Editorial 1/ After the speech
Editorial 2/ Ego before wicket
Home and abroad
Fifth Column/ Between the class and the job
Playground for human guinea pigs
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ AFTER THE SPEECH 
 
 
 
 
Too long on the tightrope might bring on the wobbles. So the prime minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, busy maintaining balance between his sangh parivar background and liberal face, has thought it wise to step off it for the moment. As it is, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s opposition in India is vocal with criticism against his sharing of the platform with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad at the Staten Island meet. His comments, masterpieces of ambivalence though they were, could be construed hostilely as concealing a hidden Hindutva agenda precisely because they were made on such a platform. Mr Vajpayee therefore felt it necessary to issue a clarification, an action too unusual not to indicate the acuteness of the pressures with which he is dealing. His clarifications, chiefly regarding his use of the phrase swayamsevak, the presence or absence of the Ram mandir scheme should the BJP acquire majority status, and the nature of the India of his dreams, show him looking away from sangh parivar confines towards his non-BJP partners in the National Democratic Alliance and a larger vote base. This is not entirely surprising. In spite of occasional throwbacks and less occasional softpedalling of parivar brethren’s misdemeanours, Mr Vajpayee has been seen to steadily distance himself from the hardcore elements of sangh ideology in his public pronouncements. The Ram mandir issue, for example, was never one he seemed happy to be associated with. His addresses to the parivar had become progressively more pointed as he gained in personal stature and popularity as prime minister. Most recently, he oversaw the induction of Mr Bangaru Laxman as the BJP president — a politically correct and inviting move castewise — and Mr Laxman’s call to woo Muslims. The other interesting event was the departure of Mr K.N. Govindacharya from the general secretaryship of the party. Party officials’ over-eager assurances that this strong representative of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideology had asked to be relieved of his duties cannot scotch speculations that it was the prime minister’s wish that he should go. Mr Vajpayee seems to be gently but firmly making his presence felt within the parivar equations.

Only this is not without its risks. It is not only that the BJP high command is still peopled by leaders who would find the growing distance from the RSS deeply uncomfortable. From the point of view of politics, too, they may not find it very clever to wander too far from the Hindutva agenda only to please the NDA partners. Ironically, the agenda was the BJP’s original winning ticket, and without it the two-thirds majority Mr Vajpayee is talking of may simply be reduced to a pipedream. Besides, the RSS provides the kind of solid base organization the BJP depends on to garner votes. The BJP and the RSS still need each other. What Mr Vajpayee is trying to do is tough. He may have to step back on to the tightrope soon.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ EGO BEFORE WICKET 
 
 
 
 
Kapil Dev has said farewell to cricket. There is a difference between saying this and the statement that Kapil has retired from cricket. India’s greatest ever all rounder when he quit as India’s cricket coach also requested the Board of Control for Cricket in India that he did not want to be associated with the game in any official capacity. In other words, he has become a mere spectator. This breach has a sordid history as its background. Kapil Dev is now under suspicion for being involved in matchfixing and bribery. He has ostensible reasons to be bitter. But he should also pause to consider why things have come to such a pass. The very fact that the light of suspicion should fall on him is by itself significant. He should also consider the fact that players he played with or coached are also implicated. Even if one assumes for the sake of argument that Kapil was not directly involved in betting and matchfixing, the point that other players were remains. What did Kapil do as the coach? He did not voice his fears and suspicions to the BCCI. This makes him complicit to the corruption. In reality, the allegations are more substantial and point to a more direct involvement. It is significant that in the public perception — the same public which once worshipped Kapil as a hero — Kapil’s denials and tears do not appear convincing.

Kapil has stated that the game that gave him everything “has now taken its pound of flesh” from him. The tone of hurt is evident. But what is unfortunate is that Kapil has decided to take out his hurt and his wrath on the game of cricket itself. Cricket has nothing to do with the allegations that have been levelled against Kapil. In fact, Kapil’s ire should be directed against those who were trying to destroy the game of cricket. There are indicators that players like Kapil were aware of the erosion taking place within the world of cricket and were not adequately vociferous against these trends. It is well known for example that players, quite often, were seen in the company of dubious businessmen and punters. Kapil, as player, coach or commentator, never spoke against such trends among players. The game of cricket is not a person. Players, coaches, managers and administrators are all part of it. Kapil, if he wishes cricket well, should identify very clearly those who are ruining the game. If Kapil genuinely believes that cricket gave him everything, it is his responsibility to help clean it. A departure in pique makes a great gesture but helps nobody. If Kapil wants to clear his name of taint, he has to help in the process of cleaning up cricket. This demands that he places the game before his ego.    


