Editorial 1/ Legal Blues
Editorial 2/ Right of place
History in action
Fifth Column/ How not to let punjab go to seed
Know the score and forget it
The grass grows greener on every side
Letters to the editor

The Napster hearing before the 9th circuit court of appeals in San Francisco has led to inaction. An 18 year old college dropout named Shawn Fanning wrote a new programme that permits peer to peer (P2P) or PC to PC direct swapping of data. This has immediate implications for digital music stored in MP3 (ISO-MPEG Audio Layer-3) files, the accepted standard for digital music. Music albums stored on one PC can be directly transferred to another PC and thus, music no longer needs to be bought. Therefore there is a negative fallout on music companies that hold intellectual property through copyrights and related rights on such music. On behalf of five media companies, the Recording Industry Association of America filed a suit, claiming that Napster and its related website were aiding theft of intellectual property. Substantive legal issues are yet to be discussed. But RIAA also wanted an injunction to close Napster, pending disposal of legal issues. In July, the US district judge granted such an injunction, which was subsequently stayed by federal appeals judges. The stay on the injunction is what has now come up for hearing and the court has effectively ruled that there is no evidence to show that continuance of Napster will lead to irreparable harm to the music industry. RIAA has been asked to submit more evidence and this is going to be difficult because sales of music CDs have actually gone up by $ 500 million after Napster surfaced. On the substantive legal issue, it is yet unclear that Napster has violated any law. Duplication of music for non-commercial purposes does not constitute copyright violation in any country, including the United States. Hence the argument that Napster was aiding theft of intellectual property rather than indulging in theft itself.

This is referred to as tributary copyright infringement. Even here, legal issues are unclear, since the Napster server merely allows two PCs to interact, music is never stored on the Napster server. More importantly, following Napster, other programmes like Gnutella have surfaced, where there is no such centralized server and it becomes impossible to distinguish Gnutella files from ordinary internet traffic. Had the injunction been upheld, chances are that the final ruling would also have gone against Napster. Now there is scope for doubt. The point however is not just the law, but its enforceability, a fact the Gnutella phenomenon highlights. Rather paradoxically, as patent protection is being tightened up worldwide, thanks to the internet, copyright protection is becoming weaker and weaker. Suggestions like encrypting files or using watermarks are dysfunctional, since hackers are always better at handling technology than law enforcers.

The problem has now spilled over into publishing, with Stephen King’s latest novel having been hacked and freely available online. However, whether it is publishing or music, there are significant transaction costs associated with using the internet. It takes some effort to learn to use Napster and e-books will never replace physical books. Instead of focussing on law and its enforcement, industry needs to focus on what it offers consumers. Had large chunks of music not been available on CDs or if consumers had not been forced to purchase CDs with songs they did not want (single songs cannot normally be bought), the demand for Napster might not have surfaced. There is also a matter of price, CD prices have come down following Napster. Responding to consumers rather than brandishing the law is the answer.    

When affairs are in a sorry state, the best principles seem incredible. They need to be clarified with fanfare. Fittingly, the law commission has recommended that naturalized Indians must have the same rights and privileges as a natural-born citizen and cannot be discriminated against on any ground. This is a forthright application of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality before and equal application of the law. The entire exercise is directed at those opponents of Ms Sonia Gandhi inside and outside the Congress who were screaming for a legislation to bar naturalized Indians from holding high public office. The Bharatiya Janata Party had even promised a legislation to this effect before the elections. All’s fair in war, doubtless. But to brazenly gloss over one of the formative principles of democracy just to put Ms Sonia Gandhi at a disadvantage argues an extreme perversity of strategy.

