Powerless in Sri Lanka
Social Engineering by the Clock
In late May, Sri Lanka decided to adjust its clock forward by one hour from midnight in late May to help cope with the worsening power crisis caused by the delay in the arrival of the monsoon, said a government press release. Water levels at hydroelectric reservoirs, which provide 84 percent of the island´s electricity, were so low that only a few more days worth of power could be generated. A cabinet sitting decided that Sri Lanka Time would change to 6.5 hours ahead of GMT rather than 5.5 hours, which would lead to reduced use of electricity as people went to sleep earlier.
Open Skies, Closed Minds
In early May, Indian Airlines, the domestic government-owned Indian carrier, unveiled plans for a turnaround by the end of the 1996-97 fiscal year. This included improved fleet utilisation, pilot availability, and customer service. Over across the Bay of Bengal, Singapore Airlines´ net income for the year to end March 1996 rose nearly 12 percent over the previous year, and reached an all time high of USD 1.3 billion.
SIA and the Tatas evidently intend to continue lobbying for their joint venture domestic airline for India, with plans to bring in 19 new wide bodied aircraft over a five-year period. The Tatas are to hold 60 percent stake in the proposed airline, to SIA´s 40. Lufthansa, meanwhile, has decided to pull out of its collaboration with the Indian carrier ModiLuft, mainly due to the latter´s inability to pay arrears for three leased planes. While South Asian governments hold on to their closed skies policies as if they were lifelines, Indonesia has opened its skies, with deregulation meant to tap the tourism boom. Domestic private airlines are being allowed to go international, while international carriers are being made more welcome. Back in Nepal, the government has asked for private airlines for proposals on flying international routes. If the Nepali privates are finally allowed to fly international, and they remain sceptical about the government´s plans, this would mark a South Asian first.
The BJP´s Neighbourhood
Looking ahead to the general elections in India, Himal had carried an article on anxiety among some of India´s neighbours about a possible Bharatiya Janata Party victory in the polls. 'Surprisingly, BJP pragmatists might choose to live and let live,' Rachana Pathak had written in her feature, and the double takes the party did upon coming to power regarding Article 370 in the Constitution (concerning special status for Jammu and Kashmir), on India as a secular state, and on a uniform civil code (which many Muslims oppose) meant that perhaps pragmatists would have carried the day had the party been able to muster support to stay in power. 'They all love Vajpayee,' Himal had written, and indeed the immediate post-election coverage indicated that while the neighbours were generally worried about the BJP in power, they were willing to countenance it as long as Mr Vajpayee remained Prime Minister.
A Watershed on the Mahakali
Lukewarm on Treaty
The all-party consensus on the Mahakali Treaty, which was initialled between the Nepali and Indian foreign ministers in February in order to build the Pancheswar Hydro electricity Project on the Mahakali river, seems to be evaporating. According to The Kathmandu Post, 'Leftists, rightists and centrists' are opposing the treaty on the interesting premise that the Mahakali river belongs 'exclusively to Nepal'. More significant is the growing opposition in the main leftist opposition party, CPN (UML), to the treaty, although it was its acquiescence which led to the initialling. Rather than any notions of lost sovereignty, however, it seems likely that the Nepali left has felt emboldened to reject the treaty now that Indian Foregin Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who brokered the agreement, is out of South Block.
A Bovine Boondoggle in Bihar
Laloo Stays Home
For someone who had been held forward as the man with prime ministerial timber, when the time came to select the man to run the United Front government in New Delhi, Laloo Prasad Yadav was nowhere in the picture. The prospects of the Chief Minister (who is also Janata Dal President) are said to have nosedived with the election results in Bihar, where only half of the Dal´s 44 candidates fielded won seats to the Lok Sabha. The animal husbandry scam played a part in the low scores for the Dal, it is said. His party´s Bihar functionaries, meanwhile, are heaving a sigh of relief because with Mr Yadav in Delhi, there would have been bedlam in Bihar.