 
 
HOME AND ABROAD 
 
 
BY SHAM LAL
 
 
Most of the presidents and prime ministers who attended the United Nations assembly’s millennium summit are back home by now. It was an expensive ritual for many. Yet, none wanted to forgo the privilege of having his say, if only for a bare five minutes, in what was, in nine cases out of ten, a near empty theatre. This was, as Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, knew, quite in accord with the practice at such jamborees. With each country having enough troubles of its own, most delegates are in no mood to listen to the others’ tales of woe.

In any case, what was said by most speakers was meant not for a global audience, which only saw fleeting images of a few of them on the telescreen, but for their own people. News snippets about the Indian prime minister shuffling his feet or punctuating the reading of a written text with awkward pauses were as irrelevant as the lowdown on hired public relations men managing to arrange a number of press conferences for Pervez Musharraf.

The question which nudges even the unwary in this country is why the Indian prime minister was made to undergo the ordeal of an official visit to the United States at this juncture when the present administration is on its way out and the one to succeed it will be sworn in four months hence. His knee trouble only gave the query a more cutting edge. This period of great suspense for the present administration was hardly the appropriate time for any substantial talks in Washington to carry forward the process of bringing the two countries closer to each other which gained some impetus during Bill Clinton’s visit to India earlier this year.

Ironically, even after the many jolts suffered by India during its short career as an independent state, there is not enough realization here that the weight carried by a country in the international community, and the care with which outsiders listen to what its leaders have to say, depend on its military and economic muscle and the slots it occupies in the new hierarchies of capital resources, technological prowess and hi-tech armed strength. Hailing India and the US, the world’s two largest democracies, as “natural allies”, may no longer sound altogether mushy in the new international context of increasing concern over throwbacks to despotic rule. But even today it is the harsh reality of power equations which asserts itself in the end.

If democracy counted in the US eyes for even half as much as its official spokesmen claim, the American administration would not be three times as heedful of Chinese susceptibilities as of India’s. Of course, it does go through the routine motions of censuring Beijing for its violations of human rights every now and then. But it has a much larger stake in China’s industrial development today than in India’s and has no hesitation in transferring to it technologies which it denies to a democratic society. Is it purely on the merits of the case or under pressure from its multinational corporations that it continues to softpedal China’s sale to Pakistan of medium-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads?

That the Clinton administration was quite firm in its insistence on Pakistan’s withdrawal of all its forces to its side of the line of control in the Kargil war was undoubtedly a clear sign of a welcome shift in US south Asian policy. It has also endorsed India’s case that New Delhi cannot possibly resume peace talks with Islamabad unless the Musharraf regime puts a stop to cross-border terrorism. But it is still reluctant to do anything more drastic than imploring Pakistan’s chief executive to restrain the terrorist outfits. This has not inhibited Musharraf, now turned a religious zealot, from donning the mantle of a five-star jehadi. He has taken umbrage at his sponsorship of terrorism being dubbed as a regression to medievalism. Does he expect the world to accept a religious crusade as a postmodern project?

Why is the US reluctant to declare Pakistan a terrorist state after all the fast accumulating evidence it has about the numerous fundamentalist militant groups which Islamabad trains, arms and finances, giving them all the logistical support they need? It is partly the result of a nostalgia for the long period when the latter was one of the US’s client states. But what explains US inhibition in taking more stern action to put an end to this murderous business in the name of a religious war is the fear of alienating Pakistan beyond a certain point in a strategic region where it has already earned the hostility of Iran, its main ally prior to the Khomeini revolution, Iraq, which it supported to the hilt during its protracted war with a clerical Iran, and now the taliban-dominated Afghanistan where the guerrilla war it financed for long has spawned a fanatically anti-Western monster.

It will not be too rash after all this to surmise the likely outcome of the more important part of the prime minister’s business in Washington which has yet to be completed. This is because the already known US positions on the main issues of concern to New Delhi are not going to change during the current political interregnum which leaves little scope for new initiatives. There are four main problems pertaining to India’s developing relationship with the US. There is no sign of Washington’s drawing nearer to New Delhi’s perceptions on most of these issues.

