Editorial 1/ Dubious battle
Editorial 2/ Reality check
Woes of the second best
Fifth Column/ Keep peace but target it right
And thereby hangs a tale of despair
Letters to the editor

The Left Front government in West Bengal is getting ready for a set piece battle against the Central government. The latter prompted by the Trinamool Congress, one of the members of the National Democratic Alliance, sent the defence minister, Mr George Fernandes, to study the situation in West Bengal. Mr Fernandes’s report was not complimentary about the law and order situation in the state. Mr Fernandes was so shocked by what he saw that he described West Bengal’s law and order situation to be as bad as what prevails in Bihar. On the basis of Mr Fernandes’s report, the home minister, Mr L.K. Advani, has decided to send a Central team to West Bengal. These developments have got the adrenaline flowing in Mr Basu’s bloodstream. He made it clear that he would lead the counter-attack against the Central government. This is a terrain with which Mr Basu and the left are very familiar because they have fought many skirmishes with the Centre on this turf. The battle lines can be predicted without too much fuss. The left will first refuse cooperation to the Central team; it will then declare that the findings of the team are prejudiced and nothing more than a tissue of lies; and it will mount a campaign against the interference of and harassment by New Delhi. The Trinamool Congress will continue to screech against the state-sponsored terror of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The truth about the law and order situation will disappear down the black hole of allegations and counter-allegations.

What cannot be denied is that there has been a noticeable deterioration in the law and order situation in West Bengal. Within the city of Calcutta, petty theft, robberies, murders and organized crime have been on the rise. It is also true that Calcutta’s underworld flourishes because of the protection it receives from political parties. All parties are complicit in this but the CPI(M), as the most powerful party, will have to take the lion’s share of the blame. The districts of West Bengal had been peaceful till a few months ago. But this situation is changing fast. The signal for this change was the left’s defeat in the byelection in Panskura. The results of that election showed that the influence of Ms Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress supremo, was no longer confined to Calcutta and its suburbs. This brought about a change in the power balance in rural Bengal, especially in Midnapore. Parts of Midnapore over the last few weeks have become the site for pitched battles between the CPI(M) cadres and the Trinamool Congress supporters.

The Left Front’s handling of the situation has been ham-handed. It has refused to call an all party meeting to defuse the situation. It has also failed to take adequate action against murderers and destroyers of property. This has allowed the situation to snowball. This can only be interpreted as a failure of the police and the administration. The collapse of law and order has not spread to all the districts of West Bengal but it has collapsed in pockets. This is bad enough. Ms Banerjee would like nothing better than the imposition of president’s rule in the state because she believes that this will ensure free and fair elections. But she must be aware that the use of Article 356 will allow the left to masquerade as martyrs. A challenge from the Centre on familiar ground has rejuvenated Mr Basu. It remains to be seen if he can still deploy his armoury with his usual aplomb.    

If only it was a load of politically motivated rubbish. West Bengal government’s kneejerk indignation at the Centre’s reprimand for its law and order fiasco has had to face a humiliating and gruesome reality check. The Centre is alarmed at what is happening in the districts. But the situation in Calcutta is catching up. Suchitra Majumdar was killed and her house burgled by 16 armed men in the heart of residential Calcutta. The burglary was a planned and prolonged operation. The subsequent police investigation has led to an already well-established criminal nexus, the intricate workings of which the police love to narrate. The comprehensiveness of their narrations is, however, inversely proportional to the effectiveness of their action. The robbery has been linked to the illegal buildings racket, perpetuated by lawless promoters, in the suburbs of Calcutta, particularly in the infamous South 24 Parganas district. Regent Park, where the burglary took place, falls under the purview of the state police, although it is part of ward 111 of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

This location of the crime in an uncertain grey zone between the city and its suburban districts is symptomatic of what ails the state’s law and order machinery. There exists a discriminatory and incapacitating divide between the Calcutta police and the state police, causing much inefficiency and disgruntlement within the forces. There continues to be a huge discrepancy between the city and state forces, with the state police in the districts at a disadvantage. This can be seen in the area of jurisdiction of each station, and in the provision of manpower, arms, transport and communication equipment. It is, therefore, easy for criminals in the districts to conduct their operations in the city and then flee to the districts and suburbs, out of the reaches of the city police and into the jurisdiction of the state police, who are not adequately equipped for prompt and effective action against them. Areas like Jadavpur, Behala, Kasba and Regent Park — caught between city and state jurisdictions — have suffered because of the lack of administrative will to rectify this discrepant situation. While the home (police) minister and his men remain in denial, incidents like the Regent Park killing will strengthen the basis of precisely those allegations they deny vociferously.    

