Editorial 1/ Double bonding
Editorial 2/ Flying haute
Venture too far
Fifth Column/ A republic is a matter of trust
This above all/ Perfect Diwali gifts from ancient
Letters to the Editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ DOUBLE BONDING 
 
 
 
 
The State Bank of India has spared no effort in promoting the sale of its India millennium deposit scheme, which will mobilize around five billion dollars. It will thus beat the “record” set by the Reserve Bank of India, which raised just over four billion dollars through the Resurgent India Bonds not so long ago. But, there are many who have doubts about whether the SBI should have floated this scheme. Two reasons have been advanced for questioning the wisdom of the government in permitting the SBI to embark on this venture. First, there are apprehensions that this fresh round of borrowing will push India’s external debt to dangerously high levels. However, this fear has very little factual basis. While the absolute amount of India’s external debt has risen in recent years, the external debt relative to the size of the country’s economy has actually declined quite sharply. Equally impressive has been the reduction in the debt-service ratio, which has come down from 26.2 per cent in 1994-95 to 19.5 per cent in 1997-98.

The second reason is much sounder, and centres around the inordinately high cost at which these funds are being borrowed. The SBI is going to pay out interest at the rate of 8.5 per cent per year in dollar terms. This means that if the rupee depreciates at 6.5 per cent per year (this figure is roughly the average annual rate of depreciation of the rupee in recent years), then the interest cost in rupee terms will be as high as 15 per cent. The SBI itself will have to pay an effective interest rate of 9.5 per cent, the rest being borne by the government. Of course, there is no way in which the funds collected by the SBI through the IMD scheme can be deployed to earn returns which are remotely close to 15 per cent. So, there is a very tangible sense in which the costs to the economy far exceed the benefits associated with the IMD scheme. Of course, the government’s economists may point out that some of the benefits are intangible and hence not included in the cost-benefit calculations given above. In particular, they will point out that rising oil prices and the somewhat ambivalent behaviour of the foreign institutional investors means that our foreign exchange position is not as comfortable as it may seem.

But, we have come a long way from 1991, and there is very little reason to fear a sudden foreign exchange crisis. Indian exports are doing remarkably well, while imports are subdued. FII investment has slackened off, but there has not been any sudden outflow on this account. So, a crisis can develop, if at all, only over a longer period. Perhaps, that is the reason why we should be even friendlier to foreign direct investment, which also acts as an alternative source of foreign exchange. The benefits of FDI are obvious enough, and it is not difficult to understand why FDI has become such a highly attractive source of private capital inflow to developing economies. For instance, foreigners need to be paid returns on their investment in any project only if the project makes profits, in contrast to projects which are financed by foreign debt — interest obligations have to be honoured even if the project incurs a loss. FDI is also more attractive than portfolio investment since the latter can be suddenly withdrawn as the Mexicans found out to their cost some time ago.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ FLYING HAUTE 
 
 
 
 
A tricolour cocktail dress. Why not? High patriotic earnestness about national emblems does sound very much like the voice of an immature, and even insecure, democracy. And the sangh parivar’s outrage at seeing the tricolour being worn slinkily amidst the frivolities of the Fashion Week, that too in the nation’s capital, has the gratuitous and archaic feel that most of its expressions of righteousness tend to have these days. Like high patriotism, the concept of “moral policing” is, perhaps, best not taken too seriously, for the health of the nation. At a slightly more political level, the issue had been raked up after this year’s Independence Day, when some parliamentarians made a great deal of fuss, in the Lok Sabha, about certain political parties not hoisting the national flag atop their respective party offices on August 15.

The legal and ethical implications of the use, or misuse, of national emblems touch on questions of the fundamental rights of speech and expression. The Centre has now formally constituted a committee to examine these questions involving additional and joint secretaries from the home, defence, external affairs, law, culture and consumer affairs ministries. This sounds like that much more bureaucracy deployed on an issue that would be impossible to regulate and enforce in a democracy as multifarious as India. It is heartening, though, to see that the committee is prepared to ask some basic questions about the feasibility of the existing legislation on what is called — rather quaintly — “Insults to National Honour”. There is even a possibility that the committee will recommend the liberalization of some of these acts after comparing them with similar laws in other countries. Whether the Centre will accept these suggestions will depend on the attitude it decides to adopt towards the role of national emblems in civil society. As a purely official symbol of nationhood, certain restrictions pertaining to formal uses of the flag is understandable. However, for its use by private individuals and organizations, it will have to make room for a certain freedom of appropriation. The necessarily plural expression of this freedom will be difficult to regulate without appearing rather dour and ineffectual to most sensible citizens. Besides, lighthearted irreverence can also be a measure of the comfortableness with which one carries one’s national identity.    