Now that this rather embarrassing clarificatory recommendation has been made, neither the BJP nor Congressmen hostile to Ms Sonia Gandhi will be able to feign ignorance of the Constitution for their own convenience. For the Congress president, this must be some kind of minor relief, since she already has so many problems on her plate. With no shadow of doubt obscuring her right to her position, she will have to gear up to confront her challengers within the party, like Mr Jitendra Prasada and Mr Digvijay Singh. It is not too bad a moment for her to do so. The Congress has suddenly hit a bright patch: the Gujarat civic polls have gone well, Congress nominees have won all the posts in the Delhi University Students’ Union elections and the Dausa byelection result is in the party’s bag. The dissidents within the party have had to draw in their claws a little. The naturalized Indian is not doing as badly as they had hoped in attracting votes to the party. But a reduction in active dissidence alone will not help the Congress. The vagueness of its policies — it plans to start a nationwide agitation against the petrol price rise — has eroded its identity. The Congress leadership must keep a clear head and a firm hand to steer the party towards electoral gains.    

Imagine that I.K. Gujral and not Atal Behari Vajpayee had travelled to New York and Washington last month as India’s prime minister to attend the United Nation’s millennium summit and hold talks with the American president, Bill Clinton! One certainty among those journalists who covered the prime minister’s US meetings was that had Gujral been in Vajpayee’s shoes, his address to the Asia Society’s dinner on September 8 would have been marketed by spin doctors in the prime minister’s office as yet another foreign policy doctrine from their boss.

Actually, Vajpayee’s address to the Asia Society in New York deserves to be applauded as the “Vajpayee doctrine”. It is the clearest and the most unequivocal enunciation of India’s policy goals since the Pokhran nuclear tests 29 months ago. It is also the most cogent assessment since Vajpayee became prime minister of where India stands today as an Asian power. In this landmark address, Vajpayee buried the discredited “Gujral doctrine”, but without any fanfare and with the kind of quiet discretion that has been associated with his governance at the head of a tenuous coalition.

It was well known even during the days of the United Front government that the Bharatiya Janata Party disagreed with the doctrine associated with the name of the front’s external affairs minister and prime minister. Although the party saw this doctrine as a product of weakness and compromise, it never overwhelmingly opposed it.

The reasons were obvious. Gujral’s spin doctors, including his friends in the media, had packaged the doctrine well. Moreover, the effective marketing of the doctrine had caught the Western imagination, never mind the reality that it was impractical in the extreme.

After Vajpayee became prime minister, foreign policy veterans in his inner circle, like the national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, have repudiated the “Gujral doctrine” at meetings in the PMO with security officials, Indian envoys to neighbouring countries and so on. But until Vajpayee went on record at the Asia Society last month, the doctrine associated with Gujral has been, alas, officially part of Indian foreign policy.

Vajpayee’s words at the Asia Society speak for themselves. “As the largest country in south Asia and the only one that shares borders with all other countries in the region, we are mindful of our special responsibility in taking the leadership in fostering cooperation. Indeed, India has consistently sought to build good neighbourly relations in the south Asian region. This is not only the policy of my government, but is a reflection of our national consensus...In pursuit of this approach, we have displayed a generosity of spirit that few countries can match. We have shown this in our dealings with all our neighbours.” And then the punchline, which casts aside the old doctrine and replaces it with what could arguably be described as a new one. “We seek no undue favours, nor do we accept the right of others to seek unilateral advantages.”

The dumping of the “Gujral doctrine”, though, is no more than a matter of record. The new doctrine, with which Vajpayee has replaced it, takes into account south Asia’s geography, which is beyond change. It also recognizes India’s primacy in south Asia. But to comprehend the full import of Vajpayee’s vision of India in the new millennium, it is necessary to look beyond his perception of south Asia. Making an unprecedented commitment to Asia, Vajpayee said India’s fortunes were linked to the prosperity and stability of the continent to which his country belongs. Thus he drew upon the historic and civilizational role India has played over millennia.

