Editorial1/ Elusive peace
Editorial 2/ Care less
Violence, old and new
Fifth Column/ Tactics to deal with terrorism
Ideological somersault
To suit a variety of distinct tastes
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL1/ ELUSIVE PEACE 
 
 
 
 
The possibility of peace returning to Sri Lanka is only marginally linked to electoral politics. The verdict of the 11th parliamentary elections may have made it even more difficult for President Chandrika Kumaratunga to launch an imaginative peace initiative. Consider first the fractured electoral result. While President Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance won the largest number of seats, these were six short of a majority. It could form the government only with the support of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party, a moderate Tamil formation, and the largely Muslim National Unity Alliance. Both of these small parties will now wield influence out of proportion to their real strength. Indeed, within days of the formation of the government, the National Unity Alliance said that it wanted President Kumaratunga to begin peace talks immediately with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. However, what was more revealing was the strident note adopted by the leader of the Alliance, Mr Rauf Hakeem. He declared at a press conference, “We will not hesitate to pull out support within 100 days.”

The ultra-left Janatha Vimukhti Perumuna has won an unprecedented 10 seats, and its presence too will make it difficult for the People’s Alliance to develop a consensus on any substantive issue. To add to the government’s woes is the widespread impression that the elections were far from being fair. Even the election commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake, has admitted that given the violence, intimidation and allegations of vote rigging, the elections could be interpreted as not being free and fair. There may be some merit, therefore, in the warning issued by the main opposition leader, Ranil Wickremasinghe, of the United National Party, that the new government would be short-lived.

The elections were widely viewed as a referendum on President Kumaratunga’s plans to end the 17-year civil war, in which more than 61,000 people have died. The president’s proposed plan had two central elements. The first was to give more autonomy to the Tamil majority regions of the north and east of the island state. The second was to abolish the presidency, instituted in 1978. She wants a revival of a Westminster-style government with executive powers held by a prime minister. The electoral verdict suggests that there is only limited support for such a plan. Indeed, the vote share of the People’s Alliance has fallen from 49 per cent during the last election to just over 45 per cent this time. In addition, President Kumaratunga has to contend with two extra-parliamentary forces, which can wreck any peace initiative. On the one hand, there are the forces of Sinhalese nationalism, led by hardline Buddhist monks. They argue that devolution would end the nation’s unitary structure and erode the rights of the majority, who constitute 74 per cent of the population. On the other hand, is the LTTE, which is unwilling to accept anything short of a separate Tamil state. The LTTE continues to be a deadly fighting force. While the LTTE’s goal of an independent “Eelam” may not be realized, it is clear that the Sri Lankan army too will find it very difficult to defeat the rebels militarily. Norway has been playing the role of a peace broker between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government for eight months, but there has been no real breakthrough so far. It is clear, therefore, that peace in Sri Lanka will continue to remain elusive. Neither parliamentary nor extra parliamentary politics seems to be ready for a process that will inevitably involve making concessions and compromises by all the parties concerned.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ CARE LESS 
 
 
 
 
Even human distress can become the stuff of politicking and petty oneupmanship. In these cynical times, nobody is quite surprised at this. Floods in West Bengal and relief have thus become subjects of a war of words between the union rural development minister, Mr M. Venkaiah Naidu, and Mr Asim Dasgupta, the finance minister of West Bengal. This bout of charges and counter charges is part of the hostility that exists between the National Democratic Alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left Front government in West Bengal. These two political formations have not seen eye to eye on any issue. It was hardly to be expected that they would agree on how best to handle human suffering caused by a natural calamity. Mr Naidu has expressed his unhappiness with the relief measures and the handling of Central grants provided for relief. His unhappiness grows from his observation that the West Bengal government has failed to utilize the funds allocated for rural development. Mr Dasgupta’s answer to these criticism is weak. He said that this allocation was not a gift from the Centre but an allocated amount. This establishes West Bengal’s claim on the money but does not address the more substantial point that the West Bengal government is unable to spend the amount.

