Passing the test
Muscle empowered
Foreign helping hand
Letters to the Editor

The comprehensive test ban treaty is again in the air. Both the Indian prime minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the external affairs minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, have talked of seeking a national consensus on signing the CTBT during the coming parliamentary session. This will be the third time the government signals its desire to find a way out of this particular cul de sac. Mr Vajpayee had declared at the United Nations in September 1998 that India would not stand in the way of CTBT ratification. Then, in early 1999, various US officials said senior Indian leaders had intimated India would be cosying up to the CTBT soon. There have been many reasons New Delhi has left its CTBT policy hanging loose. The Kargil conflict, the US’s failure to ratify the treaty, strong opposition from both the extreme left and right are among the reasons. However, the underlying explanation for the Vajpayee regime’s skirting the issue is New Delhi’s uncertainty as to the long term security and diplomatic dimensions of India’s nuclear weapons policy. The statements of Messrs Vajpayee and Singh are a hopeful sign New Delhi is at last clear in its mind about why it should tie up the loose threads of Pokhran II.

CTBT opponents are a motley crew. The extreme left and right oppose the treaty because they see the treaty as a US conspiracy designed to curb India’s national sovereignty. A small but vocal group of nuclear strategists argue the Pokhran II tests were insufficient for India’s deterrent requirements and oppose a test ban. An equally vocal group of nuclear disarmament types wants CTBT signature to be tied to global nuclear abolition. All these groups suffer from a number of misconceptions. First, they have a bloated idea of the tangible importance of the CTBT. The treaty is largely symbolic, a public statement of faith by its signatories in nuclear nonproliferation. That any government would contemplate scrapping its nuclear arsenal because of this treaty is laughable. Second, in announcing a unilateral moratorium on further tests, India already abides by the basic requirement of the CTBT. Third, unlike the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, the CTBT is not discriminatory — it applies equally to nuclear haves and have nots. The concerns expressed about subcritical testing and computer simulations are largely abstract. Subcritical tests have little military relevance and India’s supercomputers are quite capable of simulations.

The real issue is not the CTBT’s fine print. It is whether India wishes to become an accepted nuclear power, with a seat at the high table of world power. If so, it needs to show it understands the responsibilities of being a nuclear power. This includes a strong and clear commitment to nuclear nonproliferation — and signing the CTBT would be a signal of its acceptance of that precept. India has quietly aligned its nuclear policies with those of the permanent five powers these past two years. It has adopted Western export control standards. Mr Singh has said India is compliant with the clauses of the NPT. And, most strikingly, New Delhi showed its nuclear sensibility by keeping its atomic sword sheathed during the Kargil conflict. For various reasons, the CTBT has become the litmus test of India’s nuclear maturity in the eyes of the international community. Mr Vajpayee’s US visit may have set a deadline for signature, but the truth is that India is already overdue when it comes to grasping the CTBT nettle.    

A faulty electronic voting machine and the left’s enormous cadre power ensured that the Left Front remained in control of the Salt Lake municipality. The outcome of the election in a booth in ward 16 veered between farce and a horror story. In the first round of counting, which followed the voting on June 25, the counting of votes in ward 16 could not be completed because the electronic voting machine of a booth refused to work. There was no alternative save ordering a repoll in that particular booth. This repoll was crucial because in the overall situation, the Left Front and the Trinamool Congress were held in a tie. Within ward 16, the left was ahead by 87 votes in the other three booths. In this situation, the Left Front’s election machinery could not leave anything to chance. The left had already lost in the Calcutta municipality polls; retaining control over the Salt Lake municipality was thus a matter of prestige. To win one booth, the left threw in all that it had: strength of its cadres and the influence of its leaders. The left showed that in a micro situation, its election management and muscle power is unmatched. The fact that voting in one booth was marked by violence showed that elections can never really be free and fair in West Bengal. Violence always shows a skewed version of voters’ preference.

