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CNN International Inside Asia

Special Edition From New Delhi, India

Aired July 1, 2000 - 6:00 p.m. ET


SATINDER BINDRA, INSIDE ASIA: Hello. And welcome to this special edition of INSIDE ASIA coming to you this week from India's capital, New Delhi.

Coming up.

(voice-over): .one year ago, tensions flared anew between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, how India's government is compensating the families of soldiers who were killed in the fighting. Problems in Pakistan's hall of justice, how the country's judiciary is battling to stay impartial under a military government. And exploring alternatives to life behind bars, how India is experimenting with freedom and farm labor as a means of reform.

(on camera): I'm Satinder Bindra. Our program this week is celebrating the introduction of CNN's new South Asia channel. Launch date is July 3. To mark the occasion, we'll be looking at some of the issues facing the region today.

We begin with the aftermath of a war. Last year at this time, India and Pakistan were battling each other in the disputed region of Kashmir. Now the Indian government is compensating the families of soldiers who were killed in the fighting.

INSIDE ASIA's James Martone has the story in this week's "Cover Story."


JAMES MARTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just outside of the capital New Delhi, an army band pays tribute to 22-year-old Vijyant Thapar. The army captain died in Cargill (ph), Kashmir, during the fighting with Pakistan there last year.

Part of the same tribute, a brand-new gas station handed over in compensation by the Indian state to Vijyant's father, an ex-army man himself. The Thapars say their son's death was the price of war they accept.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, FATHER OF VIJYANT THAPAR: As a father, this hollowness, this pain I have to endure as a cost the country has to pay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your child cannot come back. He is gone now. But we have to learn to live with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Captain Vijyant Thapar, fondly called Robin (ph).

MARTONE: Officials at the tribute to Vijyant say that similar handovers of fueling stations will soon take place in other parts of India.

LT. GEN. CHANDRA SHEKHAR, VICE CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF: And I'd like to compliment and thank the honorable minister of petroleum and oil and natural gas for leaving (ph) us 500 such facilities for the marchers (ph).

MARTONE: Petroleum officials say gas stations were chosen as they represent a lucrative business in India. The business is expected to provide fruitful livelihoods for the families of India's martyrs.

(on camera): The proxy war that killed Vijyant Thapar continues in Kashmir. Violence there claims lives almost daily.

(voice-over): India blames the violence on militants trying to create their own state. New Delhi accuses Pakistan of funding the militants. Pakistan denies this.

The new gas station, appropriately called Vijyant Motors, will serve as a reminder that too many Indians and Pakistanis are dying in Kashmir, says Vijyant's younger brother.

VIJENDER THAPAR, VIJYANT'S BROTHER: It's not just us who are suffering. They also are suffering. But it's for them and for us also to understand and stop this proxy war.

MARTONE: A war that's killed Vijyant and an estimated 25,000 others.

James Martone, CNN, Noida (ph), Uttar Pradesh, India.


BINDRA: Fifty-three years after independence, Pakistan is still struggling to establish an independent and impartial legal system. Jurists say political interference by several governments, including the country's current military regime, has damaged the justice system's credibility.


(voice-over): Pakistan is a proud military power with nuclear weapons. But Pakistan is also still struggling to cope with poverty, illiteracy and political instability.

MOHAMMED AKRAM SHEIKH, LAWYER: You cannot protect your country by building a nuclear protective wall around it if from within the country has become so weak because of non-availability of justice.

BINDRA: Out in Pakistan's busy marketplaces, many citizens believe the skills of justice weigh against them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Poor people don't get justice anywhere, whether in courts or even at police stations. It depends on money and power.

BINDRA: Senior lawyers accuse several Pakistani governments of appointing cronies to judgeships. They say governments have even tried to intimidate the entire justice system.

SHEIKH: It is invariably the desire of each government that the judiciary should not have the courage to strike down their action.

BINDRA: In 1997, supporters of then Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif stormed the supreme court as it was hearing a case against Sharif. Pakistan's current justice minister admits the judiciary has been far from perfect, but he says it's improving.

AZIZ MUNSHI, MINISTER OF JUSTICE: But in the past, they put into the political governments which were in power. And if they made appointments of a political nature or in political situations, that situation is not available now.

BINDRA: Legal analysts disagree. They say Pakistan's current military regime, led by General Pervez Musharraf, has followed old practices.

(on camera): Soon after he toppled the country's elected government in a coup last October, General Pervez Musharraf passed an order preventing courts from ruling on the legitimacy of his regime.

