Editorial 1
Editorial 2
Letters to the editor


Straight bat

One convenient way to confuse everybody is to throw around charges accusing all and sundry. The consequent confusion helps in the cover-up. This is one kind of conclusion that can be drawn from the conditions that prevail now in the enquiry concerning betting in cricket. In India, allegations have been tossed around to the extent where one is tempted to believe that no recent cricketer played the game honestly. There is as much ground to accept Manoj Prabhakar’s mudslinging as there is for accepting Kapil Dev’s tears. But it would be a mistake to assume that players alone are responsible for perpetuating this kind of confusion. Mr Ali Bacher, the managing director of the United Cricket Board of South Africa and a man known for his sobriety and dedication to the game of cricket, announced that he was willing to reveal the identity of the Indian bookmaker code-named “Mr R”. But there were conditions attached to Mr Bacher’s offer. He said that he was willing to disclose the identity of the bookmaker to the Central Bureau of Investigation provided the latter interacted with “Mr R’’ only in camera. The ostensible reason for laying down this condition is the fear Mr Bacher has for the bookie’s life. It gets curioser because all depositions in this case are being taken in camera. Mr Bacher does not want the real identity of “Mr R” to be known. This desire to protect someone who has destroyed the ambience in which cricket was played is a bit strange on Mr Bacher’s part. As is the encounter Mr Bacher had with this particular bookmaker.

This lends strength to the suspicion that cricket officials, like Mr Bacher, have always been aware of the presence of bookies around cricketers and playing arenas. They have chosen, for reasons best known to them alone, to turn a blind eye to the shadow such a presence casts on the game. Mr Bacher’s eagerness to protect “Mr R’’ is part of an elaborate and elusive jigsaw puzzle. If Mr Bacher has the good of cricket anywhere near his heart he should come out clean with all that he knows without fear and without prejudice. Protection of human life is the job of the law-enforcing agencies, Mr Bacher’s job is to clean cricket of corruption. Mr Bacher would do well to remember that officials who have been running the game of cricket are running low on credibility. They were complict in the cover-up involving Mark Waugh and Shane Warne by allowing them to get away with a mild reprimand and fine after they had admitted taking money from a bookie. Mr Bacher’s efforts to protect a bookie do not exactly enhance that credibility. Too much has already been lost because players and officials turned a blind eye to what they thought was an exception. The rule of integrity knows of no compromise or conditions.    


Opening doors

The main criticism of the cabinet’s decision to further open the door to foreign investment is that it does not go far enough. New Delhi moves three steps forward, one hop backward and then shuffles sideways when it formulates policies to attract foreign investors. The decision to allow 100 per cent foreign equity holdings in electronic commerce, for example, was hardly a concession. Domestic information technology players had warned that if India put up barriers to such investment, the country would become obsolescent in the fast moving world of e-commerce. Yet New Delhi has decided to allow 100 per cent foreign holdings only in business to business e-commerce. Barriers still remain to foreign holdings in the equally important area of business to customer e-commerce. In other words, India is likely to remain outside the purview of Amazon.com. There is also a tinge of worry in allowing 100 per cent foreign equity holdings in the power sector. The country continues to suffer from endless power shortages and transmission problems. Many of the foreign power companies who came to India to set up power ventures have since packed their bags, driven away by dilatory Indian decisionmakers. In a power sector rife with nonpaying customers, interfering politicians and ever changing policies, 100 per cent ownership may have little impact on investment.

The truth remains India is still struggling to get two to three billion dollars a year in foreign direct investment. It trails far behind China in attracting foreign capital. India’s marginal status in the marketplace is in part because of the many niggling curbs and strictures that were placed on foreign companies that came to India. The dividend balancing clause — redundant as India piled up a mountain of foreign exchange and it was realized foreign firms repatriated almost nothing as dividends — has thankfully been scrapped. The cabinet should have taken the opportunity to unshackle two other sectors. It should have raised or abolished the ceiling on foreign equity holdings in public sector banks. The nationalized banks, overstaffed and debt ridden, have few takers. With a 20 per cent equity ceiling on foreign holdings it is no surprise no foreign bank has touched the public sector banks with a bargepole. The nationalized banks could desperately use the cash infusions and better management that foreign banks could provide. A similar case of myopia is the government’s refusal to contemplate foreign investment in retailing. Overseas retailers are extremely efficient in reducing prices and providing service. India’s retailing sector could do with their knowhow and their competition. Unfortunately, New Delhi in its own way continues to echo the defeatist attitude of the communist parties and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch who argue Indian entrepreneurs cannot compete against foreign firms, that the economy should hide behind a locked door.    