Charges of rigging and intimidation against the Left Front, especially against the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are like water off a duck’s back. It could be argued that the left’s victory was the result of the division of the anti-left vote between the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. But the more significant political fact is that despite this division, the left trained its entire election machinery to manage the election in that one booth. This shows the Left Front’s determination and is a backhanded compliment to Ms Mamata Banerjee. The left parties have been quick to draw lessons from its defeat in the Calcutta municipality. Repolling in ward 16 in Salt Lake is a sign of things to come. The Election Commission, if it is not going to let democracy become a joke in West Bengal, will have to improve on its efficiency and mastery over sophisticated machines.    

India’s economic policy reforms have played a critical role in the performance of the Indian economy since 1991. Among other things, the reforms have involved opening the economy, making it more competitive, getting the government out of a huge morass of regulation, empowering states to take more responsibility for economic management and creating a kind of competition between the states for foreign investors. The gross domestic product growth rate which had collapsed to 0.8 per cent in 1991-92 rebounded to a near normal 5.3 per cent in 1992-93, and then accelerated to 6.2 per cent in 1993-94.

Subsequently, GDP grew at an average rate of 7.5 per cent in the three years from 1994-95 to 1996-97, before slowing down to 5.1 per cent in 1997-98. It is important to note that despite the slowdown, the average growth rate in the four years from 1994-95 to 1997-98 was 6.9 per cent, significantly higher than the growth rate of 5.6 per cent achieved in the Eighties. In 1998-99, the GDP is estimated to have grown at 5.9 per cent.

The positive trends being seen in most sectors had the capability to more than neutralize the debilitating effects of two general elections in two years, the east Asian currency crisis, the Kargil conflict, the nuclear explosions and the United States sanctions that followed.

In the backdrop of the east Asian crisis, growth did slow down a little bit, but India has kept growing and avoided the worst of the crisis.

From the narrow financial point of view, two things India did were quite helpful.

One, it kept some limit on short term capital inflows and did not go overboard in borrowing short term from abroad. This helped India to avoid the financial reversals of some of its neighbours. Two, it kept the rupee flexible. The depreciation of the rupee definitely helped keep the Indian economy more competitive and kept economic growth going during this period.

In the context of the east Asian crisis, certain kinds of money fled while other kinds did not. The “hottest” money was short term loans from international banks. The reversal of short term bank lending constituted a very large proportion of the overall $ 105 billion reversal in capital flows. The banks put in $ 56 billion in net lending in 1996, and then withdrew an estimated $ 21 billion in net loans in 1997, for a swing of $ 77 billion. That amounts to 73 per cent of the overall reversal. Portfolio equity investors — in other words, country equity funds — also reversed gear, to the extent of $ 24 billion.

Foreign direct investors, by contrast, were very stable. It is estimated that net foreign direct investment remained roughly unchanged between 1996 and 1997, at around seven billion dollars in net flows each year.

It is significant to point out here that India went through a near disaster in 1991 that was, among other causes, based on short term borrowing. Of course, at that time it was short term borrowing from nonresident Indians. But it was the same kind of phenomenon — lots of short term capital came in and then moved out, creating a severe payments crisis.

In terms of foreign investment, it is the direct investment that should be actively sought after and doors should be thrown wide open to foreign direct investment. FDI brings huge advantages like new capital, technology, managerial expertise and access to foreign markets. There is little or no downside.

There are lots of international investors who would flock to India right now, especially now that they see that India is more safe than, for example, China. But they are put off by the fact they cannot get reliable power or that the road system is so dreadful that even if they are producing effectively, they will not be able to get the goods to market or back to a port for export. Continuing fiscal difficulties that are often linked to chronic infrastructure difficulties remain a major challenge for India.

The government set itself an ambitious target of achieving $ 10 billion in actual FDI inflows per year. In order for this target to be met, it is essential to undertake some hard reform steps. Should the government decide to implement some of the most critical reform actions necessary for making India an attractive investment destination, then it is likely India will not only be able to meet the target but do much better than that. Of course, additionally, availability of infrastructure services, such as uninterrupted power, good roads, and adequate port and telecommunications facilities are essential.