A paper recently published in the Economic and Political Weekly draws attention to the economic consequences of the electronic and tele-communications revolution now sweeping the world. The name of the author has an Indian tinge, but the focus of the analysis is almost exclusively on likely developments in the United States and Europe. The rest of the globe, apparently according to the author, is not of much relevance, despite the indisputable fact that roughly 80 per cent of the world population is concentrated in these regions.

Not that the author is altogether unaware of the negative aspects of the technological revolution that has already taken place and is still continuing. Most of the difficulties, she would however like to suggest, arise on account of labour and product market rigidities. Labour productivity in country after country, she admits, has been on the decline over the past two decades.

This, on the face of it, is surprising, since the application of the new technology ought to have sparked an explosion of productivity increase. This has not happened, argues the author, because of resistance on the part of workers to accept the new technological processes; while in some countries, particularly in the US, there has been an impressive rise in labour productivity, in other parts of the world capital erosion has actually been accompanied by a decline in productivity associated with total labour. The author heaps most of the blame on the so called Luddite factor, meaning the fear of the working class regarding the employment effects of invention. This however is old hat; it does not solve the problems of rising worklessness and growing income inequality both within a given country and between countries.

The author cites some relevant statistics. Between 1980 and now, employment has risen by 24 per cent in the US, by 17 per cent in Japan, but by only two per cent in Europe. Apart from Luddism, she also adduces a delightfully retrograde reason for the slow growth of employment in the European community. Minimum wage in Europe, she mentions, is as high as 60 per cent of the median wage, while, in the US, it is only 34 per cent. The high minimum wage is a disincentive to employers to induct labour; they rapidly cross over to labour-saving devices. A variant of the phenomenon, the author implies, is state enforced product restrictions, such as on the expansion of banking services and shop opening hours, thereby stemming the potential growth of employment in so called “sunrise” industries. Whether loss of employment in the conventional sectors is more than compensated by labour absorption in the new activities is not discussed at all.

As regards income distribution, the author is candid enough: “The technology has...had winner-take-all effects on income distribution. The globalization of the market has intensified competition greatly; and the ability to access this global market has given the best in any profession a tremendous margin over the second best...The best can capture the market and since the market is now global instead of local, the earnings differential is correspondingly greater.”

If the situation in Europe is discouraging, how much graver it will be so in Asia, Africa and Latin America can be well imagined. On the insistence of the Western countries, trade protection is being withdrawn at a fat pace in the relatively underdeveloped parts of the world, which are then exposed to the ravages of unrestricted imports and import-inducing import substitution sponsored by transnational corporations. The author does not bother to mention, but we can quote the instance of our own country. In India, during the past couple of decades, employment has stagnated in both the private and the public sectors.

The rage of closing down factories and establishments has been as high in the public sector as in the case of private undertakings. On top of this, small and cottage industries have been denied protection worth the name, and off-loading of labour has been of an intense order in these sectors. With deficit financing and the greed of producers to extract surplus in a labour-surplus milieu, both stoking inflation, it is a harrowing experience the working class is going through.

It is however a new era of economists. Following the de-emphasis of the economics of growth, interest in the state of being of the under-developed economies is at a low ebb: the marvel of the technological revolution has gripped the imagination. Those amongst the economists in the poorer countries who can escape the dreary conditions there, do so. Those unable to decamp are a sullen lot. They try their best to follow blindly the kind of economics that has come to be in vogue in the rich capitalist nations. The plight of the majority of the population in their own lands does not concern them in the least. The current data on unemployment and income inequalities, as well as the prospect in regard to these macroeconomic categories, do not impress them. They dub these developments as transitional factors which, in the long run, technological development will take care of.

The old biting dictum adumbrated by John Maynard Keynes — in the long run we are all dead — hardly detains them. They know they belong to the top 10 or 15 per cent of the social hierarchy in their respective countries; if the worst comes to the worst, and the economy collapses because of the impact of insensate technological changes, they themselves will not be disturbed, it is only the poor and the middle classes who will be liquidated.