At a time rising oil prices are the main concern for most Western governments, including the United States, Vajpayee said: “India has been, and continues to be, the link between west Asia and east Asia. In a sense, India is central to the Asian identity.” He made it clear that not only Indians but others too had a stake in India’s future wellbeing. “Much of the harmony and stability that we seek in Asia would depend on how India evolves and reflects its growing strength...It will also depend on our success in ensuring peace and stability around us.”

The emphasis clearly was on “our success”: for the first time since Jawaharlal Nehru volunteered Indian services in the Korean peninsula and Indo-China, an Indian prime minister was offering to play a decisive leadership role in Asia. No wonder that in the weeks since Vajpayee’s visit, his speech to Asia Society has become the most sought after text on south Asian foreign policy among students, academics and practitioners of diplomacy in the US.

Foreign policy is not the only reason the speech in question has become a landmark document in the US, almost second in importance to the vision statement signed jointly by Vajpayee and Clinton in March. It candidly sets out the compulsions under which the National Democratic Alliance government is managing its economic reforms programme. Across the US, there is no dearth of businessmen, chief executives and financial advisors who are fed up with doing business with India, thanks to the bottlenecks they face, the endemic corruption and the red tape. Indeed, some of these sufferers hold positions of responsibility in the Asia Society.

It was appropriate, therefore, that Vajpayee should have told them: “It is true that only by opening our doors can we usher in the winds of change. But it is equally true that we need to be cautious so that all we have and value are protected if the winds were to turn into a storm. And, because we are a vibrant democracy, we have to be sensitive that the weak and the vulnerable benefit from economic reforms and globalization.”

Vajpayee promised to make India’s markets more conducive to enterprise and initiative. He promised to make institutions in the country stronger. He asserted that the people were India’s greatest resource and therefore, investing in the people was important. But he left no one in doubt that “the course we have charted hinges on the twin goals of economic growth with social equity”.

The way Vajpayee dealt with issues of reform at the Asia Society and elsewhere in the US, made many in his audience recall a visit by S. Bangarappa, then chief minister of Karnataka, to Silicon Valley. Then too, Bangarappa’s audience had its share of men and women who were fed up with their experience of doing business in India.

But the exchanges between Bangarappa and his audience were acrimonious. These reached their nadir when the chief minister angrily asked his audience: “Did you invite me here to insult me?” A member of the audience got up and told Bangarappa:”We did not invite you. You invited yourself here.” Which was true: Bangarappa was in the US during the summer in India when politicians seek cooler climes at state expense.

It was a reflection of the change in the way the US views India and the way the Vajpayee government deals with economic reform that the prime minister could turn the tables on American investors at the Asia Society dinner. He said: “Impatient investors and eager sellers can often be heard saying that India is slow to change. To them, I have this to say: we are a diverse democracy and we need to carry the people with us. Efforts are being made in this direction and we are confident of success.”

A recurring theme in Vajpayee’s address was that good economics leads to good politics: “We believe that in the emerging multi-polar world, a plural security order alone can deal with the challenges of the new era.” Articulated thus, India’s policies on disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation made sense to a large section of the audience.

Another feature in Vajpayee’s speech to the Asia Society was his exposition of how regimes practising religious extremism in India’s neighbourhood were converting state sponsored terrorism into an instrument of foreign policy. “They have provided a convenient cloak to disguise the aggression on our civil society — the cloak of jehad...We reject, and we call upon the international community to reject, attempts to cloak cross-border terrorism as jehad.”

The effect of this exposition was immediate. When Vajpayee travelled to Washington, the Clinton administration felt compelled to involve India in the conundrum in Afghanistan and seek to work with New Delhi in trying to resolve the impossible situation there.

If there was greater sensitivity at the UN general assembly on the issue of working out a comprehensive convention against terrorism in the weeks that followed Vajpayee’s visit, it was partly because of this effort to expose jehad as an instrument of foreign policy. In his address to the US congress, Vajpayee warned that distance offered no immunity from the threat. This was a danger that would affect us all if left unchecked.