The nuclear issue is likely to stay as awfully tangled as before. The chances of more decisive action against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism are remote. Neither is any of the two major US parties in the mood to accept India as a permanent member with the right of veto in an expanded security council.

Where some gains may be expected are in the field of economic relations. But here, too, investment on the requisite scale to take care of the infrastructure, the adverse fallout of the reform process in the form of growing unemployment, and means to exploit fully the potential for an exponential growth of the information sector, may take far more time to materialize than what the more starry-eyed local futurologists expect.

It is at this point that one comes to the heart of the matter. The future of Indo-US relationship depends both in the long and short runs not so much on how the US administration, with its own hang-ups, responds to the problems facing this country, but the clarity of vision, the unity of purpose and the vigour with which the government here meets the many challenges facing it.

The Vajpayee regime has set its goals but, instead of forging ahead, can only muddle along, badgered now by one ally and then buffeted by another, taking one step forward only to go back half the way under duress. The leading partner in the government is apologetic about the National Democratic Alliance agenda, explaining to its members why it has had to abandon crucial parts of its own programme. The two largest states in the Hindi belt continue to slide into near anarchy and the government can do nothing but wring its hands in despair away from the public gaze.

Atal Behari Vajpayee has greatly improved his own standing as the unquestioned leader of the ruling coalition and has won the confidence of every member party, big or small. But he has been able to do so only because of his readiness to go halfway to meet the demands of his more importunate allies or more aggressive unions which can hold the country to ransom. He still does not have the authority to make his government’s writ run once it has made up its mind. Concessions made under duress are the rule rather than the exception. The so-called coalition dharma exacts its price in slowing down both the policymaking and policy-enforcement machineries.

Why the more fanatical members of the sangh parivar had to fly a planeload of sadhus to the US to confront Vajpayee with their all too familiar demands in support of the temporarily abandoned parts of their charter, once the badges of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s own identity, is a mystery. Keeping his cool, the prime minister told them that he was running a coalition, not a BJP, government and that they would have to wait till the party managed to get a two-thirds majority of its own. As it happens, this is a quixotic prospect at a time when the BJP’s base is visibly shrinking, not expanding, and many of its cadres are feeling let down.

The media hype about the prime minister’s mission will dissolve into thin air within a few days of his return. But the problems of internal divisions, the numerous insurgencies, cross-border terrorism, the widening inequalities and the growing areas of both physical and moral squalor will remain.

American goodwill and cooperation can be of much help. But it can be of no avail in the absence of more efficient management of change at home and much greater determination in dealing with both external and internal threats. The adage, “Best show the empty glass: someone will fill it,” may work at cocktail parties, not in the power-crazed worlds of national and international politics.    


 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ BETWEEN THE CLASS AND THE JOB 
 
 
BY KALYAN CHATTERJEE
 
 
The Indian university, being a transplanted model, suffers from a double bind. In so far as it seeks to conserve its character and lineaments, it invites opposition from anti-colonial forces, but in so far as it lacks the strength and motivation to evolve with social change, it becomes more and more like a bureaucratic system — a hard, opaque shell, propped up by dull routine and empty ritual.

Most of the Indian universities are copied from the original mould of the three presidency universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. One of the commonest features of all these universities, is the examination system, where change is the crying need and inertia the rule. What more needs to be said about the credibility of our examinations when we subject our masters degree holders, regardless of their results, to eligibility tests like the national entrance test, state level entrance test and school service commission test in order to deem them qualified for teaching posts?

The highest degree of the university is in this way relegated to no more than a qualifying degree to sit an eligibility test. But the requirement of at least 55 per cent marks is unnecessarily restrictive for those who have somehow missed this percentage. If the university degree is only a qualifier, since eligibility is conferred not by it, but by NET or SLET, why debar those who have, say, got only 50 per cent marks? Under the prevailing rules, the candidate who improves later and even obtains an MPhil and a PhD, but does not have this magic percentage, cannot still take these tests to prove his/her worth.

Travelling wisdom

This state of affairs is enough to wean away the student from the classroom, since it holds no guarantee of a 55 per cent. Coaching centres and tutorial homes give the student readymade material, specially designed for examinations. Examination is now all that matters and the classroom teacher has begun to have little or no role in it. Tutorial homes have taken the wind out of the sails of the colleges and universities of the country.

