Editorial 1/ Words and deeds
Editorial 2/ Inner resistance
Unprepared for the worst
Fifth Column/ Trust the russians to think ahead
Mani talk/ Imagining the impossible
How people decide what to do and what to avoid
Letters to the Editor

If only intentions constituted reality, West Bengal would be a highly industrialized state. There has been no paucity, in the last five years, of pious declarations from Mr Jyoti Basu, the former chief minister, about his desire to encourage investment and production in West Bengal. But these statements amounted to very little since when push came to shove, Mr Basu failed to take hard decisions which would inspire confidence among investors. Similarly, the present chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, in the two interviews he has given to The Telegraph and to Ananda Bazar Patrika, has put the industrialization of West Bengal at the top of his list of priorities. There is the recognition in Mr Bhattacharjee’s statements that West Bengal is a laggard in the race to industrialize; there is also a clear statement of intent to make up for this lag. Mr Bhattacharjee is not being complacent about this matter. He knows that investment, in the last resort, is an act of faith and not an act of charity on the part of those who invest. It is thus dependent on a number of other factors which bolster production and profit. One such factor is the attitude people have to work. The chief minister has gone on record to say that shirkers will not be tolerated. This alone will not be enough. Mr Bhattacharjee, if he is sincere, will have to accept that to encourage capital, he will have to ensure higher productivity which will entail pruning and streamlining the workforce. Will Mr Bhattacharjee go that last mile?

On current experience, the obvious answer to the question is no. This is not because Mr Bhattacharjee’s mouth is not where his heart is. The answer lies in an overall context and a personal ideological orientation. Mr Bhattacharjee carries with him an ideological baggage. This ideology is fundamentally anti-individual capitalist enterprise. Like Mr Basu, he may find it difficult, at a crucial moment, to go against his own ideological grain and push through decisions which seem to be anti-worker. Such a failure is rooted in a particular political praxis that goes by the name of populism. This kind of politics is driven by the desire to be popular, to be acceptable to the largest number of people. The ultimate aim of populism is to win in elections but the consequence is non- or bad governance. Good governance, in a country like India, cannot be popular because it involves the taking of unpopular and difficult decisions. Mr Bhattacharjee must make up his mind about what he wants to be: a popular chief minister or an effective one.

It is too early, of course, to comment on Mr Bhattacharjee’s abilities to execute his intentions. He may be able to fight against vested interests within his party and his government. He is at least speaking as a chief minister should. When he was asked if he considered Ms Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress leader, a problem, Mr Bhattacharjee replied that as chief minister his problem was industrialization, not Ms Banerjee. One can only applaud this statement. In a democracy, the opposition cannot be a problem, it is a given. The statement suggests that Mr Bhattacharjee is more concerned with governance and policy rather than with politics, which is best left to the apparatchiki in Alimuddin Street. Mr Bhattacharjee’s attitudes seem to be right, time will tell if his decisions are equally correct. The people of West Bengal have grown tired of a diet of words. In the beginning is the deed.    

Ethnic terrorism continues to devastate Tripura. Yet the long violence between tribals and non-tribals in the state is finally creating forms of resistance within the tribals themselves. This is the only ground for hope in the face of civil society having come to a brutal standstill in the state. The most recent episode in the Kanchanpur area of north Tripura shows the usual symmetries. The massacre of non-tribals by insurgents from the National Liberation Front of Tripura provokes non-tribal retaliation, leaving 18 people dead. The violence of the killings (the victims have been shot, charred, lynched and hacked) is enhanced by the arson that has gutted entire villages. The unbridled extremity of these acts speaks of the extent to which the ethnic conflict has gone out of hand. Ever since the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura wrested control of the Tripura Tribal Area Autonomous District Council in May, after the most bloodily coercive election witnessed by the state, the NLFT (the IPFT’s militant wing) and the All-Tripura Tiger Force have been ceaseless in their attacks on the non-tribal “immigrants”. The insurgents’ demand for autonomy — expressed through massacres, arson, abduction, extortion and religious conflict — has resulted in a non-tribal backlash, the formation of the United Bengali Liberation Front. Hence, the familiar and seemingly unstoppable vicious circle.