The class divide has therefore taken charge of our economists. What a lovely feeling: socialist and communist movements are pre-historic phenomena. The economists are free of guilt complexes; they are not ashamed to belong to the comfortably placed social class and their economics is intended to advance the cause of this narrow class and of foreigners.

It is therefore a waiting phase, a transitional phase in another sense as well. The majority of the people in the poor economies will have to get reconciled to their immediate and prospective fate, till as long as they do not educate themselves; and this education has to assume the form of both total literacy and total political awareness. There is a pretence in many of these countries to maintain a democratic structure of administration. But it is a strange kind of democracy where the roost is ruled by the top decile of the community while the voice of the rest is stilled. This is however against nature, for in the natural state, in the period of pre-history, men were equal. A fierce battle has to be waged to nudge society to return to that blissful state. On one issue, the author of the article referred to above is dead right. The sort of mass upsurge called for to serve the poor nations and the poor people from the ravages of the technological revolution will be immensely difficult to engineer meanwhile “if (the technological revolution) has shifted the balance of affluence and economic power between classes, countries and continents”. The liberation war of the deprived people in under-developed tracts will have to be focussed not only against the domestic upper classes but also simultaneously against the multinational corporations backed by rich Western nations. It is going to be a long haul.    

The United Nations was founded, as held by its charter, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. Peacekeeping is one of its most important functions. On August 23, the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, released the report of an expert panel he had set up to recommend improvements in UN activities for peace and security.

The recommendations relate to strategic direction, decisionmaking and operational aspects of peacekeeping. In the first 40 years of the UN, of the 18 peacekeeping operations, many ended successfully, as in Lebanon, Congo and Yemen. Operations nearly doubled to 35 in the next 10 years. But, says the report, “over the last decade, the UN has repeatedly failed to meet the challenge of peacekeeping”. Failures include the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the 1995 debacle at Srebenica, former Yugoslavia, and the earlier abortive mission in Somalia. The report intends to correct the shortcomings.

Of the 14 ongoing peace operations, the bulk is in west Asia, Africa and the Balkans. Yet the subject is of wider interest. About 89 countries contribute over 40,000 military and civil personnel to the operations at a cost of over two billion dollars for the present year alone. Some areas could lead to further conflict. The report is thus likely to be considered carefully.

Weight of experience

In India, the report deserves attention for a number of reasons. The country has a long history of participation in UN peacekeeping. It continues to play an active role, as evidenced in Sierra Leone, where India had sent over 3,000 soldiers who constitute one third of the total UN force there. India is an aspirant for permanent membership of the security council. Also, it has been host to UN operations in Kashmir for the last 50 years.

However, the most likely question that will be raised is why India was not included in the panel. Chaired by the former Algerian foreign minister and long time peace envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, this nine member group was constituted by Annan on the basis of personal experience and geographic representation of members.

Having provided force commanders for operations in Cyprus, former Yugoslavia and now Sierra Leone, and UN special envoys for troublespots in Palestine, Iraq and Cambodia, India had more experience than most to make it to the panel. Yet the only Asian representative on it was from Japan, a comparative newcomer in peacekeeping. Western countries were given five seats. India’s inexplicable exclusion may lead to allegations of negligent diplomacy on its part.

The bulk of the recommendations are technical, and relate to planning and financing UN forces to improve efficiency. However, the proposals of a strategic and policy nature need closer scrutiny.

Strange exclusion

The report identifies three elements that peace operations now need: conflict prevention and peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. For the first it emphasizes utilization of fact-finding missions, diplomacy and mediation. There is no reference to bilateralism, which has been the plank of Indian policy. For the other two it notes that peacekeeping has evolved from a traditional, primarily military model of observing ceasefires and forcing separations after interstate wars, to a more complex model in cases of intra-state conflict such as insurgencies, internal clashes and civil wars. The situations are often affected by outside influences like those of political patrons, arms suppliers, drug traffickers and unfriendly neighbours, making the conflicts “transnational” in character.

“Robust rules of engagement” are recommended in such situations, especially if they threaten to become anarchic. The report suggests peacekeepers should be enabled to use necessary force to carry out their mandate. “Post-conflict peace building structures” should be established to achieve lasting peace. This will particularly apply to Kosovo and East Timor, where the UN has been entrusted with overseeing civil governance.