There has been criticism in India about Vajpayee’s delivery in the Asia Society address. Vajpayee made his speech within hours of his arrival in New York after a flight from India which had no more than a technical stop in Europe. The strain, doubtless, showed on him. But he left behind a document which experts on south Asia will analyse for months on end for signs of where India is heading under his leadership.    

It is remarkable that from being a high deficit state after independence, Punjab, during the next two decades, successfully moved on to the highway of the Green Revolution and started contributing substantially to the country’s foodgrain stocks. It started producing bumper harvests of wheat every year which provided a high surplus. By the early Seventies, India no longer required regular shipments of imported wheat.

Apart from saving our scarce economic resources from being diverted to food imports, this brought about food security in the country and an encouraging rise in the income of farmers both in Punjab and in the new state of Haryana.

Such a revolution could not have been possible without high-yielding seeds and the necessary infrastructure.The government made special efforts to make these accessible. Loans were also provided to farmers allowing them to avail themselves of these facilities.

Punjab also has the largest network of mandis in the country, several of which are equipped with the latest facilities for handling market arrivals within the minimum time. These mandis are also within the easy reach of farmers and they no longer need to travel long distances to sell their produce. Liberal storage facilities are also provided by the state agencies and by the Food Corporation of India, both in the rural areas and in the towns.

Liberal and easy

Thus, significant achievements have been made by the state government within a short time, taking Punjab to the top not only in food production, but also in per capita income, nearly double that of some backward states.

After the creation of abundant irrigation and power facilities, farmers had begun to cultivate paddy in a big way which soon became the second most important crop after wheat. Eventually there emerged a two-crop model — wheat in winter and rice in summer — which became the production model for an average farmer. This combination facilitated a quantum jump in the average farmer’s income and encouraged him to go in for further modernization.

Thus, encouraged to maximize his income within a short time, the Punjabi farmer has been working on the farm around the year. Before the harvested wheat could be gathered, the field is prepared for the next crop and in this confusion, the leftover wheat, instead of being collected and properly disposed of, is burnt on the field. The same practice is also carried out with paddy.

There are two major fallouts of such practices. First, there is a rise in the number of mosquitoes, which leads to a high incidence of malaria, and second, there is a rise in respiratory illnesses, particularly among old people and children. The smog created as a result of the surplus paddy or wheat being burnt hangs over the adjoining region for over two months each year.

Reckless cultivation

But this is not the sole hazard of such practices. A high consumption of water for paddy cultivation has led to a reckless withdrawal of underground water with the help of tubewells. This has disturbed the water-table. Moreover, there are several areas where a careless use of irrigation facilities has led to vast stretches of agricultural land being permanently submerged in water. Drainage costs are prohibitive, and so this land is as good as lost.

Farmers — who recklessly cultivated these pieces of land with the use of the latest machinery and with heavy doses of fertilizers and insecticides in order to maximize their revenue in the shortest possible time, and without considering the adverse consequences of these practices — are now facing a major crisis. Many of them have also borrowed heavily from state agencies as well as private parties and now that these loans have run into lakhs of rupees, they are unable to return them.

This largescale cultivation and the accompanying “grow-rich” projects have led to a high degree of social marginalization in rural areas and has also disturbed the ecology of this area. It has been estimated that if Punjab continues to follow this pattern of cultivation during the next few decades, much of this area would be turned into permanent wasteland.

The situation calls for the promotion of measures like agro-processing, cultivation of vegetables and diversification into areas like dairy, poultry and horticulture.    

The mid-September release of the Transparency International’s corruption perception index for 2000 would have come as a rude shock to all of us. But the announcement was lost in the hype surrounding the prime minister’s tour of the United States. If reports on the US tour harped on what could be achieved through Indo-US cooperation, the index was a harsh reminder of how much remained to be done at home. The current index placed India in the 69th position, bracketed with the Philippines, with a score of 2.8 in a list of 90 countries. Compare this with the maximum possible score of 10 given to Finland holding the top position in a ten-point scale, and Nigeria occupying the lowest slot with 1.2.