But the tribal Chakmas of Tuichakma village have been standing firm in their attempt to break this circle. They have unanimously organized a resistance movement against the NLFT, and their firmness has incurred the wrath of the insurgents. The NLFT has taken two Chakma women hostage after the Chakmas had threatened it with dire consequences if the tribals failed to surrender arms. Like the Jamatya and Uchoi tribals of west and south Tripura respectively, the Tuichakma tribals have dissociated themselves from violence, initiating a more clear-sighted understanding of the futility of this kind of terrorism. Given the continuing inability of the Centre and of Tripura’s Left Front government to implement any resolution of the conflict, such incipient resistances speak for a clarity and courage which the state could ill afford not to build on.    

In a recent speech at George Town University, the national security adviser of the United States, Sandy Burger, asserted that had not the US led by President Bill Clinton intervened in the Kargil conflict and compelled Pakistani forces to pull back beyond the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan were on the brink of a nuclear confrontation. Whether this was a factual prospect is a debatable point. But Burger has some basis to make this claim.

By the second week of June 1998, Pakistan had made public statements to the effect that it will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons against India if the Indian military response to its military operations in Kargil crossed thresholds which would directly endanger its security. Burger went on to state that the US inevitably would have to take direct interest in ensuring south Asian peace and stability in the context of a nuclear weaponization of India and Pakistan.

It is now two years since India and Pakistan openly tested their military nuclear devices. They have also tested their missile delivery systems. It is time to take stock of the follow up action that has been taken by both countries on their respective nuclear weaponization. It is also necessary to survey international reactions to this situation as they have evolved. Finally, both India and Pakistan have to decide how they intend to manage their destructive capacities, rooted in their respective threat perceptions, with a view to not letting things get out of hand, particularly in the context of continuing Indo-Pakistan confrontation on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

First international reactions, as they have evolved. One hundred and fifty-two out of the 185 or so members of the United Nations have categorically criticized and condemned the nuclear weapons tests conducted by India and Pakistan. The group of eight industrially advanced countries, the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of Islamic Countries and the Nordic Council of Ministers have opposed Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests and called on both countries to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty, roll back and eliminate their nuclear weapons capacities. The apex political body of the world, the UN security council, adopted a resolution on June 6, 1998, demanding that both countries do not conduct any more nuclear tests.

The 14 industrially advanced countries imposed sanctions against India and Pakistan which still continue. The sanctions had the following ingredients: enhancing controls on exports of dual- use equipment and technologies, banning financial institutions from giving loans and credits to governmental entities in India and Pakistan and the postponement or delaying of loans and grants from multi-lateral financial institutions. These institutions and other private banks are also being stopped from giving credits and investment guarantees. Deliveries of all military assistance and military equipment have also been stopped. The objectives of the sanctions were to impose punishment on India and Pakistan for what the nuclear weapons powers call the globally accepted norms of nonproliferation. It was expected that this will coerce India to fall in line with the mainstream nonproliferation objectives of the nuclear weapons powers.

The more operational aims of the sanctions were to pressurize India to sign and ratify the CTBT, to discourage India from producing nuclear missile material and nuclear weapons, put a stop to the development and deployment of nuclear weapons and missiles, to compel India to tighten its export control laws on nuclear technology and nuclear materials and to compel India and Pakistan to enter into a dialogue.

This dialogue ought to have two aims — to come to an agreement on restraint in the use of nuclear weapons and missiles and to address the basic problem of Jammu and Kashmir, considered a nuclear flashpoint by all the important powers in the world. A number of countries like Japan and Australia, and to some extent the United Kingdom and the US, got on a high horse and cancelled bilateral and international meetings related to economic, technological and defence cooperation with India. They even withdrew military and technological personnel from their embassies in New Delhi.