Significantly, the report is silent on proxy wars supported by cross-border terrorism. This aspect India would do well to get included when a detailed implementation plan of the report is prepared. Although absent from the panel, India still has time to ensure that any changes in peacekeeping also takes its concerns into account.    

In the hills of Darjeeling, August is the cruellest month. The day remains sullen as rain patters relentlessly upon soggy earth, loosening the gneissic stones. At night one hears the rumble of a landslide. Road links and power lines snap, people get killed in sleep. Those who live on, learn to make do with dwindling rations and candle-lit evenings, with wild squash roots for dinner and the dead for company. But there are compensations even in harrowing times. With the onset of rains, countless cataracts and little fissure springs come back to life, ensuring that no one goes to bed thirsty. For the hills people, the only one who never lets them down is nature.

Year after year, this realization brings in its wake a bitter despair. But August is the cruellest month, mixing memory with despair. Three anniversaries following one another in quick succession — Independence Day, Nepali Language Day and Accord Day on August 15, 20 and 22 respectively — are the three occasions when the despair crystallizes into a sense of betrayal. This year it was more poignant. Starting on July 31, Parliament passed three bills paving the way for three new states.

The issue of the Gorkhaland state has remained a political flashpoint in the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling for quite some time now. The Gorkha National Liberation Front and other political outfits — the breakaway Communist Party of India Revolutionary Marxist being the most recent and vociferous — have wielded the statehood demand as a weapon as and when it suited them. That the formation of three new states in north and central India would have its inevitable fallout in the political climate of the Darjeeling hills was more than expected. The GNLF and others dub this as the latest in the government of India’s long list of betrayals and deprivations meted out to the hills people. While local political parties condemn the action, the National Democratic Alliance, or any other political party, lacks the organization and the will to tell the people in the hills the other version of the story. That is the economic, ecological and ethnic criteria that were taken into consideration in the creation of the three new states.

In a functioning democracy, in this age of political hard sell, one major deprivation is the lack of access to different opinions. The result — a deepening of despair and distrust in the hearts of the hills people. And yet, in Darjeeling town, Independence Day did not go unmarked. The tricolour duly fluttered on rooftops, like raw wounds against the gray monochrome of the sky, and schoolchildren gathered at North Point ground to take part in a parade and listen to the chairman of Darjeeling Gorkha hill council. But Subhash Ghising is a tired man. Layers of fat barely conceal the lines on his face. His voice, once rich in tone and incendiary in effect, is now as damp and dull as the August rain.

No one knows this better than Ghising himself. Thus, while his partymen have begun to sharpen their tongues upon the whetstone of the old statehood demand, Ghising has chosen to remain silent. After a seven member delegation to New Delhi drew a blank, GNLF organized a series of meetings in the hills to prepare the people for another agitation, longer and bloodier than the last one. Curiously enough, in none of these meetings did Ghising lend his presence. Over the years, the GNLF chief has built up such a reputation in political astuteness that his silence and absences assume an uncanny significance.

The Left Front government, for one, is not taking any chances, especially after the GNLF’s impressive performance in the gram panchayat polls. A seven member committee, formed to review the functioning of the DGHC and headed by the state municipal affairs minister, Ashoke Bhattacharya, has come up with a number of recommendations to “give more autonomy to the council”. One interesting proposal to be taken up with the Centre is the formation of a separate Gorkha regiment for Indians of Nepali origin — a demand Ghising had to drop while signing the Darjeeling accord. How this is going to help the council gain in autonomy is anybody’s guess. No points for guessing why there is not a single line in the report that strives to critically assess the performance of the decade-old council. That would be too uncomfortable for the GNLF-led council as well as for the state government.

The annual Central assistance to the DGHC is Rs 20 crore. The per capita expenditure by the state government in Darjeeling is double that spent on other districts. Why, one might ask, do about 80 per cent of the people in the three hill subdivisions still live below the poverty line? Why are basic amenities and services like water, power, health and education ridiculously inadequate?

The story of Darjeeling’s water crisis is a metaphor for all the ills plaguing the queen of the hills. Set up during the British days, the water supply network at Darjeeling town provides about half (3 million litres per day) of what its 1.2 lakh inhabitants need everyday. The crisis assumes bizarre proportions when around 5 lakh tourists descend on the town between March and May. It means different strokes for different folks. While townspeople suffer, a mafia that pilfer and sell water to the hotels thrive. Ecocide, inefficiency and corruption are the three factors that lie at the root of the water problem as well as most major problems in Darjeeling.