There exists a prima facie case against West Bengal government’s failure to take long term steps against floods which have become an annual occurrence. It is clear that the rivers and canals are not systematically dredged even though resources and facilities exist for this purpose. River and canal beds have thus risen and become incapable of handling excess water released by dams or caused by heavy rainfall. Governmental negligence and the misuse of resources are factors that have contributed to floods and their magnitude. Official ineptness have thus added to the fury of nature. There is, however, no accountability of ministers and officials who, over the years, have placed politics over human beings. To those without home and food, it matters little who wins the war of words and statistics.    


 
 
VIOLENCE, OLD AND NEW 
 
 
BY MANVENDRA SINGH
 
 
There is something deeply saddening in the recurring violence in the West Bank and Gaza. After all these years of struggle and negotiations, and just when the breakthrough seemed imminent, the occupied territories have once again been caught up in the cycle of violence and counter-violence. The difference between this round and the previous ones is that Apache helicopter gunships are now replying stone throwers.

“New violence” is a more appropriate term to use for the current state of things in the occupied territories. Merely in terms of the response and counter-response, there is a quantum change in the scale and purpose of this latest round of violence. Where this leads to is anybody’s guess, but what is certain is that this does not signal the end of the Oslo peace process.

In the cycles of violence that have hit the Palestinians over the years, there is never finality to any act. After the withdrawal of armed Palestinians from Lebanon in 1982, and the struggle being written off completely, there was yet again a resurgence. So there will be this time round, no matter what the short term consequences of this “new violence” are.

Each party has seen its fortunes ebb and flow. And so it is this time. Nobody could have predicted a month ago that a summit meeting would have to be called only to bring down levels of violence. Nobody could have foreseen the emergence of this “new violence”. But then nobody could have visualized the Israeli state partaking in the stupidity of Ariel Sharon’s combustible visit to the Holy Wall and the Haram as-Sharif. The provocative nature of Ariel Sharon, and his rabble-rousing, was beyond the comprehension of the average Palestinian. And Palestinians reacted by doing what they now know best, throw stones.

But what is it that they did not comprehend? And why is it that they have reacted the way they have? In the answers to these queries lie the roots of this “new violence”.

Amongst the deeply etched incidents in the collective memories of all Palestinians are the Shabra and Shatila massacres of September 1982. The armed Palestinian groups had withdrawn from Lebanon according to the agreement worked out by the international community, leaving just the women and children behind. Bashir Juma’yil, the extremist Maronite militia chief, had been elected president of Lebanon, and then blown to bits.

The most vulnerable, then, were the Palestinians in the refugee camps, and eyewitness accounts testify to the Israeli army standing aside to let the militiamen into the camps. As a participant in the massacres told Tony Clifton of Newsweek, “They [Israelis] spend two months bombing and shelling those camps every day; they use cluster-bombs and incendiaries and phosphorous shells — then they say they can’t understand why we wanted a share in the fun. That murderous oaf Sharon, up to his guts in blood, has the outstanding nerve to stand in front of his own commission of inquiry and say, perfectly straight-faced, ‘These atrocities stand in contradiction...to the values towards which we were educated and which we teach’.”

That was from a participant and he was referring to Ariel Sharon, then the Israeli defence minister. Even the Israeli commission did not have nice things to say about his role. So is it then surprising that the Palestinians associate him with the vilest of incidents in their history and memories? Is it then surprising that when this not so good man goes to the Holy Wall to provoke a people, they would be provoked? He remains, in Palestinian eyes, the repository of all that is evil with Israel and its state apparatus.

The arrogance of the Israeli machinery is only for the victim to experience and perceive. So when this man gets the support of the Israeli government to visit the Holy Wall, and it is the same government that only a month before had backed out of signing a deal on Jerusalem with the Palestinian authority, then the coincidences are too many for even a dispute like this.