In order to achieve the government’s goal, it is crucial to raise the FDI approvals to actual ratio. On a cumulative basis, FDI approvals between April 1991 and September 1998 were of the order of $ 54,268 million, whereas, actual FDI during the same period was a mere $ 11,806 million. Actual FDI as a proportion of FDI approved was only 21.7 percent. This ratio is much higher in China, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand.

A few of the Indian states have been more reform oriented, such as Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. But states such as Haryana, Kerala, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal have a lot to catch up with. Of course, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are even further behind. States that are ahead in reform efforts right now are going to find that if they move against populist policies and set up regular markets for services, such as power and water, then they are going to be ahead of the rest in the game.

There are rather significant differences in reform interest and economic performance between a large part of north India and south India, where Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are quite dynamic in trying to get the infrastructure and the policy regime right to attract largescale foreign investment. In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh one does not see the same kind of reform dynamism and the economic growth results are therefore poor.

These differences will be noticed politically sooner rather than later. Inequalities will become glaring as the states that are ahead will be rewarded with better performance and the states that are behind will wait to experience domestic demand to catch up with the states that are growing. That will spur a kind of competition among the Indian states and make the reform process go much faster.

State wise approvals of FDI in India suggest differing performances among the Indian states. States are now in competition with one another to attract private investment, domestic and foreign. State level data on FDI approvals, using aggregate FDI approvals between 1991-97, suggest that the relatively fast moving reformers have tended to attract higher investments, both from foreign and domestic investors.

Jeffrey Sachs is Galen L. Stone professor of international trade, Harvard University. Nirupam Bajpai is director, Harvard India program, Centre for International Development, Harvard University    


Give him a big hand, Portugal

Sir — No football championship is complete without routine resignations by coaches. Euro 2000 has also had its share of resignations. But one man’s quitting couldn’t fail to surprise: that of Humberto Coelho, the Portuguese coach (“Portuguese coach resigns”, June 30). Portugal’s display has been one of the bright spots in this year’s championship, another being the 100 per cent negative results of the dope tests carried out on the players. Thanks to Coelho’s improvisation and well thought out tactics, “notoriously individualistic” talents like Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Sergio Conceicao gifted an electric and attractive game to soccer lovers around the world. From a team which had failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, Portugal emerged as giant killers in 2000, defeating teams like England and Germany. Incidentally, Kevin Keegan, coach of England, one of the favourites at the beginning of Euro 2000, has not quit even after England failed to reach the quarterfinals. Coelho has nothing to ask forgiveness for, only plenty of thanks to receive from football fans.

Yours faithfully,
Sumantra Hazra, Calcutta

State of no control

Sir — The National Democratic Alliance partners have, as usual, started demanding the imposition of president’s rule in Bihar in the wake of the recent killings of 40 low caste peasants by the Ranbir Sena, an armed group of landowning Bhumihars in the Mianpur village of the Aurangabad district (“Bloodbath in Bihar revenge belt”, June 18). The massacre was in retaliation of the killings of 34 Bhumihars in Senari on March 18 last year and 13 in Aspad on June 12 this year. This caste war has intensified during the 10 years of Laloo Prasad Yadav-Rabri Devi rule.

The promulgation of president’s rule will not stop the caste war. Its imposition between February 12 and March 8, 1999, had not prevented the massacres at Usri Bazar and Bhimpura. The Naxalites have taken advantage of the the poverty of low caste landless peasants in central Bihar and northern Chhotanagpur.

Bihar’s appalling illiteracy and low per capita income have also contributed to the discontent among the poor and the breeding of caste hatred. The proper distribution of land under the Land Ceiling Act, together with panchayat elections may bring a considerable improvement in the situation. It should also not be forgotten that the proposal for president’s rule in Bihar cannot be passed in the Rajya Sabha without the Congress’s support. And the Congress has seven ministers in the Rabri Devi ministry, which is why president’s rule does not look likely in the state.