The examination system has also brought on the peculiar phenomenon of the travelling professor. The system requires external paper setters, examiners, members of various academic committees, and suchlike and thus enables senior professors to travel from university to university all the year round. The travelling professor meets his like in the universities he visits and builds up a network. Reports, recommendations, invitations, interviews, seminars and conferences circulate mostly within this network. It must be admitted, however, that in many cases, the peripatetic professor is wise and experienced enough to make valuable contributions.

But it can be safely said that most external examiners find correcting and reviewing answerscripts and setting question papers irksome, coming as they do, from institutions they do not serve.

Paper chase

There is little that the university can do, except moralistically persuade the reluctant individual to do his job well, and on time. However, the external examiner is a mere cog in the great wheel of academic bureaucracy, which can digest nothing that is simple and straight. The entire examination system must bear the blame of throwing classroom teaching off centre. It is necessary to let the teacher be in complete charge of his course. The university should have its own discreet method of evaluating teachers. Two or three tests per term along with term papers will make the learning process more fruitful for the students.

It is useless to deny that the examination system has become a deadweight, stifling creativity. Yet the system cannot be wished away, for it has been there for too long. But it is possible to replace it slowly. For starters, 25 to 30 per cent marks can be allotted to classroom attendance, participation and small term papers to get the student into a habit of speaking and writing on his own. Such initiatives are already underway in one or two universities, but more needs to be done. The will to change the system must come from students and the teachers alike, for they are equal players in the field. But in the long run, it is the university in its collective strength, and beyond it, the political consensus of society, that must help the educational system acquire a fresh lease of life.    


 
 
PLAYGROUND FOR HUMAN GUINEA PIGS 
 
 
BY SANDHYA SRINIVASAN
 
 
The Indian Council of Medical Research’s announcement that it has finalized ethical guidelines for biomedical research on human beings is of particular importance, given recent controversies on research in developing countries. Proposed changes in international research ethics guidelines would reduce protection to research participants, even as India is promoted as a place to conduct cheap drug trials for regulatory approval in the West. The ICMR guidelines — and their implementation — must meet this challenge.

The latest development in this controversy concerns two studies in Uganda by United States-based researchers, looking at the following question: does treating sexually transmitted diseases reduce the incidence of HIV transmission in a community, and does an HIV positive person’s viral load have anything to do with how easily the virus is transmitted?

To answer the first question, one group of people was treated for STDs, another group was given no treatment but referred to free government clinics, and both groups were regularly tested for HIV. To answer the second question, in a second study, 415 HIV-discordant couples (one partner HIV positive, the other HIV negative) were observed over a period of time and tested regularly, but given no treatment. Researchers did not ensure that HIV positive people informed their partners of their status. Ninety partners became infected with HIV during the study.

These trials would be unacceptable in developed countries but were justified by researchers on the grounds that they provided important information, and the care provided to participants reflected the standards of the community. The second study was submitted to the New England Journal of Medicine. Its editor expressed her reservations, publishing the study in the hope that it would encourage debate on the subject.

This debate dates back to 1994, when clinical trials in the US found that HIV positive pregnant women, administered a particular course of the anti-retroviral drug, AZT, had dramatically reduced chances of transmitting the virus to their children. This course, known as the 076 regimen, quickly became the standard of care for HIV positive pregnant women in the US. However, a single course cost more than $800 and it needed intravenous administration which was seen as unfeasible in poor countries.

Based on World Health Organization recommendations, more than 15,000 pregnant, HIV positive women in Asia and Africa were enrolled in 16 trials of shorter courses of AZT, sponsored by UNAIDS, the US centres for disease control, the national institutes for health and national governments.

However, as pointed out in an essay and an editorial in the NEJM in September 1997, in all but one trial, while the experimental group received the short course regimen, women in the control group were given a placebo or sugar pill. Placebo-control trials, when an effective treatment exists, violate current international guidelines. The Helsinki Declaration requires that “every patient — including those of a control group, if any — should be assured of the best proven diagnostic and therapeutic method”, which in this case would have been the 076 regimen. This trial design would have been rejected by ethics review boards in developed countries.