The “new violence”, then, is aimed at righting the wrongs that have been committed on the Palestinians even after a series of compromises. The Palestinians saw the negotiations at Camp David as a squeeze on them, and not on the Israelis. After all it was the Israelis who have been violating the peace process, repeatedly. The halt on new settlement activity was never actualized, and a compromise on Jerusalem never reached. Both keys are with Israel. But it is the key to New York that controlled the negotiations at Camp David, and the Israelis knew well that the United States would not squeeze them. There is a maiden election for the First Lady in New York, and Israel looms large over the political landscape there. The US, of course, has egg on its face, and in another action many dead sailors.

It is surprising, to say the least, that the instant reaction to the suicide bombing of the USS Cora in Aden was to label it as a response to the violence in the occupied territories. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are two simple reasons why this cannot be the truth behind the bombing of USS Cora. The Palestinians, firstly, do not sustain any of the transnational terrorist cells of yesteryear. They served a purpose up to a point, and their utility is now a thing of the past. Out of area operations are a thing of the past. And then no Palestinian group, of whatever ideological hue, has ever attacked a US military target. Even to the most messianic, an attack on the US military serves no purpose.

Its very counter-productive nature rules out a Palestinian connection. And secondly, no terrorist group undertakes freelance actions like that on USS Cora for the love of another group or people. Today’s terrorist groups strike at targets that they, alone, believe to be of worth to them. There are some purely mercenary actions undertaken once in a while. But money that can buy an action like that of Aden is currently beyond the scope of any Palestinian group. So no Palestinian did it, and no one did it for the Palestinians. Then who did it?

The factors that rule out the connection between the “new violence” in the occupied territories and the terrorist attack in Aden then also point in one direction, towards the Arabian peninsula, and the situation is international in that it involves more than one continent. And in that direction lies the most advanced terrorist machinery. It is a body of men inspired by a messianic vision and one that sees everything liberal as alien, and everything Western as evil. This body of men is networked from Kandahar to Kosovo to Khartoum and on to Karachi.

While Kandahar is the base, an ideological fulcrum, the other addresses are as important. At the top of this operational structure, its pinnacle, the mastermind is Osama bin Laden. And the Aden operation has his signature on it, in bold. To give it a Palestinian connection is to belittle the rightness of their cause. The only coincidence that can be made out is that it happened on the same day the generals were celebrating their first year in power in Pakistan.    


 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ TACTICS TO DEAL WITH TERRORISM 
 
 
BY MURARI MOHAN MUKHERJEE
 
 
While addressing the United Nations general assembly at the millennium summit held in New York recently, the prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, said that India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism for more than a decade. He also pointed out that international terrorism is the most dangerous of the many threats to peace and democracy in the world today.

According to Vajpayee, terrorism feeds on violence against innocent people and seeks to undermine a plural society. He reacted sharply to General Pervez Musharraf’s diatribe against India and termed the general’s speech in the UN as “an Orwellian mockery.’’ He pointed out that Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and delivery systems and its vigorous terrorist campaign has claimed over 30,000 lives in India and sabotaged the historic Lahore peace process. The prime minister has made an appeal to the international community to adopt and implement India’s proposal for a comprehensive convention against terrorism.

The pact signed between Vajpayee and Bill Clinton at Washington laid emphasis on combating terrorism and outlined a strategy for bilateral cooperation to deal with this matter.

Security alarm

India’s major problem today is how to meet the steady rise in terrorism. At present it faces a three-fold threat. First, terrorism in Kashmir has assumed nightmarish proportions. Militants have been demanding a separate state on the basis of historical, religious and geographical differences. Second, India also faces a threat from the insurgents in the Northeast. Dissatisfied with the Centre’s “discriminatory policies’’ they have been demanding more autonomy. Last, there has been a tremendous upsurge in attacks on civilians.

Another threat to India’s security comes from political terrorism. The agents of political terrorism are many — individuals, combat groups and state apparatuses. The target can be the individual, a group, a city or even the whole country. Of the different types of political terrorism, state sponsored terrorism is the most dangerous because of its wide reach and because it is unidimensional.