If one reviews the objectives of the sanctions as summarized above, not a single one of them was fulfilled. India has not succumbed to this pressure. In political and economic terms the sanctions have had no profound negative impact on India. In technological terms, there has been some impact, but on all counts India can cope with this pressure. The nuclear weapons powers have also generated pressure for nongovernmental instrumentalities. A number of nongovernmental organizations undertook campaigns and passed resolutions.

Two Indian analysts, Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik, have been awarded McBride prizes for international peace for their persistent and strong opposition to India’s nuclear weaponization, in the print and audio-visual media. In the final analysis, neither the international community nor domestic critics of India’s decision had widespread public support as well as strong support from the strategic establishments of the country. By not succumbing to the sanctions, India has structured its nuclear policies with practicality and a sense of responsibility. India declared a moratorium on further tests for an indefinite period.

Elaborating on this first decision, India finalized its draft nuclear doctrine and made it public for public discussion before it could be finalized. The nuclear doctrine talks about no first use, non-use and India’s nuclear weapons capacity against any non-nuclear weapons power. India has underlined its nuclear weapons capacity has the limited objective of maintaining a minimum credible deterrent against nuclear weapons powers, which have or which could have an adversarial relationship with India in strategic and security terms. This is the first time that any nuclear weapons power has straightaway publicized the outline of its nuclear doctrine before debating it.

Though refusing to sign the CTBT, India has announced that it will not stand in the way of the treaty’s coming into force in relation to those countries which are signatories to this treaty and which desire to abide by it.

The prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, tried to take care of the major international concern about a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan when he went to Lahore for a meeting with the then Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. Vajpayee and Sharif signed an agreement to enter into negotiations to finalize arrangements to maintain strategic restraint between India and Pakistan in the context of nuclear weapons and missile capacities of both countries. They also agreed to set up an express working group to commence negotiations early in 1999, immediately after their February meeting.

An important consequence of international sanctions failing against India had been the commencement of substantial discussions between India and the major powers of the world to come to a political and strategic understanding on the issue of India’s nuclear weaponization. There is an incremental acknowledgement of India’s nuclear weapons status, though this is not being given formal expression. India’s nuclear weaponization has undoubtedly resulted in India being taken more seriously as a factor affecting international political and strategic high-level contacts standing resumed with all the five permanent members of the UN security council who are also the five recognized nuclear weapons powers.

One can come to the conclusion that India has coped with the external dimensions and implications of its nuclear weaponization with some success. It is in the internal structure of our nuclear policies that one notices certain inertia and ambiguities. The difference of opinion between scientists and technical experts on whether India should conduct more tests or not has been expressed publicly. India does not appear to have taken measures to make the delivery systems of these weapons effective and operational.

There have been no tests on the Agni, India’s intermediate range ballistic missile, for nearly four years now. There seems to be a delay in finalizing command and control arrangements governing our nuclear weapons and missile capacities. The nuclear doctrine, though ready in draft form for nearly a year now and though it has been discussed in the media, has not yet been discussed and finalized in the cabinet or being placed before the Parliament.

The imperative desirability to enter into negotiations with Pakistan for mutual strategic restraint seems to be on the back-burner in the government’s strategic planning. It is clear that the government and its experts concerned should focus full attention on these issues and tailor solutions to them prognostically. One gets the impression that we are resting on our laurels of 1998. One hopes this is not true. Conducting nuclear tests and the initial testing of our delivery systems are not an end in themselves. These are exercises which are integral to defence preparedness of the country.

The author is former foreign secretary of India    

Other players are already starting to respond to the policies of the new administration in the United States, even though nobody yet knows who will head it. In a way, you see, that normally critical bit of data doesn’t matter as much as usual.

Take the issue of national missile defence, a hideously expensive, technologically foredoomed boondoggle that was deeply loved by most business-friendly Republicans in the US and only cautiously resisted by Democrats afraid of being thought soft on “defence”. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has just floated a proposal, basically designed to tame NMD, that shows a sophisticated understanding of how Washington will work for the next four years.

On the face of it, Putin’s suggestion was just another futile Russian offer to cut the strategic nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia far below the level (3,500 warheads each) that was agreed in the START II treaty, ratified only last April by the Russian parliament after years.

