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Please read the passage and write a precis in one-third its length.    If you want it to be evaluated you may send the same by email to ""  (S. SAMBASIVAN )


Ever since the State and Central elections were separated/delinked (most probably in 1971), either by design or default, good governance has become a secondary priority to winning elections by all means. Even when the situation, especially the worsening economic scene, demands some stern measures to ebb the rot, the powers that be have invariably adopted the path of least risk and thus allowed the slide to become a norm, rather than a nagging nudge. If some right thinking persons strongly feel that in future both State and Central elections should be held together, they have nothing but the good of the country at heart. Over the years, it has been seen that almost every year has become an election year. For fear of earning the wrath of the people, policy-makers have resorted to populism with abandon and, thus, given a good-bye to good governance. Instead, what we have got in the name of elections or democracy are some goodie-goodie gestures or freebies resulting in mounting budgetry-deficit and subsidies. For fear of facing the electorate in some State/States every year, ruling parties go in for soft options, with the result that the politico-economic health of the country has suffered an irreparable damage.

Those who are opposed to the proposition argue that periodic/yearly electioins to some State Assemblies keep the Central government on its toes, which is very desirable for democracy. Those who are opposed to the present situation opine and with justification too that today every Central government faces a referendum every year on its survival. As a result, the Central authority has nearly collapsed in India. The reason why the very political fabric of the country now stands endangered is, therefore, the same as the reason why the economy is paralysed and heading for a crisis.

The only way open to Parliament to restore the authority of the Centre is to pass a constitutional amendment that links Central and State elections. Besides, the anti-defection law needs more teeth and plugging to enable it to render defections for personal gains a near impossibility. It is also due to frequent defections that instability sets in and a government fall before completing full term. If the threat of elections, whether mid-term or regular, continues, no long-term policies can be drawn by the Central government for fear of displeasing the voters of a State/States going to the polls. The crying need of the hour is that all political parties should rise above their partisan interests and seriously ponder over the usefulness of the proposition, in the national interest. Once the linkage is done, a lot of money and material resources would also be saved.


Pope Benedict XVI, assessed within and without the Catholic Church as an arch conservative, has taken the most radical step, unprecedented since the year 1415, by resigning the papacy. In that year, almost 600 years ago, Pope Gregory XII renounced the papacy amidst a hurricane of European political intrigue. No such political intrigue besets the resignation of Benedict XVI. On the Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, he announced that he was standing down because he felt that at the age of 85 with failing physical strength, energy and stamina, he could not fulfil the role required of a head of the Catholic Church and would fail its 1.3 billion adherents as the Vicar of Christ.

Nothing becomes Benedict's office as his leaving of it. From within the Catholic Church the voices of criticism are raised. He was too conservative in his doctrines. His approach to homosexuality, to gay marriage, which was being legitimised by several western states, and to the ordination of women which the Protestant churches had partially adopted was orthodox and out of step with the modern world. He failed to put forward any strategy to combat the severely falling numbers in the worldwide communion. Most telling of all, he was attacked from within and without the Church for not addressing vigorously the issue of paedophile priests who had sexually abused children by taking advantage of their ecumenical position.
The debate about this last accusation still rages, even within the Catholic communion. Some accuse Pope Benedict of turning a blind eye to widespread allegations of child abuse by the clergy when he was a cardinal and the Vatican's appointed official guardian from 1981 of the ethical behaviour of the clergy. His accusers say he excused provenly deviant priests on the grounds of age, infirmity and the long lapse of time since the offence. His supporters point to the fact that he has taken strong action on the issue since becoming Pope.
At the end of February, Benedict XVI will revert to being Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany. A Catholic friend sees his resignation as a setback for the faith and the Church and anticipates devils emerging from the deep to fabricate fanciful and damaging allegations for his resignation. I tell her I disagree. As a deeply sceptical cultural, non-ritualistic Zoroastrian, I see Benedict's resignation of the papacy, considered with his proffered rationale, as strengthening the Catholic Church.
After Zoroastrianism, the first monotheistic religion, Christianity, was and remains the only other to have a nominated and anointed hierarchical priesthood. Judaism has the learned guides, the Rabbis, Sunni Islam has mullahs with no anointed status, Shia Islam retains the remnant of the Zoroastrian Dastur class as Ayatollahs and the atheistic religions such as Buddhism and the various forms of polytheistic Hinduism have monks, ascetics, teachers, preachers and impostors, but no single hierarchical structure of clergy. Catholicism and its offshoots, the Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and Protestant churches, all have hierarchical priestly structures.
The Church of Rome was founded by Jesus Christ when he anointed the fisherman Simon and called him the rock on which the faith was to be built for the salvation of humankind.
Jesus didn't specify the structuring of a clergy, but obviously to preach and sustain the word of Christ through the world, Peter the Rock and his apostolic successors had to institute a spreading network which became the Church. In succeeding years, through centuries of secrecy and persecution, the word of Christ became the religion of the Roman state and the structures of the Catholic Church itself assumed the status of a State with cardinals who would elect the apostolic successor to Simon called Peter.
The most recent of these is Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger who has through his resignation demonstrated for our sceptical times that the papacy is not a throne, but a grave responsibility. If he, in his own conscience, cannot fulfil the work of God entrusted to Peter by the son of God, then let an election by cardinals, an analogous body to Jesus' apostles, appoint another.
No other religion in the world today has the means to boast such a humble and at the same time grand gesture. Even calling it a 'gesture' is an impertinence. It is an affirmation by a man of faith of the sacrifice that faith teaches.

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