pay the money to the bank but not release it until his balance of goods were delivered!
The exporter had approached the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for permission to effect the remittance for demurrage, but this was increasing by the day. On approaching the Council, they authorized me to resolve the issue, provided the exporter met my travel expenses.
Due to my contacts with the Saudi Embassy, I was able to take a visit visa to Jeddah, after discussing the issue with the embassy, I went to the port and spent several hours, spread over two days, walking up and down the port, only to discover that the goods actually had been dumped in different lots and got mixed up with some other importer's goods in another part of the port.
With a great amount of persuasion, I managed to get the demurrage charges reduced considerably, arranged for payment, by selling the goods to a third party, and had the matter resolved in about a week's time. I think, the market price had turned favourable in the interim period and we were able to settle the issue, and effect the payment to the exporter, thanks to the support from the embassy.
But after settling this dispute, I took a quick trip to Riyadh and Dammam also, and having been a regular visitor, was able to compile a great deal of information on this country. While exporters from the Muslim community took the opportunity to visit the country and take the privilege to visit the holy sites, other exporters, particularly vegetarians tend to avoid the visit or make it as short as possible, though, in my own experience, everything was available and vegetarians should not have any such preconceived notions. I found Saudis also friendly but stricter in dealings and would not tolerate delays.
After this visit, on my return, I submitted my "Market Survey Report on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia", and this, as a handy reference book was published in November 1974.
In the meantime, many political upheavals took place in the region. Nasser's death was a shock to most. King Saud was assassinated in the palace itself; King Hussain had the worst of clashes with the PLO; Yom Kippur War in 1973, in which Anwar Sadat had the Egyptian
Army crossed the Suez Canal on the holiest day in Judaism, which also happened to be during the Ramadan period were important events that we witnessed. And, of course, in the Indian sub-continent it was the creation of Bangladesh in December 1971 that really brought about the change in the area. The UAE was formed, thus united seven sheikhdoms into a union, with Abu Dhabi Sheikh as the president.
The Lebanese government changed, with Suleiman Franjieh taking over as president and Rashid Karami as premier. The Palestinian refugees continued to live in Lebanon, and get into trouble with the law once in a while, breaking the peaceful coexistence, at the cost of hospitable and friendly Lebanese people.

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected])


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