The index ranking was launched in 1995 by the Berlin based Transparency International in collaboration with the University of Göttingen in Germany. The index for 2000 has drawn from 16 surveys carried out by eight independent bodies for over three years. These include perceptions of corruption existing in a country by highly placed executives of international corporations, country analysts and the general public. Since 1995, the annual ritual has proved to be a source of short-lived masochism for those who are concerned with India. This has been accompanied by a hullabaloo in the media which has led to precious little.

The fact remains that since 1995 there has been hardly any change in India’s score as the following figures will show: 2.78 (1995), 2.63 (1996), 2.78 (1997), 2.9 (1998), 2.9 (1999), and 2.8 (2000). The continued dismal performance of the country is confirmed by its percentile ranks during the same period: 15.8 (1995); 14.8 (1996); 13.5 (1997); 22.4 (1998); 27.3 (1999); and 23.3 (2000). Calculated in terms of ranks, these figures indicate the relative positions India is placed at with regard to the other countries included in each annual survey. Like India, Pakistan has consistently shown low corruption perception index: 36th position in a list of 38 countries with a score of 2.25 in 1995; 53rd among 54 countries with a score of 1.00 in 1996; 48th among 52 countries with a score of 2.53 in 1997; 71st among 85 countries with a score of 2.7 in 1998; and 87th in a list of 99 countries with a score of 2.2 in 1999. The 2000 ranking does not include Pakistan, probably because it has not been possible to conduct an adequate number of independent surveys, given the political situation in the country.

In the current year, India has the “satisfaction” of registering a better record than 20 other countries, eight from Africa; three from South America; eight from the former Communist bloc including Russia and Vietnam; and Indonesia. On the other hand, India’s performance is worse than that of China (63rd position), Ghana (52nd position), Mauritius (37th position), and South Africa (34th position).

India’s near-static position in the corruption perception ranking may be contrasted with China and Brazil. In 1995 China was considered as the second most corrupt country with a score of 2.16 and the 37th rank, while India had the 32nd position with a score of 2.78. During the half-decade since 1995, China has increased its score to 3.1 and its rank has gone up six notches above India’s. Even more dramatic is Brazil’s rise — from an index score of 2.7 in 1995 to a score of 3.9 in 2000.

However, cases of countries markedly improving their performance in the perceived levels of corruption are not too many in the short period. Introducing transparency in public affairs that can reduce corruption is likely to take time to be effective. Transforming social institutions that breed corruption is even more time-consuming. What is more, stereotypes of other people’s morality that contribute to corruption perception may outlive the social environment that generates it.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the index positions of many countries have not changed substantially since 1995. The four larger Nordic countries, that is Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, have consistently found place among the top 10 scorers in the lists of the six years since 1995. Similarly, at the lowest ranks Indonesia and Nigeria have been included among the 10 lowest places in all the lists.

There is some scepticism about the effectiveness of the Transparency International’s crusade. It has been argued that an exercise of this kind may not have any impact on the incidence of corruption.

The organization after all is a nongovernmental body that does not recommend measures to fight corruption. Even if it did so, its suggestions would not be binding on governments. There is some evidence, however, that the exercise has to an extent heightened international consciousness of the problem. A sign of enhanced awareness was noted when in 1999 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published an anti-corruption convention which has since been ratified by several countries. Meanwhile, a number of countries accounting for the bulk of world exports have legislated to make corporate bribe-giving to foreign public officials a criminal offence.

The index is not a perfect reflection of corruption since it highlights only the bribe payers’ perception of “bribe takers”. To balance this, the Transparency International prepared last year a bribe takers’ index to undertake a comprehensive survey of the bribe-giving side of corruption. The index also throws light mainly on corruption in international dealings.