 
 
VENTURE TOO FAR 
 
 
BY S. VENKITARAMANAN
 
 
A senior economist, Michel Mandel, the economic editor of Business Week, the prestigious American business magazine, has started a new controversy, asking, “Will a new economy bust follow the new economy boom?” A recent issue of the Business Week magazine covers different aspects of the debate. What is material is that this is the first time one of the prophets of the new economy, Mandel himself, is pointing out that there is danger ahead, as the internet boom expands.

In Mandel’s view, the downside to the new economy, built up by the technological revolution, fed by heavy investment in computers and associated business changes, arises precisely because of the ease of financing, which has characterized the boom phase of the technological revolution. The United States economy has seen a rapid increase in funds annually made available to and by venture capital firms which, in turn, have helped the growth of new technology.

Venture capital funding is today running annually at a rate of $ 100 billion. This is what has enabled new economy powerhouses, such as Cisco, Netscape, Amazon.com and others to grow explosively. The secret of this expansion lies in the ease of venture capital funding, which expanded rapidly by drawing on a broader and booming capital market.

It is important to recognize the fact that the vitality of the internet revolution owes much to this ease of funding through the venture funds route. Even without it, of course, online businesses would have been created, but often only as subsidiaries of existing businesses, which is not equally effective. E-commerce would have arrived much more slowly. Without venture capital funding on the scale it came in, the US would have had a half new economy.

The success of US venture capital funding is so impressive that, to quote the secretary of the treasury, Larry Summers, “We are for the first time in an economy where entrepreneurs may raise their first $ 100 million before buying their first suits.” Incidentally, many have been the Indian entrepreneurs, who have benefitted by access to these venture capital resources in the US.

The main reason why the US has benefitted more than Germany and Japan from the pool of technology is precisely this easy availability of finance. Countries like Japan and Germany have been unable to match the risk-taking capabilities of the US financial markets which venture capital has provided. Many are the reasons for the growth of venture capital funds in the US. The most important of these is the investor-friendly policy framework, which enabled and tolerated the growth of highly profitable business opportunities. The tax system positively encouraged venture capital funds. The US richly deserves the success it has earned.

However, the success of the venture capital financing boom carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. When the next downturn starts, the virtuous cycle of the Nineties could start going in reverse. Instead of the rising stock market raising more funds for financing innovation, the falling stock market can reduce the risk-bearing appetite for new start-ups. That will lead to lower technological innovation and slower productivity growth, depressing the stock market further. Investment will fall, inflation will rise and so too will unemployment.

Are there signs of such impending doom? Mandel reports that already struggling dotcoms have laid off about 17,000 workers. These reductions in jobs at innovative firms can have largescale repercussions. The lay offs will eventually stretch from the telecoms to software workers to consulting firms.

Particularly at risk, says Mandel, will be the large temporary workforce of independent consultants, freelancers, programmers and web designers. As of early 2000, such employees of temporary firms made up a significant 2.7 per cent of total jobs in the US. As growth slows down, companies will have a lot fewer jobs for the people hired as independent contractors or temporary workers.

A downturn in the internet industry, induced by a stock market upset, leading to a hollowing up of funds for venture funds — this is the Mandel prediction. He cautions that the US policymakers should be prepared to handle the downturn. The responses cannot and should not be conventional. If the old economy was an automobile, the new economy is an aeroplane. Just as an aeroplane needs a certain speed to stay aloft, the new economy needs fast growth for high risk investment in innovation to be worthwhile.

It is tempting to believe, says Mandel, that an unprecedented expansion will go on indefinitely. But, the new economy has never been about sunny skies forever. It is useful to start thinking about what happens when the storm bursts in the US. The warning comes at an appropriate point of time when many Indian economists and analysts are basing their forecasts about India allying it to the tech boom in the US. By all means, let us obtain what benefits we can from the US new economy. But it would be the height of folly to ignore the warnings of disaster that experienced economists offer.