Normally, this kind of Russian grandstanding is treated with the cynicism it probably deserves. Russia is so broke that it cannot maintain the huge forces of the old Soviet Union — it currently spends just $ 5.1 billion a year on defence, compared to $ 290 billion in the US — and the number of its strategic offensive missiles is bound to dwindle further with or without an agreement with Washington.

START again

So why should the US bind itself to follow Russia down, especially when Moscow is still insisting that START III be linked to an American promise to abandon the NMD project? It’s not that Putin believes the US could ever build an anti-missile defence that would make it invulnerable to nuclear attack. But he has to deal with rightwing loonies, greedy industrialists and scheming generals in Russia too.

The “threat” of an American NMD system could force Putin into spending decisions and even a strategic confrontation that he very much wants to avoid. His objective, therefore, is not necessarily to kill NMD dead — if Americans want to squander another $ 60 billion or so on the “Star Wars” fantasy, it’s no skin off his nose — but rather to make it politically non-threatening.

That is why Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev, commander of Russia’s strategic rocket forces, speaking at Putin’s side, suggested that while it would be extremely difficult to persuade the new American administration to give up NMD, Russians could probably live with it if both offensive and defensive missiles were counted as part of the strategic arsenals in a new START agreement.

Useful stalemate

Nuclear calculations are usually arcane, but these are transparent. In fact, they aren’t nuclear at all, they’re political — and they begin with the fact that the next US administration, whether it is led by Gush or Bore, will be constrained to govern from close to the centre.

The US presidency is a winner-take-all race, but it has relatively weak executive powers even when the president has a convincing majority. In a Washington where the president has a disputed mandate and both houses of congress are divided almost 50-50, reflecting a similarly divided electorate, nobody is going to make a bold move. In fact, radical policy changes of any sort will be close to impossible.

From a Russian perspective, that means that there will not be the political will in Washington to kill NMD — but neither will there be a strong insistence on trying to make it actually work, so long as the contracts get signed, the money gets spent, and the campaign contributors are happy. This is a perfect opening for Putin’s proposal.

If Russia and the US, some time early in the new US administration, start drafting a treaty that counts not only strategic nuclear warheads, but also “strategic” missiles — both those capable of carrying the warheads and those allegedly capable of shooting them down — then NMD becomes self-limiting.

If the US has to trade in one offensive missile every time it deploys an anti-missile missile, not very many of the latter are going to get built. Putin’s idea would be clever at any time, but there was no time in the past 10 years when it would have got past the ideological gate-keepers in the US senate. In the new, stalemated Washington, it is just the sort of compromise that will recommend itself to both sides, regardless of who is president.    

The Oxford historian, Alan Bullock, once delivered a lecture in which he divided the 20th century into four quarters and pointed out how at the beginning of the quarter no one had anticipated the singlemost important event of the next 25 years. Thus, no one in 1900 imagined the Great War of 1914-18 which transformed beyond recognition the world of the Hapsburgs, the Hohenzollerens, the Czars and the Ottomans. And who would have believed in 1925 that Germany, prostrate after its overwhelming defeat and the settlement at Versailles, would rise under Hitler from the ashes as it were and take the world hurtling once again to unprecedented destruction and the horrors of genocide? Nor, from an Indian point of view, could anyone have confidently predicted that Britain would be out of India before the quarter was out or, indeed, that Partition would be the price we would have to pay for independence.

In 1950, the overwhelming fact of international life was the resurgence of China under a fundamentalist communist regime. Neither Stalin, nor even Mao, could have anticipated that before the next quarter century was over, the communist world would be divided and China in alliance with the same United States they were going to war with in the Korean peninsula. Nor that a gambling den by the name of Cuba, a bare 70 kilometres off the coast of Florida, would become the bastion of Latin American resistance to US domination. Or that humiliating defeat at the hands of Israel would become the motor for the dusty little kingdoms of the Gulf to emerge as the El Dorados of the 20th century.