On August 20, 1998, US military strikes on terrorist bases along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and in Sudan drew attention to the grave and complex challenge that state-sponsored terrorism posed to the global community. These raids and the growing influence of Osama bin Laden, highlighted the contradictions in the US Cold War policy towards terrorism.

Global terrorism is a post-Cold War phenomenon. Many undercurrents and subterranean forces driven by religious fervour and factional subnationalism have surfaced with vengeance in the aftermath of bipolarity.

Remains of the day

State terrorism has been abetted by the remains of the erstwhile superpower rivalry — as in the case of covert US military aid to Afghan mujahedins on the one hand and monetary support made available through the global narcotics network on the other. Rapid technological advances, particularly in the range of arms and explosives, has further given a fillip to it.

After the Cold War and the US victory over Iraq in 1991, the religious zealotry espoused by militant Muslim groups took on a pan-Islamic sheen. While the US is aware of Pakistan’s support for terrorism, it is unwilling to brand it a “terrorist state”. The attack on US embassies has nevertheless changed the outlook and after the joint statement issued by Clinton and Vajpayee in New Delhi last March, a review of US policy on terrorism has become more likely.

For effective containment and elimination of terrorism, a serious analysis of the roots, causes, and a comprehensive strategy involving the media and security forces is necessary. An updated intelligence network through collaboration among the security forces can be of immense help in providing information about terrorist targets and sites in advance. Also, public support should be built up against terrorism.

The fact that states often sponsor terrorism as part of their foreign policy is bound to complicate matters. The challenge for India however is to capitalize on the positive turn in US policy, while insisting that international terrorism cannot be fought selectively.    


 
 
IDEOLOGICAL SOMERSAULT 
 
 
BY MEENAKSHI JAIN
 
 
The Bharatiya Janata Party-Rash- triya Swayamsevak Sangh combine is unlikely to cover itself with glory by its clumsily executed ideological somersault. Indeed, there is every likelihood that instead of the desired accretion of minority votes, it will witness considerable erosion of support among groups that have so far regarded it as the last refuge of resurgent Hindu nationalism. The widespread intellectual ridicule and the no less palpable public dismay at its failure to convincingly explain its ideological volte-face certainly point to stormy days ahead for the duo.

Several facets of the new ideological posturing by the BJP-RSS merit serious attention. Unnoticed in the general hullabaloo over the overtures to Muslims is the total distancing from Ayodhya. Indeed, the BJP president, Bangaru Laxman, has gone on record stating that the party would honour the findings of the Liberhan commission and even press for action against those found guilty. While so far the reticence of the BJP on Ayodhya could be justified in the context of the known reservations of its governmental allies, the present unequivocal disavowal of the movement that was the cornerstone of the Hindutva campaign is an altogether different matter.

What makes the rejection of Ayodhya all the more momentous is that the construction of the temple is in no way imminent, nor is it currently a raging public issue. In fact, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has recently stated that work on the pillars would take another 18 months to complete and construction could commence only thereafter.

Clearly, the BJP and the RSS have some explaining to do. To a wide circle of sympathizers, Ayodhya was the most potent public attempt to align the Indian state with the ancient ethos of the land. That it did not directly impinge on the space and rights of the minority community is evident from the fact that the site which has become the symbol of this civilizational upsurge had long been abandoned by Muslims.

In any case, it cannot be seriously contested that as a consequence of the Ayodhya movement, Hindu sensibilities were accorded a status in the public realm that they had not enjoyed since independence. And now, for reasons that can only be speculated upon, the BJP and the RSS, prime movers of the movement, have washed their hands of it.

However, the shocking turnabout on Ayodhya is a part of their new political philosophy. According to press reports, leaders of the BJP-RSS combine have been eagerly offering ministerial berths, membership of parliament and sundry others perks, even reservations for backward Muslims, in exchange for the community’s electoral support. Denying that this was a case of appeasement, the former critics of pseudo-secularism contend that appeasement is giving more than what is legitimately due. Thus, in the pre-independence period, they claim, Muslims constituted 20 per cent of the population, but were given 33 per cent reservations in every field, and this is what caused bad blood.