“If technology is the engine of the new economy, then finance is the fuel.” Any sequence of events that upsets the flow of finance to venture capital funds can be the start of a disastrous cycle. It can start from a failure of some of the new dotcoms, the offbeat results of highly advertised new starts and as a result, venture capital funding facing a problem.

Arguing the case for optimism in the same issue, Christopher Farrel, the contributing editor, points out that Mandel’s prediction rests on the validity of a series of assumptions. He argues that a slowdown of technological change is not necessarily inflationary. He asks us to visualize the possibility that falling demand can, indeed, force companies to hold prices and lead to inflation slowing down. Besides, competition from global sources will bring down prices — this is especially true in the US marketplace. Further, the internet is already promising access to gains in terms of distributed efficiency. All this will prevent the worst scenario from being played out.

Following traditions of editorial fairness, Business Week does present an opposite view to Mandel’s position, advanced by its contributing editor, Farrel, that all is not so bleak. Existing venture capital firms, Farrel feels, have become stronger and the new economy is more resilient than Mandel thinks.

Farrel also derives comfort from the fact that earlier predictions of boom in the US market have not been proved right. He points out that catastrophe has not descended even though the Bloomberg dotcom index — an indicator of the health of the internet industry — is already down 36 per cent year to year. Many employees at dotcom companies, he points out, already hold worthless stock options. Venture capital firm are still willing to put money into biotech ventures and new types of software startups. Farrel holds the view that the technological revolution is still in its infancy and innovation is a continuing process and therefore, there is hope for those who differ from Mandel.

Further, the optimists on the technological front lay much store by the US Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Green- span, who holds a balanced vision of the new economy. Mandel prescribes a softer approach to monetary policy management in the event that a technology-based recession does come about. Green- span may have to reduce interest rates. He will then face the risk of reducing the large capital flows into the US. This has repercussions on the stock and foreign exchange markets.

One can conclude that the Federal Reserve of the US has definitely enough experience to finesse its way out of the tough challenge that the internet recession will pose. But the very fact that forecasters of internet decline depend on the central bank for a rescue operation would indicate the dire nature of the limited economic options, which an internet recession can involve.

A balanced view is perhaps this. The hype about the internet based economic boom is overdone. The world has to be prepared for the reversal of the internet boom, for reasons that are not entirely logical, but are perfectly valid in the money crazy stock market situation of the US. It behoves us to be cautious before we commit the entire future of India totally to the boom conditions of the new-tech-driven economy of the US, driven as it is by easy access to venture capital money fed in turn by high stock market prices and expectation.

The author is former governor of the Reserve Bank of India    


 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ A REPUBLIC IS A MATTER OF TRUST 
 
 
BY GYWNNE DYER
 
 
The events of the past few days amply demonstrate the absurdities of which the American political system is capable, but there is an underlying principle. The framers of the American constitution did not trust people.

They did not even trust educated, property-owning people like themselves, which is why the division of powers between the various branches of the United States government is deliberately designed to stymie almost any attempt at sweeping political change. “Power tends to corrupt,” as Lord Acton remarked in a not very different context. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

And they certainly did not trust the great unwashed mass of common people. They believed that the mob was a dangerous beast, liable to be swayed this way and that by its emotions, and it might elect some demagogue who would try to overthrow the established order of things. So rather than let the voters choose a president directly, let us interpose an electoral college of more reliable people who will make sure that doesn’t happen.

Foreigners generally think the almost religious reverence with which Americans view their founding fathers is mere ancestor worship, all of a piece with the bombastic political style that makes otherwise sane American politicians and pundits unselfconsciously congratulate themselves for belonging to the “greatest nation in history” (also known as “the world’s most powerful country” and “the leader of the Free World”). But the foreigners, in this case, are wrong.

Too many people

The founding fathers of the American republic had to invent not one but two radically new political systems. One was a form of federalism that would persuade 13 separate colonies, all jealous of their rights, to merge their interests under a central government. The other was some way of making mass democracy work.

For federalism, they had a few existing models like the Swiss confederation in Europe and the Hodenosaunee League (the Iroquois “Six Nations”) at home. But for mass democracy — apart from the strictly limited democracy for the privileged few then practised in Britain — they had no precedent except the ancient republics of Athens and Rome.

As classically educated men, the drafters of the American constitution all knew in gory detail how those early experiments in democracy ended. What had destroyed them was the seduction of the mob by plausible demagogues (often successful military leaders) who persuaded the electors to hand them power on a plate.