This is undoubtedly important insofar as it is linked to international investor attitudes having a direct bearing on foreign investment. But the index does not seem to adequately reflect the amount of internal corruption associated with large segments of the civil service. Compared to the crores of rupees given as kickbacks in crossborder transactions, the money involved in these deals may seem trivial.

But this sort of “petty” corruption is what millions of people experience daily. Bribing the police to escape harassment, the customs outpost for importing goods one is entitled to, or the railway booking to get an emergency reservation looms larger in our mental horizon than the brazen shamelessness and total disregard of law and decency in the scandals immortalized by the Swedish or the Turkish connection.    

Stock options are the latest sops being offered by companies to retain their employees. Leave travel allowance, medical benefits, housing and entertainment facilities are no longer the decisive perqui- sites. Even memberships of elite clubs have taken a back seat with professionals unwilling to take anything short of slices of corporate profits. The ball was set rolling by some information technology companies and is gathering momentum. While it will take time for other industries to match IT in terms of opportunity, remuneration and exposure, India has lived up to its claim of being the IT destination for the future by aiming for global standards in emoluments.

It is ironical that while IT scrips are buzzing crazy on the bourses and companies are busy planning strategies for wooing IT pros, public sector IT enterprises are sliding downhill. Many state-run IT corporations are losing employees to their cash-rich private counterparts.

By conservative estimates, the annual loss of manpower for these organizations is around 10 per cent. In the fiercely competitive IT market, the public enterprises are handicapped by delays. The slowness in finalizing tie-ups for mobilizing resources is causing these companies loss of quality manpower.

The condition of the public enterprises may improve down the line. But better financial health will not bottom out emoluments. Rather, with more muscles to flex, public companies will try to lure back professionals. This will encourage others to offer better deals, resulting in a cascading effect on pay packets.

It is difficult to anticipate how the companies will adapt to the spiralling pay structure. Probably they will find the going tough. But it will be roses all the way for IT pros. They will not have to worry about getting good deals as long as the opportunity to migrate overseas exists. With India considered one of the cheapest markets for quality IT people, foreign companies would wholeheartedly welcome Indian professionals.

The developments in IT are similar to those that took place with management a decade back. The heavy demand for MBAs had lifted wages to unprecedented levels, splitting the market vertically between one group of professionals and the rest. The IT syndrome is more or less identical, only the wedge this time has been driven in at an even higher level.

This is not to suggest that the deserving should not get what they deserve. But, in a deregulated set-up, one would expect the labour market to clearly indicate a common equilibrium wage, enabling aspirants to judge their worth.

This doesn’t seem feasible in the Indian labour market. Different groups command different prices. Some are getting much more compared to the rest and there is no mechanism for judging whether the rewards are commensurate with the effort. But aren’t competition and market forces supposed to ensure exactly this?    


Clockwork mouse

Sir — The decision of Ram Prakash Gupta, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, to gift each of the members of the UP legislative assembly with a laptop is more ridiculous than it is practical. What evokes even more laughter is that the laptops are meant to help the legislators discharge their legislative duties efficiently. In a state where one’s status in the political arena is determined by the number of criminal charges against one, the ostensible reason behind the gift could not have been further from the truth. Perhaps, with this new toy, legislators will be able to keep track of running lawsuits and the dates on which they have to appear in court. Alternatively, the MLAs can amuse themselves playing with the mouse, which they might rechristen choonha to convey their hatred of the colonial master’s language. It is interesting that Gupta, the only chief minister to have addressed Bill Gates in Hindi during the latter’s recent visit to India, has asked Gates to bring out a version of Windows in Hindi. Is he serious after all?
Yours faithfully,
Santanu Ganguly, Calcutta

Games Indians play

Sir — China has been placed second in the medals tally at the Sydney Olympics whereas India has missed the last rank by a whisker. This scenario is not new, the previous Olympics have seen worse. But what is the reason for the vast difference in the performance of the two most populated countries in the world? I don’t think the type of government in these countries is a reason.