Observers of the Indian scene are alarmed to note that the combine’s new doctrine bears an uncanny similarity to the British theory of proportionate representation, which caused such havoc in the not-too-distant past. The nationalist argument then was that such a scheme was deliberately designed to balkanize Indian society and a major thrust of the freedom movement was to initiate steps towards social consolidation.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s heroic opposition to separate electorates was part of this endeavour. Yet fifty years after Partition, the votaries of Hindutva are attempting to revive old nightmares. Not since V.P. Singh unleashed Mandal on an unsuspecting society has there been a move so fraught with divisive potential.

The timing of this ideological adventurism is even more unfortunate. On the one hand, there is the war in Kashmir, which has entered a crucial phase with reports of 1.7 million jehadis being readied for action in neighbouring Pakistan. On the other hand, the country is emerging as a global player in information technology and commanding increasing respect in major world capitals. This has played no small role in strengthening India’s stand on cross-border terrorism in international fora. It is at this doubly critical juncture that the BJP-RSS combine has created an issue where none existed, and thereby legitimized a debate on an issue which was closed at the time of Partition.

Some months ago, there were reports of the government bringing out a white paper on the activities of the Inter-Services Intelligence in India. The idea was later dropped for fear that it would be politically too hot to handle and could lead to a backlash against the minority community. Subsequently, the Union home minister, L.K. Advani, in a speech in Parliament, appealed to Indian Muslims to respond to Pakistan’s call for jehad against India. The community responded with silence.

The BJP therefore owes the nation an explanation as to what has changed in the intervening period for it to drop its ideological guards. Why has it shifted track from talking of the responsibilities of Indian Muslims to advocating concessions to them?

That apart, it is becoming increasingly wearisome to listen to endless tales of imagined Muslim victimization in post-Partition India. The truth of the matter is that at no time since independence have any public avenues of self-advancement been closed to them.

On the contrary, Muslims have consciously turned their collective back on all modern institutions designed to enhance individual progress, be they centres of learning or courts of law. In each case, they have preferred mullah-controlled alternatives. Unable to break out of old mores, they have found it convenient to blame the state for their failures. Those Muslims who have displayed the courage to break free and chart independent paths have risen to the very top of the system. The richest Indian today happens to be a member of the minority community.

That still leaves the BJP-RSS infidelity to account for. Some observers have speculated that it is the near certainty of an electoral debacle in the forthcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh that has persuaded the combine to sell its soul for a few pieces of silver (read Muslims votes).

It is truly unfortunate that instead of addressing the issue of poor administration through the respective leaderships of Kalyan Singh and Ram Prakash Gupta, the combine has chosen to sacrifice the larger interests of Hindus. As was to be expected, Muslims have been quick to seize its loss of nerve to demand that the Ram temple should not be built on its present site. Needless to add, they have offered nothing instead.

The BJP-RSS’s ill-thought move has done a singular disservice to the Hindutva cause. Politics is the art of the possible. By swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other, the BJP has shown that when it comes to real politics, it can be as “pragmatic” as the next party.    


 
 
TO SUIT A VARIETY OF DISTINCT TASTES 
 
 
BY TIRTHO BANERJEE
 
 
In 1984, India initiated a fierce salt iodization programme under the aegis of the World Health Organization and in 1998, it was made mandatory for all edible salt manufacturers to sell only iodized salt. However, recently, the Union health ministry has decided to make iodization of salt optional rather than compulsory. This has stirred a hornet’s nest.

Medical experts feel that there are 200 million people, mostly rural, in India at the risk of iodine deficiency. Fifteen per cent of urbanites too are found to be deficient in iodine. But the government defence is that no public health policy should be forced upon people against their free will. Those who endorse the government’s decision say that iodized salt needs to be taken only if advised by doctors. Sarvodaya leader, Shanker Hari Bagde, is of the view that the 1998 order was to benefit big companies in the business of iodized salt.