Now here they were in America, trying to build a democracy that would have far more people — millions, in fact — and a much wider franchise.

Wary fathers

All adult white males, regardless of whether they owned property or not, would have the vote. Such a thing had never existed in the world, and it seemed an intensely risky enterprise. So they built in as many safeguards as they could, including an electoral college to rein in the enthusiasms of the mob.

By now, however, the caution of the US founding fathers feels rather excessive. When there is mass education to bring people up to speed and mass media to keep them informed, the “mob” turns out not to be such an ignorant and dangerous brute after all.

Most democracies these days allow their governments much greater freedom of action than the US constitution does, and put fewer barriers between the popular vote and the choice of a national leader. In the vast majority of cases, they suffer no adverse consequences.

The US is the first and oldest mass democracy on the planet, and its constitution, while a brilliantly innovative document, is also an artefact from another time that grows more exotic as the world continues to change. But it is very hard to change the US constitution, and most of the time it does no particular harm.

True, it makes the selection of the president a rather uncertain matter. But since it also severely limits the power of the presidency, that doesn’t normally matter much. The US president, except in times of great crisis, has far less power than the leaders of most other democratic nations. So let us pray that there isn’t a great crisis in the next four years.    


 
 
THIS ABOVE ALL/ PERFECT DIWALI GIFTS FROM ANCIENT 
 
 
BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
 
 
The common practice is to send packets of sweets or dry fruits for Diwali. Some people add candles, oil lamps, sparklers and crackers. Knowing my taste, occasionally I find a bottle of Scotch in the hamper. So far I have never received a book as a Diwali gift. This time I have not one but two. They came on Dussehra, a fortnight before the festival of lights. One was Vedas; an Essence and the other Bhagwad Gita: an Essence. Both coffee-tablers comprising photographs of Himalayan peaks on one page and selections from the sacred texts on the facing page. They are the handiwork of Ashok Dilwali, who was in Modern School, a generation after me. He is a chartered accountant, but has photography in his blood: his father owns Kinsey Studios, perhaps the oldest in New Delhi. When not examining account books, Ashok spends his time in the mountains. He has some of the most spectacular pictures of snow-covered ranges with their peaks lit by the rising sun and the setting sun and in moonlight; he has wild flowers and cattle grazing in the valleys. He has not missed out anything. One may well ask what mountain scenery has to do with the Vedas or the Bhagwad Gita? Both were composed in the hot, dusty places of Punjab and Haryana. The only explanation for Dilwali putting them together I can think of is that perhaps sages who took vanaprastha in mountain caves meditated over their contents as they gazed on snow-capped mountains — a very tenuous link. However, beside gushing over the photographs I refreshed my memory of the sacred texts. One, my favourite, struck me most because the way ambitious people, mostly politicians, read it in reverse: Karmanyev adhikarstey ma phaleshu kadachana (Your only privilege is to work, not to look for the fruits of your labour). As it happens, all ambitious people think first of the rewards they can reap before they start to work towards it. Ashok Dilwali has many illustrated books to his credit. These two books make ideal Diwali gifts. No price has been put on them. Presumably he thinks they are priceless. I agree.