While largescale felling and lack of forest management (the unchecked proliferation of harmful cryptomeria trees is an example) have been ravaging the fragile ecosystem of the hills, the recent phenomenon of shoestring tourism has only accelerated it. Small time operators bring bus loads of lower end tourists, along with provisions, on a whistle-stop tour, herd them into seedy hotel rooms for a night and then bundle them off to some other destination. They contribute very little to the local economy but leave behind tonnes of waste. But neither the council nor the state government has any apparatus to monitor or check it.

One outgrowth of this is the recent spurt of ugly and unsafe constructions all over the town. In fact, in the last couple of years, quite a few tall concrete buildings have come up within a few hundred yards of the offices of the district administration. They not only violate all building rules, but sit merrily on landslide zones.

But who cares? Since the accord of 1988 and the formation of the hill council, one important development in the social fabric here has been the rise of an elite class from among the local people. They get the key government jobs, control businesses, both white and black, and have the right contacts at the right places — at Lal Kuthi as well as at lal bari or the Writers’ Buildings in Calcutta.

If the Gorkhaland state is born, it is these people who will reap the harvest. Interestingly, in their support of the statehood demand of the All India Gorkha Students’ Federation, the All Bodo Students’ Union and the All Jharkhand Students’ Union have maintained that the DGHC would have to be wound up if the agitation is to make any headway. If the GNLF-led council has floundered in many crucial areas, so has the state government. One such area is the language issue. While it champions the cause of the mother tongue in the plains, the Left Front government has done precious little to promote the use of Nepali in government offices and institutions.

The bureaucrats who are posted here in top official positions are not instructed to learn the vernacular, nor are the teachers in the government college who get transferred to Darjeeling from the plains. This, despite Nepali having been in the eighth schedule of the Constitution for the last eight years.

Gorkhas are beautiful people, simple and very decent. Even if they serve you wild squash roots for dinner on a harsh evening, they will bring out their best cutlery. They will open their hearts if you understand the language of their eyes. A lot of bad blood can be extirpated if the ruler and the ruled, the teacher and the taught speak one language, if self-esteem is reciprocated by honour. At a place where the basic needs of life are hard to come by, it is these intangible things that matter the most.    


Northward bound

Sir — The Bharatiya Janata Party cannot harbour the idea of losing its identity as a predominantly north Indian Brahmin organization (“Atal revenge for mukhauta slur”, Sept 8). If the nomination of Bangaru Laxman as party president made the southern part of the country appear a little more prominent than usual on the BJP map, the party leadership wasted no time to undo this error. K.N. Govindacharya, a prominent hardliner, was sidelined from the list of prospective office bearers. Govindacharya’s weak argument that he had been contemplating partial sanyas does not hold water since he has accepted his renomination in the BJP’s national executive. However strongly the BJP might want to project itself as a non-regional, pro-minority party, the selection of a Laxman as president or a few Sikander Bakhts and M.A. Naqvis as party members does not go too far in serving this purpose. What is interesting is that this bias has not deterred the regional parties of the South from participating in the BJP led coalition at the Centre.
Yours faithfully,
S.K. Mitra, Calcutta

Can’t be banked on

Sir — It is astonishing that the unions of bank employees are opposing the introduction of voluntary retirement schemes in banks on the ground that it will reduce workforce by 25 per cent and also hamper the opening of banks in remote areas (“Banks offer extended golden handshake”, Sept 1). The real reason behind this opposition is, of course, different. The union leaders, who work like the mafia in their collection of money from the employees, are actually scared that they would lose Rs 50 to 60 lakhs every month by way of membership fees, assuming that one lakh employees will avail themselves of the scheme.

The unions, doing a volte face on their earlier stand of opposing the opening of new branches in the interior areas, have now come up with the suggestion that instead of introducing VRS to cut excess staff, banks should redeploy excess staff in new branches in rural areas. This is an impossible proposition since the employees are not even willing to move from one branch to another within a city, let alone move to remote rural areas. As a result, excess staff are concentrated in the big cities, while branches in smaller towns and villages suffer from staff shortage.