The studies’ proponents argued that the placebo control was essential to see if the drug worked in breast-feeding populations. The 076 regimen was too expensive, and difficult to administer in the research environment, and anyway, the control group would not otherwise have had access to the drug. Alternative study designs (without placebos) would require a larger sample and longer study, and this information was needed urgently to help thousands of women in developing countries. Finally, participants had given their informed consent, and local ethics committees had approved the studies.

However, others held that the researchers knew that the short course would work — which meant they could not ethically use a placebo. The claim that participants gave their informed consent was challenged. Nor could it be assumed that local ethics committees represented the interests of poor people in those countries. Finally, the benefits of this research would go to the developed world, not to the participants’ community, where even the short-course AZT was unaffordable because pharmaceutical companies keep prices high. (The US Export-Import Bank’s announcement of a $1 billion loan to African countries to buy drugs from US manufacturers, has been condemned as ”a debt that tomorrow’s AIDS orphans will be forced to pay.”) Similarly, the findings of the Ugandan trials are unlikely to be of value in that country.

Meanwhile, the World Medical Association has discussed changes in international ethical guidelines for research in developing countries. One change is that study participants would no longer be assured the best proven treatment — to which they are entitled today, even if only in theory. Treatment would vary according to the standard of care in the community.

All this is of particular relevance to India as it promises to become a “world centre” for testing new drugs, despite its history of unethical research. Its large population with diseases of the poor as well as of the better-off has attracted a number of contract research organizations which undertake clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies in the West.

The potential returns are believed to be tremendous. A clinical trial in India would reportedly cost a third of what it would in the US, and could fulfil US regulatory requirements as long as standards of data collection are met.

The CROs in India will swell the ranks of private research outfits which do not even get the cursory supervision of research funded by or through the government, increasing the scope for unregulated, unethical research. Even in the case of research funded through official channels and conducted through institutions with ethics committees, participants’ informed consent is often a mere formality.

As current policy continues to reduce people’s access to public health services, the poor may participate in research, believing — wrongly — that it provides care of some kind. Ethics committees are often reluctant to raise queries which might send the research project — and the associated funds — elsewhere. Many drug trials are known to be a sham to meet regulatory authorities’ paperwork requirements.

Research will increase with the National AIDS Control Organization’s announcement of plans to participate in global efforts to develop and test AIDS vaccines. Commercial sex workers, STD clinic clients and injecting drug users are being recruited for this purpose. Trials have started of drugs for HIV positive pregnant women. Recently, a Sangli-based organization went to court arguing that the study design of one of these trials was unethical.

There are also many instances of “cowboy research”: until they were stopped by legal action, US doctors used a network of unregistered practitioners to chemically sterilize thousands of poor Indian women with the anti-malarial drug, quinacrine. Information gathered during this “enterprise” was published as research in journals.

In fact, the role of ethical watchdog in many instances of unethical research which have come to the public eye has been played not by the ICMR or other government bodies but by local activist organizations.

The ICMR has an uneven record of monitoring its own research, let alone that of other institutions. The 1980 policy statement called for ethics committees in all its affiliated institutions, but senior officials admit that functioning ethics committees in ICMR affiliates may be the exception rather than the rule.

The 1997 ethical guidelines for research on human beings, which were publicized and debated extensively, were reported to have been finalized only recently. However, the document has not even been made available to all committee members. There is also no word on how these guidelines will be implemented, both within ICMR institutions and to monitor the growing body of research in the country.    


 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Politics of failure

Sir — Is Mamata Banerjee completely sure of what she wants? Her repeated demands to the Centre for the imposition of Article 356 in West Bengal would make one feel that Banerjee is only being driven by her obsession to oust the Left Front government. And in the process, hurrying things a little too much. It is unbelievable that she fails to understand how her present demands might lead to a situation where the left simply appears to have been victimized by the Centre at Banerjee’s instigation. Going by past records of the Centre’s failure to impose president’s rule, Bihar being a case in point, Banerjee should have been more careful about her agitation. Or has she a different agenda and so is banking on the failed attempt of the Centre to impose Article 356 in Bihar at the intervention of the president? May be if her agitation fails, it will only benefit her in the long run, and most so in the forthcoming assembly elections. Refusal to introduce president’s rule in West Bengal might make Banerjee out to be a victim herself.
Yours faithfully,
Mita Guha, Calcutta

Keep the bombs ready

Sir — It has been widely reported by the foreign media how Pakistan is training millions of young men throughout the world to wage its jehad against India. The Inter-services Intelligence is openly arming militant groups like the Hizbul Mujahedin and the Lashkar-e-Toiba to terrorize the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan is supplying the most modern weapons, ammunition and deadly explosives like the RDX to terrorists elsewhere in India to murder military personnel and civilians and to destroy property in India.