Love’s lyrics lost and found

For many centuries the language of the educated elite extending from Turkey across west Asia to the easternmost part of India was Farsi — Persian. Proceedings of royal courts were kept in it till the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It created a gulf between the sophisticated rich and the rustic poor. Ultimately it was the literati who realized they were restricting their audience by not writing in the language the masses could understand. Poets like Amir Khusro, Mir Taqi Meer, Mirza Ghalib down to Allama Iqbal, whose first choice was Persian, turned to Urdu so that the man in the street could appreciate their compositions. Gradually Persian went the way Sanskrit and Latin did as basic languages studied only to comprehend how languages of India and Europe evolved out of them. It was the same with Persian. Classical Farsi is a near dead language used only by scholars specializing in it. How many people today read anything by Rumi, Saadi or Haafiz? Some will be able to quote a couplet or two by rote, no more. A thousand pities because there were a lot of pearls of wisdom in these classics which now only gather dust. For instance all I knew of Rumi was that he founded an order of dervishes who wear long fez caps and chogas down to their ankles and pirouette like musical tops as they chant their master’s compositions. Then Anees Jung lent me a small booklet with selections from Rumi’s writings translated by Annemarie Schimmel. Annemarie is without doubt the most erudite scholar of Persian and Urdu. She, a German, is fluent in English and Hindustani as well. In her brief introduction she gives Rumi’s background. Maulana Jamaluddin Rumi was born in 1207 in Afghanistan where his father had an established reputation of a Sufi saint and writer on mysticism. When Mongol hordes began to ravage Muslim countries, the family migrated to Konya in Turkey, known as Rum as it had been under Roman domination. Hence the suffix Rum. He came under the influence of a wandering dervish, Shams-i-Tabriz, the sun of Tabriz. He was hounded out of Konya by religious bigots. The separation sparked of the muse of poetry in Jamaluddin. “Without your word the soul has no ear; without your ear, the soul has no tongue,” he wrote of the master. Shams was murdered by people envious of his great popularity. Jamaluddin was shattered. Then he realized that Shams still lived in his heart, couplets on love came pouring out of his heart till he died on December 17, 1273. His masnavi comprising 25,000 rhyming distichs was completed later. The theme of all of them is love, divine love. Annemarie Schimmel’s translations bear the word ishq (love) on every page: “What is the lover’s state!” thus asked a man. I said to him, “Don’t ask such a question dear! When you become like me, you’ll know for sure; The moment when he calls you, you will call.”

The globetrotting emblem

A recent issue of The New York Times has a very informative article by Sarah Boxer on the origin of the swastika, its distortion, use and misuse in Europe. Swastika derives from the Sanskrit svastika, meaning well-being and good fortune. Relics found in India dating back to 3000 BC have the emblem on them. The Buddha’s footprints were said to have swastikas on them. Their arms were anti-clockwise and often have dots at four ends. From India it travelled to central Asia, Persia, Greece, Italy and to Germany. Jewish synagogues in north Africa had swastikas on their walls. In the 1830s German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann found artefacts with swastikas near Dardanelles resembling those he had found near the Oder river in Germany and proclaimed it to be an ancient German symbol. In World War I, an anti-Semitic group made it its emblem. In 1920 the Nazis claimed it for themselves. A dentist Friedrich Krohn redesigned the emblem reversing its arms to make them appear clockwise. The Nazis made it a hated symbol. After their defeat it was banned in Germany and the United States. The swastika was used as an emblem of Coca Cola, Carlsberg beer and even by the American division fighting the Nazis, as a shoulder badge. It never lost its popularity in India and some other Asian countries. You can see it painted on temple walls. We have a brand of soap named Swastik; the Falun Gong of China also used the Indian style of the emblem. In 1995, an organization, Friends of the Swastika, was set up in the United States to retrieve it from the morass of its Nazi past, “detoxify” and “re-sanctify”. It produces T-shirts, stamps, postcards. Its motto is “to hell with Hitler”. Its leader who goes under the multisex name, Manwoman, and has 200 swastikas tattooed on his body. It is not known whether they are anti-clockwise in the original Indian style or the perverted form used by Adolf Hitler’s goons.

Department of zero corruption

Since air is pure and water is clean
Since what we say we really mean
Since we are honest and our dealings fair
Dubious means aren’t found anywhere
Truth is our motto and service our creed
We are free from the virus of greed.
Money — the government officials do not make
As bribe they do not a paise take.
Without graft, like an Arabian steed,
The files race at tremendous speed.
Head of department! Don’t be shy
Without any hesitation, certify
“In my department, I say with conviction,
There is absolutely zero corruption.”

(Contributed by G. C. Bhandari, Meerut)

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Careless beyond belief

Sir — Sadly, it is once too often that one gets to read about the carelessness shown towards patients in the hospitals in Calcutta. The situation is truly ironical. The institutions which are meant to save lives and cure illnesses are responsible for gory deaths. Patients are often ignored and treated with extreme negligence. How can one have faith in these organizations? The situation appears all the more grim when one hears of the utter disrespect shown to the deceased (“Rats nibble at dead patient”, Nov 10). After such a blatant display of dereliction of duty and lack of decency do the hospital staff genuinely expect the relatives of the deceased to maintain decorum? The fact that the hospital staff complained about the behaviour of the relatives and expected sympathy makes their insensitive act all the more hideous. The outrage of the relatives is both natural and justified. The hospital staff should be severely punished for their callousness and habitual indifference.
Yours faithfully,
Sarita Kejriwal, Calcutta

American precedent

Sir — “Waves of Bihar vice lap Miami shore” (Nov 10), was not properly researched. It is totally unfair to draw a comparison of the election process in the United States with that in Bihar. The truth is that the election process in the US is a much more peaceful, orderly, fair and democratic process than what we have anywhere in India. And in trying to sensationalize the situation, the report in your paper almost crossed the line of truth.