Bullock’s lecture was delivered in 1975, but a quarter century on we can work out for ourselves that not anyone anywhere in the world, not even Henry Kissinger, could have remotely believed that Brezhnev’s Soviet Union was going to cease to be or that its graveyard would be, of all unlikely places, Afghanistan. Or that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Pacific rim of Asia would emerge as the economic powerhouse of the world?

On the eve of the third millennium — for, as the perspicacious readers of “Mani Talk” doubtless know, the millennium begins on January 1, 2001 and has not, despite all the hype, already started — why not idle away a few minutes speculating over what utterly unexpected but not entirely unfeasible events might occur over the next 24 or 25 years. I do not mean impossible fantasies, like Uma Bharti becoming prime minister — which would be quite a giggle. But something startling, the seeds of which, however, appear to lie unfertilized in the womb of time.

The assumption, of course, is that we will be around in 2025. With the asinine decision to go nuclear, with the inevitable consequence of Pakistan having done the same, it is certainly on the cards that the subcontinent would have blown itself up within the next 25 years, an assumption which, if invalidated in the coming quarter, will, alas, remain to haunt us through every quarter hereafter. Obliteration is no more unfeasible than World War I was at the turn of last century.

But if we do survive, might the next quarter century possibly see India and Pakistan coming together in a confederation? Perhaps on the lines dimly conceived in the cabinet mission plan of 1946? After all, who (except, perhaps, Maulana Azad) could have foreseen in 1950, just as East Pakistan began the orgy of killings which Punjab had finished with in 1948, that before the quarter was out Bangladesh would emerge as a sovereign entity (or that Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s reward for liberating his country would be the comprehensive elimination of him and his family — all save Sheikh Hasina)?

Pakistan over the next 25 years, as over the last half-century, will, in all probability, continue to lie at the mercy, overt or covert, of General Pervez Musharraf or his clones. Which means the animus against India which drives the Pakistan establishment (and the animus against Pakistan which idiotically drives our establishment) will mean more of the same over the next 25 years as over the past 52. But if we leach the Kashmir issue of its poison, and thus remove the symbol if not the source of Pakistani hatred, there is a tiny little off-chance that the voices of sanity in Pakistan might prevail. Already, the Mohajir Quami Movement is beginning to revisit Partition. It was their parents and grandparents who conceived and agitated Pakistan in the provinces of British India where the Muslims were in a minority.

Those were the provinces which remained in India on August 15, 1947. Yet, ironically, it was where no one needed Pakistan — because the Muslims there were already in a majority — that, notwithstanding the absence of any serious demand for Pakistan, Pakistan got created. If the mohajir — the immigrants from the minority provinces, the true creators of Pakistan — have become as restive as the Baloch and Pathan have always been, and the Sindhi has become, it is not because the minority communities of Pakistan are any less Islamic than the dominant Punjabi but because democracy has not taken root and freedom has not flourished.

India has become and remained a democracy because there is no dominant community. A Hindi-speaking Hindu is in a minority in this country. Moreover, it is the periphery of the nation, not the heartland, that is making progress. Pakistan, on the other hand, is demographically, politically, militarily and economically overwhelmingly dominated by a part of the country. Thus even when democratic transitions occur, the smaller provinces feel under-represented and marginalized. Confederation with India would exponentially expand the opportunities in Pakistan for the freedoms which we in this country take for granted. But that is subject to two conditions, almost impossible to fulfil. The first, which I have already flagged, is confidence in Pakistan that India is prepared for a fair deal in Kashmir.

And, second, that India makes an economic success of itself. It is little recognized in India that even today Pakistan’s per capita income is substantially higher than India’s. Indeed, in 1965, Pakistan was the second most industrialized country in all of Asia, second only to Japan in the share of manufacturing in national income. But both west and east Asia dramatically overtook the subcontinent in the last quarter of the 20th century. And there is nothing to show that India or Pakistan can become the tortoise that beats the hare.

However, the chances of India emerging as that tortoise are dimly brighter. The “miracle” countries took much less than 25 years to go from destitution to prosperity. So, although neither Pakistan nor India seems to have found the key to spectacular growth, the chances of India doing so are somewhat better than Pakistan’s, largely because our wastage on unproductive defence expenditure is substantially less than Pakistan’s. If, indeed, we do race ahead, there might be an added incentive for Pakistan to join hands, instead of putting up fists.