Acquisition of nuclear weapons and India’s declaration of no-first use of its nuclear arms has further emboldened Pakistan, which is getting the support of China to develop and stockpile its nuclear arsenal. China on its part has encircled India with the help of Pakistan and Myanmar and has steadily worked against India’s territorial integrity by occupying areas of the country. It is also providing arms, ammunition and training to secessionist groups in the Northeast. Besides, China has nuclear missiles in Tibet targetted at all major Indian towns and cities. Indians in fact have been living under the threat of a nuclear holocaust for decades because of the hostility of an expansionist China.

India has mouthed platitudes for a long time. Now is the time for some concrete action. It must ensure it has enough nuclear arms to target all towns and cities, all military bases and installations in both Pakistan — including Pakistan occupied Kashmir — and Afghanistan. It must also have additional stockpiles of nuclear weapons to work as a deterrent against China. India should immediately recognize Taiwan’s autonomy and have a military alliance with the United States to checkmate its belligerent neighbours. Military alliances with other countries in southeast Asia are also necessary for the containment of China.

Yours faithfully,
Ashok T. Jaisinghani, Pune

Sir — The apocalyptic thriller, Dragon Fire, by the world affairs correspondent of the BBC, Humphrey Hawksley, does not surprise Indians. However hard the communists and the other fanatics favouring China in India might try to dispel the fear psychosis of Indians and dismiss China as a potential threat to India, in reality the sensible should know against whom China and Pakistan are ganging up. The rodomontade — Indian Ocean is not India’s ocean — and the deliberate delay by the Chinese to demarcate the border with India speaks volume about their true intention.

China and North Korea are the major suppliers of nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan. That Chinese secret service agents and the ISI are actively engaged in fomenting trouble in India has been exposed by the surrendered militants of the United Liberation Front of Asom.

Satellite pictures also allegedly reveal that China is on the verge of completion of roadways that lead to India from the Northeast as well as from Nepal. It is useless to debate whether or not Chinese missile batteries are aimed at Indian cities, but more prudent to count their numbers and take precautionary steps and counter-measures against them.

Like the US and Russia, India too should build nuclear bunkers and deploy long range delivery systems, capable of carrying any type of warheads. India should arm itself to the hilt with conventional as well as nuclear weapons. Also, India should play an active role in restoring democracy in Yangon and free the country from the military rulers who are hand in glove with the Chinese regime and could open another front anytime at their master’s command.

Yours faithfully,
Rajesh Sengupta, via email

Sir — The world over, democracy has now become a Trojan horse to promote all sorts of fascist and communist cults. This is true of India as well. Petty politicians, ministers, criminals and agents are pushing against the seams of our fraternity in the name of democracy. Unless they refrain from doing so, India faces the spectre of another invasion.

A fitting answer to Pakistan would be to allow our Muslim brethren to go to the front. This will not only silence Pakistan and its armed mercenaries, it will also quell the communal fire in India.

Yours faithfully,
Rajesh Kelkar, Nagpur

Air forced

Sir — The court of inquiry into the recent crash of an Alliance Air aircraft which began a public hearing at Patna on September 4, is being headed by an Indian air force officer, Air Marshal P. Raj Kumar. May I ask why is an air force officer heading an inquiry of a civilian aircraft of a national airline? And why therefore should not airline pilots be allowed to look into the causes of the Indian air force’s dismal safety record?

Perhaps one ought to remember that all training carried out on the Boeing 737-200 aircraft (including those of the Indian air force’s VVIP squadron) in this country is conducted by Indian Airlines in its central training establishment at Hyderabad. There are qualified Indian Airlines pilots with thousands of hours of experience on the Boeing 737-200 who could perhaps possess greater capacity to handle such a specialized task.

The recent Concorde crash in France was investigated by experienced Concorde pilots and not officers of the French air force. There are pilots in Indian Airlines and Air India with thousands of hours of international airline experience, not to speak of international VVIP missions, who could be better qualified to handle the task.

Yours faithfully,
Subhashish Majumdar, via email

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street
Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
Third Floor, Godrej Building,
G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007
   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company