Florida law requires an “automatic” recount if the margin between the two candidates’ votes is less than half a per cent of the total votes cast. Most of the other states do not make this mandatory. This is the reason why other states — where the contest was very close — are not going in for a recounting of the votes.

However, as some reports are suggesting, the candidates may “request” a recounting in some other states like New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois. The report also mentioned the confusion about the ballots used in Palm Beach county, Florida. This is known as the “butterfly” ballot where candidates’ names appear on both sides of the ballot and the punching holes appear in the middle. This type of ballot is not very uncommon and many other countries use it.

Moreover, the sample ballots were mailed to the voters about 10 days before the elections so that they could get familiar with the ballot prior to the election day. Hence, it would be unfair to infer the intent of wrongdoing in the use of “butterfly” ballots in Palm Beach county. And, most important, Florida has, arguably, the most diverse population among all the states in the US. All the so-called voting blocks — African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, retirees, military personnel — have a substantial presence in this state. In a way the state is a microcosm of the whole country. Thus, it is not surprising that the election results in Florida are not much different from the US as a whole.

Yours faithfully,
Sourav Chatterjee, Florida

Sir — The report, “George W. Bush is president, oops!” (November 9), describes the great American mishap. Leaders started sending congratulatory messages and the press acted in a totally irresponsible manner. No one imagined that the declaration of the winner of the American presidential elections could be suspect. It is a pointer to the extent of dependence the public has on reportage by the television and other media. One shudders to think what would happen if the TV suddenly announces a nuclear strike by the US. Retaliatory strikes will come from all sides and mankind could face the threat of an awesome nuclear holocaust.

Yours faithfully,
Sush Kocher, Calcutta

Sir — The world is waiting eagerly for the results of the US presidential elections in which the Republican candidate, Bush is up against the Democrat, Al Gore. As Indians, we should be hoping for Bush to win because by and large the Republican Party appears to be less insistent on the comprehensive test ban treaty and other arms control measures. In the aftermath of the Pokhran II nuclear tests, India’s relations with the US have suffered many setbacks. To create an atmosphere of bonhomie, a Republican victory would help.

Yours faithfully,
Sanmay Ganguly, Calcutta

Sir — Could we send some members of the saffron brigade to tutor the presidential candidates about winning these elections? Besides, let’s brace ourselves. Mamata Banerjee is probably going to allege that this fiasco too has been engineered by Jyoti Basu.

Yours faithfully
Arnab Gupta, Calcutta

Too taxing

Sir — In most cases dealing with direct taxes, the government has become a major litigant. Many of these cases can be avoided if the Central board of direct taxes takes some initiative. But, for this, the tax laws have to be simplified. Very often income tax authorities interpret laws in various and ambiguous ways.

Moreover, it should also be ensured that in cases regarding matters of small revenue, say, upto one lakh rupees, if the assessee has won before the tribunal and the high court, the department should not go in for an appeal to the Supreme Court. This only means greater harassment for the taxpayers.

Yours faithfully,
R.N. Lakhotia, New Delhi

Sir — Taxes on drinking water should be imposed only on commercial and industrial users and in multi-storeyed apartment buildings. The former has the economic capacity to meet these costs and in the latter case many tenants can pool in the money to pay the tax.

Although the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have recommended otherwise, our mayor, Subrata Mukherjee, has judiciously asserted that until and unless he can provide adequate and pure water to all the citizens of the city, this tax will not be imposed on individual residential units.

Yours faithfully,
Suman Gupta, Calcutta

Sir — Tax deducted at source accounts form a major portion of income tax collection. Besides, the imposition of the TDS makes for a wider tax-net and minimizes the chances of “adjustments” when the income tax returns are filed. The CBDT should concentrate on an increased role of the TDS network all over the country.

The CBDT should also suggest to the Union government a change in the structure of the financial year to match the calendar year. It will then be in tune with most other countries.

Yours faithfully,
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Dariba

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

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Calcutta 700 001
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