The possibility of any of this happening is about as fragile as were India’s hopes in 1900 of gaining freedom, or in 1925 of militarist Japan becoming a peaceable nation, or in 1950 of capitalism sweeping Russia, or in 1975 of the US president being welcomed in Hanoi. In 2000, the idea of India and Pakistan coming together is an impossible dream. The reality is of sports minister Uma Bharti decreeing we cannot even play cricket. But could the impossible happen?    

This year’s Nobel prize for economics has remained true to form in more ways than one. The $ 913,100 prize has gone to two noted American economists, and for work in a field of highly sophisticated mathematics. This year’s laureates,James Heckman and Daniel McFadden, did not actually make joint discoveries but drew sustenance from each other’s work; that is why they share the prize. They have carried out groundbreaking work in the field of econometrics, which is the application of statistics to economics.

At a most basic level, the two academics developed the essential components of the statistical toolkit to determine how individuals, households and firms make choices. The tools they have invented have applications in the social sciences, biology and medicine.

Practical applications of Heckman and McFadden’s discoveries have ranged from phenomena as diverse as voting behaviour and the decision to get married to individual’s choice of transport to work. McFadden, for instance, helped design the public transport system around San Francisco by analysing transport choices of commuters. Heckman, on the other hand, showed that the successes of labour market schemes such as the US workforce investment act and the United Kingdom new deal are routinely overstated by governments.

Choice sample

To put it technically, Heckman has been awarded the prize for developing the theory and methods to analyse selective samples and McFadden has got it for developing the theory and methods to analyse discrete choice.

Both Heckman and McFadden are seen as trailblazers in this field, plugging loopholes with their statistical research in such a way as to bring about a paradigm shift in this branch. To be sure, Heckman and McFadden did not actually launch their respective fields.

Heckman’s earliest papers concerning selection bias date from 1974, around the same time when the writings of R. Granau and H.G. Lewis were published on the same theme. But Heckman has continuously worked on exposing the bias in different areas of sample selection and finding statistical solutions to overcome such selectivity bias.

Practised trend

Similarly, McFadden’s earliest papers on discrete choices and econometric techniques to deal with them were published in 1974, but R.D. Luce theoretically explored the field 15 years before that. McFadden’s interests have been varied, across the economics of transport, energy, health, the environment, development and industrial production.

Heckman confronted sample-selection problems such as omitted variable bias, reverse causality and questions of precision and robustness of statistical results. As practical applications of these, he studies how people decide how much to work and the role played by education and training in such decisions.

Such applications of mathematics and statistics to economic theory has a long history. Economics has benefited enormously from advances in physics and mathematics in the last few decades.

Successive Nobel prizes in recent years have honoured such mathematical applications in economics: for the valuation of derivatives in stock markets in 1997, for asymmetric information in 1996, for rational expectations in 1995, for game theory in 1994.

This year’s Nobel prize in economics merely conforms to this trend.    


It’s your baby

Sir — Rasheed Kidwai’s “Women end birth control silence” (Nov 19) mentions some appalling statistics. The national health family survey has found that all over India only three per cent of the men use condoms. Perhaps we don’t realize how shocking this is because three per cent in half a billion is a large number. What really appals is not the already known fact that the women are saddled with the burden of contraception, but another reflection of the tremendous callousness shown to women across classes and countrywide. The choice of the number of children is seldom left to the wife. Yet contraception is hers, whether it is pills or douches or intra-uterine devices. The pills may damage her health, IUDs cause bleeding, and other methods, including withdrawal or rhythm, may simply fail. If she’s ill, sad luck. And if the method fails, it’s her lot. The hoopla in the Indian media about family planning is actually a waste of everybody’s time. Nothing in this country is changeable. We are stuck in medieval times.
Yours faithfully,
Rahul Tripathi, via email

State of exploitation

Sir — After an agitation extending over almost a century, Jharkhand finally came into existence. The people of south Bihar are heaving a sigh of relief. They will no longer have to be silent spectators while others rob them of the fruits of their hard work. Despite being one of the richest areas in the country in terms of mineral resources, the Santhal Pargana has remained one of the most backward regions. The life the adivasis lead in Jharkhand is one of extreme deprivation. The only source of livelihood for them is forest produce. This reserve too is diminishing with time but the adivasis are content with what they have. They have always been too meek to raise any demands and politicians have continued to trample upon them.