(voice-over): Pakistan's supreme court responded by ruling General Musharraf has three years to restore democracy. General Musharraf says he will step down. Analysts say the credibility of Pakistan's judiciary depends on the general living up to that promise.


(on camera): And now to the southern Indian city of Bangalore. There, authorities are trying something different in their treatment of lawbreakers. As INSIDE ASIA's Alex Cooley (ph) tells us, the goal is not just to punish but to lay the groundwork for a new beginning.


ALEX COOLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The men who live and work in this facility in southern India look much like ordinary farmers. They work in the fields, plant trees, grow crops and tend animals.

But this is no ordinary farm. It is in fact a prison, an open-air prison located near Bangalore.

VENKATESH, INMATE (through translator): We are very free here and earn our livelihood as well. We do sheep rearing, daily farming, and other agricultural and horticultural work. We feel very good as we are amidst nature and also are allowed to go home for three months of the year. We feel mentally free.

COOLEY: The 40 or so inmates who call this place home earn daily wages of 20 rupees, about 50 cents. The prison also has a poultry and dairy farm, which helps the facility earn about 800,000 rupees, or $20,000, a year.

It's all part of a plan designed to let prisoners learn a new trade.

REVANASIDDHIA, PRISON DIRECTOR: There comes a time when we have think in terms of reintegrating them into the society. So to facilitate that proper location, whatever can take them, that will have to be the job on which he has to report. And so you're in training, (INAUDIBLE) may have to be taught and then put in a place like this.

COOLEY: This is still a prison. And the men do have to stay within its boundaries. But while doing time, they also learn a new set of skills so that when they are free men again they'll be better equipped to earn a living and to take full advantage of their new beginning.

Alex Cooley, for INSIDE ASIA.


BINDRA: Coming up next on INSIDE ASIA, our "Arts and Culture" segment. Theater in India is centuries old. But does it have a future? And rock music in Pakistan as represented by the platinum band Junoon, why they're winning an international following.


BINDRA: Welcome back to this week's special edition of INSIDE ASIA from India.

We begin this week's "Arts and Culture" segment with a look at theater in India. Live drama has existed in India for centuries. But it may not be long before it becomes just a memory.

INSIDE ASIA's Wayne Gray (ph) explains.


WAYNE GRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): India has a rich history of stage and street theater, vibrant performances in almost all of its regional languages. Present-day boosters speak proudly of Indian theater, saying it compares favorably with that of the West.

SURESH SHARMA, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF DRAMA (through translator): Western theater is ahead only in terms of technique. Otherwise, the Indian theater has just as much quality and variety, whether in terms of performance or emotions or variety of scripts. It offers a great variety of subjects.

GRAY: Over the ages, stage presentations have often been the catalyst for debates on social issues. Contemporary productions focus on issues such as the stress of urban life, political satire and personal relationships.

And the city's theater is patronized mostly by the middle class. In semi-urban and rural areas, it's a powerful social medium.

Street theater is common. Performances carry a distinctive local flavor and often include a serious message.

But despite its important place in Indian life through the years, live theater in India is facing a threat. It's losing its audiences to the growing number of television channels and modernized movie houses. And shrinking audiences mean reduced budgets, fewer productions and little incentive for actors.

SRIVARDHAN TRIVEDI, THEATER ARTIST (through translator): There isn't much scope in the theater world, especially for the actors. If someone acts in a play, then he's paid very little. Sometimes the actors take home as low as 100 rupees per performance.

They do it because they have to. There are few other viable alternatives.

GRAY: It's another classic case of an age-old institution threatened by the appeal of more modern attractions. Theater lovers say the country's cultural and social landscape would be greatly diminished should Indian theater one day disappear.

Wayne Gray, for INSIDE ASIA.


BINDRA: Legend has it that when the beautiful wife of a king was lost to the enemy in a gambling debt, the Indian god Krishna promised to protect her virtue. So when the victors tried to disrobe her, they could not unravel her sari.

This is just one of the many myths associated with the traditional garment. But now, the harsh realities of modern-day economics are posing a threat to the sari in Bangladesh.

INSIDE ASIA's Zane Virgy (ph) reports.


ZANE VIRGY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sari has survived cultural trends through the centuries and remains popular today. But now, Bangladesh's traditional Jamdani saris are facing a bleak future.