Homely follies

Sir — The ethnic struggle in Sri Lanka is proving to be more costly to India than to its southern neighbour. It claimed hundreds of lives in Tamil Nadu in the Seventies and Eighties as rival Tamil groups fought with each other to wrest dominance in the movement for the eelam. India’s expenses grew with its involvement. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were trained by the Indian army and huge resources pumped in by the Indira Gandhi government to keep J. Jayawardene busy. India reaped a bumper harvest in the Nineties for its investment. Apart from a former prime minister, it lost hundreds of soldiers sent to keep “peace” in Sri Lanka. Despite burnt bridges, the inflow of ethnic Tamil refugees hasn’t ceased, nor surreptitious assistance to the LTTE which must have continued given that Tamil Nadu politics is to some extent determined by eelam posturings. After all the trouble, does India still need to throw $ 100 million down the drain (“Jaswant on Colombo to Chennai tightrope”, June 13)? With a sizeable eelam population already on Indian soil is there still a need for the eelam in Sri Lanka?

Yours faithfully,
J. Sarma,

Enigma of secularism

Sir — Bhaswati Chakravorty in her article “Spot the foreigner” (June 6) has rightly pointed out the inherent dangers involved in the gameplan of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its parivar to take the nation for a ride by whipping up passions on the basis of religion. Why can’t these so called “saviours of Hindu culture” divert at least some of their vast resources and money to mitigate the more pressing problems of their Hindu nation — poverty, unemployment, child labour? Can these messiahs of social justice ensure that a Dalit reconverted to a Hindu will be looked upon with respect? Can they prevent tribals from being treated as children of a lesser god?

The sangh parivar fantasizes about a great Hindu rashtra where it will be dictating terms to others. The parivar members proclaim the virtues of a Hindu resurgence while the nation bleeds to death, criminals trample on its social fabric. The rape of nuns, parading of naked women and burning of Christians become the high points of a national life that conveniently diverts attention from the more urgent needs of the hour.

Our forefathers had envisioned an India built on the strong bond of love and trust among countrymen. Let us not destroy that dream. Let us not be fooled by these “saviours” into suspecting the integrity of our brethren — be they Sikhs, Muslims or Christians.

Yours faithfully,
George Mathew
, via email

Sir — There is a growing tendency among the print media to become self-appointed champions of the backward castes. Two articles, “Spot the foreigner” by Bhaswati Chakravorty and “Secularism, Indian style” by Partha Pratim Basu (June 5) prove this. Why should the constitutional character of secularism be abused because of some stray criminal acts taking place in the country? And why should the Jhabua incident be referred to, ignoring the fact that the perpetrators of the crime were identified?

A crime is a crime irrespective of the fact who committed it. The media often reports that “Christian” or “Muslim” shrines or sites have been attacked. Do our guardians of democracy or secularism ever dare to publish reports of Christian or Muslim criminals being arrested?

The good always shares space with the bad. Ravana existed with Ram. The Pandavas coexisted with the Kauravs. Jesus shared the era with his crucifier. That our family was once harassed by Bengali goons in West Bengal does not prove the entire Bengali community is condemnable. Our family in Bally, West Bengal also witnessed our assaulters being roughed up by the local people.

Readers forget indulgence in criminal acts is not the character of Indian society which consists mostly of honest and simple people. Criminals do not make up the entire population.

Yours faithfully,
D.K. Chaturvedi,
via e-mail

Sir — “Secularism, Indian style” by Partha Pratim Basu is a bold article. But what needs to be looked at is not so much the efficacy of dispensing with personal laws as the real uplift of the minority groups in society. This should be achieved through the imparting of proper education, arranging for meaningful self-employment and making all Indians aware of the our rich heritage.

The problem however lies in the fact that Indian politicians, particularly the centrist parties, appease Muslim voters . The sole objective of our legislators should be the framing of laws which would ensure social justice for all without any discrimination.

Yours faithfully,
Radhakanta Roy,

Sir — One might add to Partha Pratim Basu’s observations another instance of hypocrisy of Indian “secularists”. Remember how Rajiv Gandhi overturned the court’s ruling on the Shah Bano case? Iranian women were admitted to posts of wardens since 1998. Dubai recently has allowed women to work as taxi drivers. If Islamic nations are changing conventional mores, why should India now enforce fundamentalist ways?

Yours faithfully,
Govinda Bakshi,
Budge Budge
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