The celebrations at the creation of the new state are well-merited. The Laloo raj is finally over. The important questions now are: how will the future unfold for these people? Will their needs be finally addressed?

Yours faithfully,
Avishek Roy, Giridih

Sir — It is all very well that Shibu Soren has not become the chief minister of Jharkhand. He had earlier threatened that if he did not get the chief ministership by consensus, he would rule by force. Who does he think he is? Is he another Veerappan in the making? He is by no manner or means the natural leader for the people of south Bihar. After all, his Jharkhand Mukti Morcha has bagged only 12 of the possible 82 seats in the legislative assembly. His party also has no Lok Sabha member of parliament. On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party has 32 members of the legislative assembly and 11 MPs. Moreover, the BJP MP from Khunti, Karia Munda, and the Dumka MP from the same party, Babulal Marandi, are no less adivasi than Soren.

Besides, the allegations against P.V. Narasimha Rao and Buta Singh in the JMM bribery case have proved beyond a shadow of doubt that Soren, Suraj Mandal, Simon Marandi and Shailendra Mahato, all former MPs had accepted bribes from the Rao government. Soren needs to find out whether adivasis would like a chargesheeted man to head Jharkhand. For the last decade, adivasis have been experiencing a corrupt ruling elite because of Laloo Prasad Yadav.

Yours faithfully,
Sukla Das, Jamshedpur

Sir — With the creation of Jharkhand, the power hungry face of the BJP has come to the fore. By denying chief ministership to Shibu Soren, the BJP has shown it has no regard for public opinion. If anyone has the right to become chief minister of Jharkhand, it is Soren because he led the struggle for Jharkhand right from the beginning. While this struggle created the state, the BJP took advantage by flaunting numbers. The sole aim of the BJP is to protect businessmen and the rich, and not the poor tribals. Such self-interested euphoria can only be shortlived.

Yours faithfully,
Rajendra Singh, Calcutta

Sir — Unfortunately for the tribals of Jharkhand, the blood-stained freedom struggle for self-rule by them is proving to be futile. The Jharkhandis were rendered helpless when it came to withstanding the old tactics of divide and rule.

After years of dillydallying, the Jharkhandis have finally been given their new state. But, the Jharkhandis have not been empowered in any way by this new arrangement. They are going to remain puppets in the hands of the politicians and nothing is going to change for them. Most of these politicians do not wish for any real development of the region and its people. That an outsider has already been chosen as chief minister is proof enough of this.

The two present factions of Jharkhandis should unite and demand self-rule in the truest sense. They should stop depending on politicians from outside Jharkhand. Otherwise, they may not witness peace and development ever in their newborn province.

Yours faithfully,
Sukumar Mondal, Calcutta

National morality

Sir — The objections raised over the use of the national flag on outfits make no sense at all. The self-appointed guardians of the saffron camp are adept at framing guidelines for Indian churches as well as censoring films even before they are made. The people of the country are not such fools that they will agree to be guided in their personal pursuits by organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The laxmanrekha around dress codes set by these moral watchdogs should be perceived as an affront to the freedom of the citizens of the nation.

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti De, Kharagpur

Where the slip showed

Sir — I am sorry to have to point out an error that has appeared in my article on Jerusalem (“Paradise Lost”, Nov 19) which was not there in the copy I had sent to you for publication. My copy had clearly stated that in the February 1994 incident, it was Dr Baruch Goldstein who opened fire on Muslim worshippers, and not, as has appeared in print, “the Israeli forces”.

Yours faithfully,
Ambereen Ali Shah, Calcutta

The mistake is ours; we regret the error. — The editor

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