Increased costs for materials and labor are forcing manufacturers to close down their businesses. Thousands of weavers in and around Dhaka depend on the industry to make a living. On average, they produce between 1,500 and 3,000 a week.

Known as the Bakai (ph) Jamdani, this seven-meter piece of cloth is something that every sari lover wants. What makes it unique from other hand-woven saris is the design and complicated work involved. Patterns are often inspired by elements from nature. It takes seven days to three months to make a Jamdani sari, depending on the complexity of the design.

MOHAMMED YUNUS, WEAVER (through translator): Earlier, these saris used to be made of cotton threads. But now they are being made with a mixture of cotton and silk threads. Customers prefer saris made with a mixture of these two threads because they are of a better quality.

VIRGY: Threads for these saris are imported from other countries. Silk threads come from Australia, Taiwan and Korea, cotton threads from India.

That's added to the industry's rising costs. Manufacturers have tried to solve the problem by cutting or closing down some of their manufacturing units.

MOHAMMED MOFISUDDEN, PROPRIETER (through translator): Earlier, we had around 300 hand looms to work on. But now their number has come down. Even the number of weavers working has gone down from over 400 to just 150. The reason is that we're not able to bear the expenses and give salaries to the weavers.

VIRGY: Manufacturers say their saris are popular in countries like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. So the governments should capitalize on that demand by promoting the Jamdani sari. Admirers of the garment say that quite apart from the economic argument, this is a part of Bangladeshi culture that is well worth saving.

Zane Virgy, for INSIDE ASIA.


BINDRA: The Pakistani pop music group Junoon is enjoying international success. The reason may simply be that its music has global appeal.

But there could be another factor. As INSIDE ASIA's Riz Khan reports, the music is mixed with a message.



RIZ KHAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a unique mix of raunchy western guitars with the soft melodies of the Indian subcontinent. And Junoon means "passion."

Their 1998 single "Sayonee" propelled them to fame right across Asia, going to number one on MTV Asia and pushing their CD "Azadi" to double platinum in India.

The Karachi-based trio of energetic singer Ali Azmat with guitarist Salman Ahmad and Brian O'Connell has not escaped controversy, though. Their loyalty to their homeland Pakistan has been questioned in the country's press, particularly because of their huge success with Indians, and their use of Sufi poetry in lyrics has annoyed some more conservative Muslims.


JUNOON (singing): Peace not war, peace not war...

KHAN: The Pakistani government even banned Junoon from television and life performances in 1996, claiming the group's message of peace and social activism threatened the stability of the country. As a twist of fate would have it, the group found itself preaching nuclear non- proliferation just as they sold out a concert in New Delhi at the same time India initiated nuclear testing.

Junoon argues that their comments are often and easily taken out of context along with their music from time to time, but stressed that first and foremost they are simply musicians trying to entertain.

JUNOON (singing): Get your hands up everybody...

KHAN: And entertain they do.


KHAN: Junoon's star continues to rise. Beyond a handful of awards, they were asked to record for the soundtrack to the high-profile film "Jinna (ph)" on the life of Pakistan's founding father, played by veteran actor Christopher Lee (ph).


KHAN: And beyond that, the audience continues to pack out the bigger and bigger venues featuring Junoon on the billboards.

Riz Khan, for INSIDE ASIA.


BINDRA: Time now for a look at the top five music videos right here. This week's videos are courtesy of Channel V.


BINDRA: Still to come on INSIDE ASIA, they're not luxurious. They don't even qualify as quaint. But these floating hotels still attract clients.

She's glamorous and articulate, and she's making Indians proud. Meet Miss Universe Lara Dutta when we return.


BINDRA: No one knows for how long man has been experimenting with medicines made from herbs and other natural ingredients. What we do know is for centuries there have been claims of amazing cures as a result of their use.

But as INSIDE ASIA'S David Compton reports, scientists in the northern Indian city of Lucknow now say there may be some risks involved.


DAVID COMPTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Indians call herbal medicines Ayurveda. But some scientists call them potentially dangerous. They warn that many of the naturally derived drugs and tonics have been found to be contaminated.

Scientists at a research institute in Lucknow did a survey of some leading herbal drugs manufactured in India. They found some to be contaminated with bacteria and fungi that can cause various health complications and can result in serious disorders.

P. PUSPUGDAN, NATL. BOTANICAL RESEARCH INST. (through translator): The herbal drugs being produced in India have been found with traces of microtoxins besides afrotoxins (ph) that can lead to serious complications. There should be no fungi or bacteria.