Indians of the present generation are extremely money-minded and are interested in increasing their personal wealth. Patriotism and national pride have taken the backseat now. Note that after Karnam Malleswari won a bronze medal in weightlifting, she was awarded a cash prize of five lakh rupees. Why isn’t the government equally magnanimous when it comes to training the athletes and monitoring their performance? It is not that money is not being spent at all, but in the absence of proper monitoring, it is getting diverted to everything but the improvement of sports.

What is the point of being the second most populated country when the figures do not get translated into more than a solitary bronze medal?

Yours faithfully
K. Hariharan, via email

Sir — Once again it is the same sorry tale of woes. Had it not been for the unbelievable effort of Karnam Malleswari, the Indian Olympic contingent would have returned without a single medal from the millennial Olympic games.

The Indian government’s decision to felicitate Malleswari with five lakh rupees seems inadequate, when one considers that the Sri Lankan government has planned to give Susantika Jayashinghe, their sole medal winner, a whopping Rs 10 crore.

Evidently, Indian sportspersons do not get enough encouragement from the government. Neither is there support from the corporate sponsors, except in a few sports like cricket. Should we, then, always blame the players for failing to deliver the goods?

Yours faithfully,
Samit Chatterjee, via email

Sir — If there is any country which religiously follows the motto of the Olympic games — participation is more important than winning — it is India. Tiny contingents from smaller countries take home medals several times greater in number than that of India.

Does the present trend imply that the Olympics committee will have to contemplate reversing the motto for India to think of winning a few medals at the Olympics?

Yours faithfully
Vikram Surana, via email

Sir — It has been decades since Indians have had a chance to rejoice after winning a gold medal at the Olympic games. India, with a population of over one billion, sent only 51 sportspersons to Sydney, one third of whom were in the hockey team. It is a shame that such a big country as ours cannot produce players of international standard for more than a few Olympic disciplines.

The number of medals against India’s name in these Olympics would lead one to believe that sports is an activity relatively alien to Indians. The body with the responsibility of looking after the sports sector should provide suitable coaching and training facilities to improve India’s chances in future Olympics. The government should see to it that the funds allocated for sports reach the right persons. It is also important to emphasize the importance of sports in school and college curricula.

Yours faithfully,
Avishek Agarwal, Burnpur

Sir — The exit of the Indian hockey team from the medal race at the Sydney Olympics is primarily because of what may be called the “five minute syndrome”. The Indian hockey coach, V. Baskaran, committed a fatal error by adopting a defensive policy in the last minutes of the match, and that too with 10 men. No team can sit pretty with a solitary goal lead, and even the best of defences is bound to buckle under pressure. Pakistan, on the other hand, had a more difficult job in hand, to beat the reigning champion, while India had to contend with a lesser squad. While the former did what was considered impossible, India failed miserably. Although the boys must be congratulated for trying their best, the defensive strategy finally let them down, and with them, the dreams of millions of Indians.

Yours faithfully,
Dipankar Das Gupta, Kumardubi

Sir — While much newsprint and words have been spent to praise Karnam Malleswari’s brilliant performance and denounce that of the hockey and the tennis squads, little has been heard about the Indian boxing team and its showing at the Sydney Olympics. Though ignored by the media before and during the most part of the games, the boxing team was one squad which had really prepared for the games, and it was evident from the performance of Gurcharan Singh and Jitender Kumar.

Singh, in particular, put in a valiant effort and nearly brought his country another medal, but he lost on slender technical grounds. India’s performance in boxing deserves more praise because it was not one of the disciplines from which there were too many expectations, unlike hockey and tennis. Given proper encouragement and incentives, the Gurcharan Singhs can restore some of the country’s lost sporting glory in future.

Yours faithfully,
Sumantra Sinha Ray, Calcutta

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