Yours faithfully,
Reba Bose, Jamshedpur

Sir — It is ridiculous that the Rashtriya Janata Dal under Laloo Prasad Yadav is accusing the NDA of abetting the recent massacres, including the one at Mianpur. Law and order falls within the jurisdiction of the state governments. As such, none but the Bihar government is responsible for the killings. The Rabri Devi government is a coalition of the RJD and the Congress. Hence the Congress’s role in the whole affair cannot be ignored. Rabri Devi and her husband are so preoccupied with the corruption charges against them that they have no time to devote to the lawlessness in the state. The demand for president’s rule is thus entirely logical.

Yours faithfully,
Manoranjan Das, Jamshedpur

Sir — The Mianpur killings symbolized a macabre show of vendetta violence, even in a state like Bihar, where attacks and counter-attacks have become daily occurrences. The police and the bureaucracy are complicit in caste violence. The NDA’s demand for the resignation of the chief minister and the imposition of president’s rule or the Congress’s lying low or the grassroots vision of the left is not enough to solve the problems of the state. The Centre’s stepmotherly behaviour has led to Bihar’s current predicament. Merely putting it on the line of development will not suffice if the Centre’s nonchalance persists.

Yours faithfully,
Niloy Sinha, Azimganj

Sir — Ever since the Ranbir Sena led massacre in Mianpur, political parties have started blaming each other instead of scrutinizing the role of the bureaucracy and its involvement in the incident. Neither was the police called to account. Instead, commissions were formed and reports sought. But the fate of all such reports is well known.

The bureaucracy gets away scot free while the political parties are busy blaming each other. The governor of Bihar, V.C. Pandey, has acknowledged the police’s incompetence in handling the situation when reporting to the Centre about worsening law and order. The situation requires special intervention by the prime minister and must be examined at the grassroots level.

Yours faithfully,
Pradip Ashopa, Howrah

Sir — It is evident from the recent spate of killings in Bihar that the law and order machinery in the state has totally collapsed. And why wouldn’t it? The police force has not been modernized for ages and appointments and posting still depend on caste, religion and political considerations. Vote banks take precedence over the uplift of the rural poor. Even the relief packages meant for the victims are subject to caste-religion considerations.

It has been said that politicians are taking advantage of the brain-drain from the state. But it is the prevailing situation that is responsible for the brain drain rather than the other way round. Since it is not likely that the politicians will try to put an end to the caste strifes, the people must foil the politicians’ attempt to drive a wedge between them.

Yours faithfully,
Ajay Kumar Mishra, Bokaro

Lessons in immorality

Sir — The news report about the sexual harassment of Nishi Pandey, professor at Lucknow University, by G.S. Bhadouria, one of her male colleagues, provokes deep anguish. Such violations must be countered with exemplary punitive measures, to send a message to men at large in a civil society. Instead of suffering such violence, women must act, and do so at the very first instance.

But what never fails to amaze is the reactions of men following such incidents. In this case too, the men of Lucknow have chosen to remain silent. Do they not have the guts to protest and take up the cause of Pandey? Don’t Bhadouria’s male students not feel degraded by the presence of such a “teacher” amongst them?

Yours faithfully,
V Ramaswamy, via email

Sir — Silence may be golden, but at times it becomes stifling. Nishi Pandey deserves to be congratulated for refusing to remain silent. Through her action, she has also inspired her students to speak up against sexual harassment. Her crusade against sexual harassment will surely encourage others, especially those who are too embarrassed to protest.

Why is it so difficult for a man to be a little more humane towards his female colleagues? Usually men who are not at par with their female colleagues at the workplace resort to dirty tricks to demean the women. Such vicious people must be shown the door at once. G.S. Bhadouria is definitely unsuited for the job of a teacher. Instead of inculcating moral values in students he will only demoralize them.

Yours faithfully
Debjani Kundu, Calcutta

Sir — It is a matter of shame that at a time when men and women are considered equals, gender bias still permeates our education system. The incident at Lucknow university makes this clear. Since the lecturer concerned had earlier been charged with the molestation of a female student, the sternest of steps should be taken against him. If men like him get away, the faith of the people in justice will be shattered.

Yours faithfully,
Nivedita Sarkar, Calcutta

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