COMPTON: The World Health Organization specifies that the raw material for herbal drugs should be free of microbes and any other corrupting materials. Some large drug manufacturers buy raw material in bulk without considering the source. If that source is not an environment that's hygienic and clean, then contamination is a possibility.

Still, millions swear by herbal medicines and other forms of natural therapy. They say that Ayurveda is effective in treating many diseases with few complications.

NIRMAL AGARWAL, AYURVEDA PRACTITIONER (through translator): There are very little side effects. If someone trained in herbal medicines were prescribed them, there are very little chances of side effects.

Ayurveda is based on the principle of examining the patient's mental and physical state. Based on a clear understanding of the patient's state, if such medicines are prescribed which can be consumed, there will be no side effects.

COMPTON: Despite the warnings from researchers, it's probable that few will turn away from the use of Ayurveda. As long as people believe that naturally derived medicines do them more good than harm, they're not likely to abandon a tradition that is centuries old.

David Compton, for INSIDE ASIA.


BINDRA: Floating hotels are a tourist novelty in many countries. But in Bangladesh, they're a way of life for hundreds of low-income workers. Now their operators warn that may not be possible for much longer.


(voice-over): These ramshackle hotels are not much to look at. Years of heat and humidity have slowly chipped away at their exteriors.

But each year, hundreds of those on the move seek them out as an affordable stopping place. They're especially popular with daily-wage and migrant laborers. For very little money, they can get the basics of life - a roof, a hot meal and a friendly smile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The food served in the hotel is good. The atmosphere is good. It is very convenient for us to come here and eat as we travel by boat for reaching here.

BINDRA: Hotel owners say they're struggling to keep their businesses afloat. Although their hotels are popular, they say it's difficult to turn a profit.

MOHAMMAD NUR ISLAM, HOTEL OWNER (through translator): We have been running this hotel for a long time now. We rent out the place for a mere 30 rupees per day. It's affordable for them, and a lot of people come here.

BINDRA: Owners say their clientele can't afford to pay more for lodging. They're urging the government to step in and subsidize the hotels. Without such help, they say, Dhaka's floating hotels may soon disappear.


(on camera): If anyone doubts that some of the world's most beautiful women come from the Indian subcontinent, they need to only consider this. Once again, India has claimed both the Miss World and Miss Universe titles in the same year, a repeat performance of 1994.


RAM RAMGOPAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cyprus was the setting for the Miss Universe 2000 pageant. And for the second time in six years, it was India that took the crown.

Twenty-two-year-old Lara Dutta, who was born in Gazibad (ph) and moved to Bangalore aged 3 , completed her studies in Mumbai. She received the highest score in India on the English section of her national board exams and at university in Mumbai got her degree in economics with a minor in communications.

CNN's Riz Khan spoke with the newly crowned Miss Universe after her first major appearance in New York. He asked about her expectations for the coming year and what was the hardest part of winning the title.

LARA DUTTA, MISS UNIVERSE 2000: Just everybody's expectations, what they wanted of you. Getting there was pressure enough while I was there in Cyprus participated. But being able to win, being able to bring the title of Miss Universe back to India is an incredibly proud accomplishment for me.

What do I expect from my year? I'm going to be traveling 85 percent of my year. And I'll work with the cause that Miss Universe works with, which is AIDS and HIV awareness.

So I'll be working on the cause, also working either with the United Nations on a program called Face to Face. And it works against exploitation of women. So I will be working with that priority in India.

RAMGOPAL: Despite having been a leading fashion and print model, Lara knows the high-profile title will bring its own challenges.

DUTTA: Firstly, it's going to take a little bit longer to get used to the idea of walking down the street and people going, "Are you Miss Universe?" And the first reaction you want to say is no. But you are, so it's going to take a while getting used to that.

Post-Miss Universe, what I've always wanted to do is learn to direct. And I was planning to go into New York University to learn filming even before I won. And I think now I'm in the perfect position to do that.

KHAN (on camera): Directing movies, Hollywood?

DUTTA: Documentaries if I can.

RAMGOPAL: Lara Dutta takes a step closer to that goal once she completes a year as Miss Universe 2000, when she's looking forward to competing her MBA in marketing and communications.

Ram Ramgopal, for INSIDE ASIA.


BINDRA: That does it for this special edition of INSIDE ASIA from New Delhi. I'm Satinder Bindra. Thanks for joining us.




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