Presence felt

That is why, he argues, salt prices have increased so much. He questions the need for compulsory iodization when sufficient iodine is present in the daily food. Bagde points out that consumption of iodized salt is a matter of personal choice and that too much of iodine can even be harmful.

By contrast, experts emphasise that there is no proof of iodine having health repercussions. The WHO has said that one can safely consume upto 1,000 micrograms per day though the body’s requirement is only 150 micrograms per day. Besides, they believe that the health of the overall population should be kept in mind rather than the health of a few individuals. If people living in an iodine-sufficient area is consuming salt fortified with iodine, which is unlikely to cause any major medical problem, that itself should not prevent universal salt iodization in the country.

Healthwise

The Thyroid Association of India is perturbed over the complications that lack of iodine intake can lead to. Iodine deficiency leads to enlargement of thyroid gland, development disorders and brain damage. But the Swadeshi Jagran Manch contends that iodine evaporates when heated, so cooked food isn’t able to retain a very high percentage of iodine. So an intake of sea fish, brinjals and carrots can be used as supplements without taking recourse to iodized salt.

However, recent estimates based on surveys of 241 districts in the country show that iodine deficiency is rampant in every state. Indian salt, the supporters of iodization claim, is depleted of natural iodine. And the price rise of iodized salt is due to its refining process, packaging and advertising. Both iodized and non-iodized salt should be produced leaving the consumer free to choose what is best for him. Iodine requirement depends on the region one lives in. A panel of agriculture and soil experts and other scientists should be set up to find out the actual iodine content in the soil in different parts of the country. And then the ban notification can be either withdrawn, modified or implemented.    


 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Bias against dissent

Sir — The fascist attitude displayed by the senior leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) towards Saifuddin Chowdhury is condemnable. When freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution, it is surprising that a member of a political party should be victimized for expressing his opinions. The consistent criticism Chowdhury has had to face for his actions and statements also suggests communal bias within a party which professes to be the most secular of them all. It may be recalled that Abdullah Rasool, the dynamic Muslim leader of the CPI(M) was not promoted to the party’s top rung, following the death of Pramod Dasgupta, perhaps because of the same bias. Chowdhury must be congratulated for the determined manner in which he has taken up the challenge of combating the totalitarianism within his former party. That he has already been able to gather considerable support for his new platform can only reinforce one’s faith in the good sense of the people of West Bengal.
Yours faithfully,
Arif Desnawi, Calcutta

The justice of it pleases

Sir — The report, “Rao convicted in bribery case” (Sept 30) has brought immense relief to the people of this country. The verdict, though belated, shows the nation’s judiciary is still capable of doling out justice and convicting individuals irrespective of their positions.

The culpability of Rao and his sons in more than one deal is a well established fact. It is amusing that an individual accused of embezzling crores of rupees and stashing funds abroad could save his skin for so long. Rao’s exploits are many. Earlier, during his tenure, he denied taking rupees one crore from Harshad Mehta, the prime accused in the securities scandal, although H.R. Bhardwaj, his law minister, admitted that several ministers had received favours from Mehta. Rao was hand in glove in the St Kitts affair in which attempts were made to malign V.P. Singh and his son. The country is yet to receive the money from the urea transaction, worth crores, that took place during Rao’s tenure and with the involvement of his son.

Rao’s antics at making and breaking political parties is well known. He broke the Janata Dal by bringing the Ajit Singh faction under his fold. Later, he broke this faction by making Ram Lakhan Yadav a cabinet minister after the breakup and after winning the no-confidence motion.

It was Rao and his coterie who broke the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and saved the Congress government. Rao had no moral right to continue in office after the unscrupulous way he won the confidence vote. The recent verdict metes out a justice that was long overdue.

However, what is perplexing is the acquittal of Ajit Singh, Bhajan Lal, Satish Sharma and Veerappa Moily, Rao’s henchmen, who propped up his government. K. Karunakaran and V.C. Shukla were also close aides of Rao and should have been investigated. Finally, it needs to be said that conviction in India is a ridiculous affair for it gives umpteen chances for appeal in higher courts. What is the need for deciding cases in lower courts if the matter has to be finally decided in a high court or the Supreme Court?