The advantage of the VRS proposed by the government in nationalized banks is that most of the staff above the age of 45 years with very low efficiency will be got rid of and in their place, younger people can be recruited. This will reduce the burden of monthly wages on the banks, given that the same number of younger recruits will be twice, or even thrice, more efficient than a given number of older staff. However, one drawback of the scheme is that it will pave the way for the retirement of several dynamic and honest officers, who are no longer willing to function in the unhealthy atmosphere of the PSU banks. Thus, soon after the introduction of VRS, these banks may be left with inefficient and corrupt deadwood at branch managerial level.

Yours faithfully,
P.S. Sen, Bangalore

Sir — The government has finally given its nod to voluntary retirement schemes in public sector undertaking banks. Since 1985, the staff strength of the PSU banks has remained constant. The associations and unions interfere in most placements, promotions and transfers. The government solicited their support initially and now it is in a fix. Further, loans given under the Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojana and the Integrated Rural Development Programme have now gone bad, though the officers who had once given out these loans have now reached the top rungs.VRS should first be extended to the top executives. It is only in India that inefficiency is retained in the name of experience.

Yours faithfully,
Krishna Kumar, via email

Sir — Government policies imposed on the public sector banks since their nationalization in 1969 are actually responsible for the dismal performance of the PSU banks. Two of the administrative directives have proved particularly disastrous. Though several thousand officers and staff with agricultural qualifications were recruited to man the large number of rural and semi-urban branches of the PSU banks, another regulation making compulsory rural and semi-urban posting of officers from urban centres came into effect from 1988. To implement this later regulation, agricultural officers of rural branches have been replaced by the officers from urban branches and vice versa.

This reshuffle has greatly affected the performance and profitability of the banks since the officers from urban branches are distinctly ill at ease in rural milieus, besides being unable to process and handle agricultural credit accounts. As a result, several thousand crores of rupees have been mishandled in agricultural finance. A similar situation prevails in urban branches manned by employees from rural backgrounds.

Another policy which has backfired is the recruitment of specialized officers holding management degrees, who fail to take appropriate decisions speedily since they are conversant with the operational areas of the banks. Many a time, this leads to avoidable situations taking a serious turn resulting in dislocation of services and customer dissatisfaction.

Yours faithfully,
Nirmal K. Dasgupta, Calcutta

Living history

Sir — It was a pleasure to read the extract from A Glass Palace, accompanying the article on Amitav Ghosh (“Mirror images”, July 9). But there are a few factual errors in the book, and in the very part extracted under, “The wait was over”. The extracted part talks of 1\1 Jats. There is no such regiment in the Indian army as 1\1 Jats. The Jat group of regiments, 9 Jats and the 2\9 Jats, was stationed in Sungei Pattani. I joined them at the end of 1940. Sungei Pattani is a beautiful town about 200 miles north of Kuala Lumpur. It had a very fine club. It was also the headquarters of the 11th Indian division and the general officer commanding. General Murray Lines was a regular player there. We moved out of Sungei Pattani in mid-1941 and went to our camp at Jettra in Kedah state, some distance from Alor Star, the capital. I was detailed to an intelligence course in October, 1941, at Singapore. We were taught all about the Japanese army, but there was no talk about their invading Malaya. But it was expected that since Japan was running short of petrol, they might invade Malaya because of the naval base at Singapore with its very powerful 15 inch guns facing the sea.

On my return to Jettra, at the end of November, all the officers of the regiment were called by the commanding officer for a conference. The commanding officer was not Colonel Buckland, but Colonel Tester and we were informed that our brigade, the 15th, would move and occupy Singora in Siam, to prevent any Japanese landing there. Ours was not an Indianized battalion, but our other regiment of the brigade, the 14th Punjab brigade, was Indianized and Captain Mohan Singh was a company commander in that regiment. We often used to meet during exercises.

The brigade was to move into Singora within two days of this conference. I was detailed to control traffic ordered on the road for the movement of the brigade. The extract mentions one Arjun. There was no such officer in our regiment. We were waiting on the road near the brigade headquarters to start moving at 4 am, but no orders came till 7 am. Then I went to the brigade mess for a cup of coffee, and learnt there over the radio that the Japanese had already landed at Singora and at Kota Baharu. Within half an hour, the Japanese planes appeared over the brigade headquarters and started strafing from the air. All the officers in the mess hurriedly jumped into the trenches. There was heavy firing, but no casualty and we were ordered to occupy our defensive position at the border. The wait was over.

Yours faithfully,
A.W. Khan, Calcutta

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