Yours faithfully,
Santosh Kumar Sharma, Kharagpur

Sir — Strange are the notions of justice in India. While the bribe taker is allowed to dream of making it to the chief ministership of a newborn state, the bribe giver is sent to prison. If P.V. Narasimha Rao has committed a crime paying a bribe, Shibu Soren has committed as grievous a wrong by accepting it. Yet, the law is silent about his offence. What is more ironic is that Rao had bribed the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha to save the Congress government. Yet the Congress party is now busy trying to disown the man who brought credit to the party by leading the country on the path to liberalization and globalization.

The law is often a plaything with Indian politicians and there is every reason to believe that the judgment will be stay- ed in the higher courts. A jail term would not take much off a veteran politician’s time. Did prison terms for Indira Gandhi and Laloo Prasad Yadav create any major disadvantage for them?

Yours faithfully,
Joideep Sanyal, Calcutta

Sir — A historic judgment has been passed against P.V. Narasimha Rao and Buta Singh. What is strange is that the recipients of the bribes have been allowed to go scotfree. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leaders who received the kickbacks should also be punished. They should be denied membership of parliament or legislatures.

This is necessary since the speeches of the JMM chief, Shibu Soren, have become a steady reflection of his hunger for power and pelf. The government should amend the law and withdraw the special protection group cover from Rao. The higher courts should confirm the judgment and the convicted should be punished as soon as possible.

Yours faithfully,
S. Moquit Ahmad Gauhar, Dhanbad

Sir — It goes without saying that P.V. Narasimha Rao has brought shame to his party and the country. Incidentally, the list of scandals during the Congress regime appear endless — the sugar scandal, the housing scandal, St Kitts, the urea scandal, the hawala case, the Lakhubhai Pathak episode and so on. Instead of blaming the Bharatiya Janata Party from time to time, Sonia Gandhi should try to regenerate the Congress and work sincerely on the Panchmarhi declaration.

Yours faithfully,
N. Bose, Ranchi

Spiritless sport

Sir — India has lost the finals of the International Cricket Council knockout meet. Lots of eyebrows will naturally be raised. The temperament of the Indian team and its ability to handle pressure in crunch situations will be questioned. But one should not forget Indian cricket has been resurrected. It has a new lease of life after months long controversies. Even the cricket crazy people of India had turned their backs on the game. But the grit and determination which the team has shown along with its youthful exuberance have given rise to new hope.

The defeat in the finals is a blessing in disguise. If the team had won, a lot of its shortcomings would have gone neglected. The defeat has left scope for soul searching. Let us hope that some sense will prevail among the cricket administrators and the selectors, instead of repeating the bitter history of self-accusation and back-biting, should look forward to the future.

A team for the future should be built around the nucleus of a group of fresh and talented players. A genuine all-roun- der is what is needed.

Yours faithfully
Somnath Bhaumik, Calcutta

Sir — Indians love to make a great hue and cry about any sportsperson showing the tiniest bit of promise. In some cases, as with Karnam Malleswari, Sourav Ganguly or Leander Paes, the brouhaha is justified. In most instances it is not, as with Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, whose inability to make it to the Olympic athletics team of her own country belied the adulation and the diamond tiaras that her medal-winning performance in the Asiad had got her.

A similar predicament may be staring Yuvraj Singh in the face. One swallow does not a summer make, and Singh’s performance against Australia in the ICC knockout meet, sterling no doubt, is too premature to justify his being hailed as the crown prince to Ganguly. On the contrary, such unnecessary hype may be detrimental to Singh’s performance, for then he would be under pressure to perform. If he fails to satisfy the exalted expectations that the nation now has of him, his fall, from high but infirm glory, will be that much harder.

Yours faithfully,
Santanu Ganguly,Calcutta

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