Editorial 1/ Wall of china
Editorial 2/ Wonder at a price
Takeover phobia
Fifth column/ Aids and the world’s largesse
From ceasefire to the cessation of hostilities
Letters to the Editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ WALL OF CHINA 
 
 
 
 
Industry is paranoid about Chinese imports and the government finally seems to be taking cognizance. Paranoia is the right word to use, since official imports from China are less than $ 750 million. It is true that official imports underestimate the Chinese threat. There are at least three other routes for imports from China — smuggling through the Indo-China border, smuggling through central Asia and smuggling (or legitimate trade) through Nepal and Bangladesh. From batteries to consumer electronics to stuffed toys, the Chinese are everywhere. Not only are Chinese products cheaper, they are often of better quality than corresponding Indian products. The price differential is anything from one-tenth to one-fifth. Given bad quality, bad servicing and absence of product differentiation by local Indian manufacturers, domestic consumers see no reason to prefer domestic production because of nationalistic reasons. Two additional factors complicate the picture. First, industry faces slowdown, and problems that should be ascribed to the downturn are ascribed to Chinese imports. Second, many of these consumer good categories are items reserved for the small-scale sector. Industry has argued that Chinese have an unfair playing field. Labour laws are more flexible there, infrastructure is better and cheaper and the Chinese use nontransparent export subsidies. These are valid arguments. However, China is on its way towards becoming a member of the World Trade Organization and once this happens, unwarranted cross-subsidization of exports will cease. Will Indian industry then be in a position to compete?

Given Chinese upgradation of quality, productivity levels and economies of scale, the answer is in the negative. There is a Chinese television manufacturer that globally sells colour TV sets at less than $ 100. This manufacturer has entered India, but is now marketing TVs at double this price. Once colour TV prices are halved, how many Indian manufacturers will survive? The point is simple. While arguing for level playing fields, how many Indian manufacturers pay any attention to economies of scale or productivity? Chinese scales of production imply that the fixed cost component in prices is marginal. However, the government seems to have finally accepted arguments for greater protection. Most Indian antidumping investigations are directed against the Chinese and the government has launched a fresh round of antidumping investigations. Reportedly, the strategic management group headed by Mr Brajesh Mishra will recommend higher levels of import duties than those existing now. There is an attempt to introduce non-tariff barriers through insisting on maximum retail prices and registration with the bureau of Indian standards. As with many NTBs, such measures sound reasonable, but can be used for protection. However, all such knee-jerk reactions miss the point.

The answer lies in addressing domestic problems of downturn. It lies in allowing the rupee to drop, so that domestic industry obtains protection through exchange rate depreciation, rather than propping up the rupee through expensive and dysfunctional schemes like Millennium Bonds. It is illogical to expect that Chinese imports can legally be prohibited. Even if this is attempted, arbitrage will take place because of low import duties in Nepal and Bangladesh, and it is impossible to monitor this even if one has requirements on local content and rules of origin. It is high time Indian industry recognized that there can be no permanent protection. There is no alternative to satisfying consumers through higher productivity and better quality. Before reforms, India had many consumers and few producers. Unless industry changes, post reforms, India will have many producers, but few consumers for their products.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ WONDER AT A PRICE 
 
 
 
 
The price of a vision as rare as the Taj Mahal is a rude thought for some. Particularly when it happens to be not only a monument to love, but also a place of worship. A rich tangle of motives and sentiments is complicating the matter of entry fees to this heritage building. The Archaeological Survey of India’s ticket counter at the Taj Mahal had to deal with angry worshippers last Friday, who demanded free entry on Fridays, in order to pray at the Shahjahani mosque on the Taj grounds. This issue has also been taken up into the larger one of the hike in entry fees for heritage monuments all over the country, and the effect of this on tourists and tour operators. A petty political dimension is further tacked on to this palaver with the ASI and the Agra Development Authority fighting over the revenue collected from the Taj Mahal.

The priorities have to be clear in everybody’s mind. The hike in entry fees is for the sole purpose of maintaining and preserving priceless and irreplaceable sites, the extraordinary status of which overrides most other considerations. The ASI is right in defending its decision to retain the Friday entry fee, since it would be impossible to distinguish the worshippers from the ordinary tourists. Moreover, the sheer number of entrants taking advantage of a free entry would prove to be highly risky for the conservation of the building. The ADA should also honour this priority, as directed by the Supreme Court. But the ASI has now a greater accountability to the public regarding the proper utilization of these funds, principally for the conservation of these sites and for the maintenance of better facilities within them. The nation’s heritage, in its material forms, is the responsibility of its citizens, who can ill afford to take its endurance for granted.    


 
 
TAKEOVER PHOBIA 
 
 
BY S. VENKITARAMANAN
 
 
Globalization has been foremost among aspects of economic reforms attacked by critics. Particularly under attack is the flow of investments by transnational corporations. The latest World Investment Outlook, released by the United Nations conference on trade and development, shows that increased foreign direct investment flows are a part of global trend. While we are grumbling, FDI into India is of the order of a mere two billion dollars, the global total of FDI is around $ 865 billion and fast increasing to an expected annual flow of one trillion dollars.

As the WIO points out, transnational corporations (UNCTAD’s term for multinational corporations) have become a major fact of global economic life. Sales of transnational corporations and affiliates today are in the region of $ 14 trillion, against three trillion dollars in 1980. These, in turn, are twice as high as global exports and constitute 14 per cent of global capital instead of two per cent 20 years earlier. The number of transnational parent firms has increased from 7,000 at the end of 1960 to 40,000 at the end of 1990. One-tenth of global gross domestic product is in terms of output of transnational industries, numbering about 63,000 parent firms and around 6,90,000 affiliates.

Considering these magnitudes, global FDIs play an important role in global economic growth. It goes without saying that the world’s largest transnational corporations based in developed countries are, in fact, the main drivers of global manufacturing activities. Their strength is obvious from the fact that today they hold two trillion dollars in foreign exchange assets, employ over six million people and their foreign sales are over two trillion dollars.

The WIO brings out a few important dimensions of FDI flows. Contrary to the impression that transnationals target mainly developing countries, global FDI flows are primarily directed to developed countries, which absorbed nearly $ 636 billion, three-quarters of the global total. The United States was among the major beneficiaries of this global inflow at $ 276 billion. The large inflow into the US was driven by mergers and acquisitions investments, attracted by stock market valuations and the M&A mania, in which large firms were taken over by foreign acquirers. A substantial part of the flow came from the European Union area.

It is also an indisputable fact that the current account deficit of the US, which has been quite large, was itself sustained by these large capital inflows, which depends on US stock markets. This, in turn, raises the fear that if anything adverse happens to the stock markets in the US, the inflows can reverse, leading to a stock market meltdown and, following a vicious circle, to global financial crisis.

Turning to regional flows, the WIO points out that, contrary to the decline following the southeast Asian crisis, FDI flows in southeast and east Asia gathered strength in the recent period. China alone accounted for a global FDI flow of $ 23 billion in 1999. Although this figure represents a decline compared to a record of $ 40 billion in each of the four consecutive years, the very size of FDI into China, even in its declining level, makes us wonder what are the special circumstances contributing to the phenomenon of large Chinese FDI flows.

While we claim our transparent legal system and our familiarity of the English language to be great assets in attracting foreign investments, FDI investments seem to prefer the easygoing ways of China. It is important to study, adopt and adapt the attractive features of Chinese treatment of foreign direct investors. Maybe, the special treatment given in the form of export zones has contributed. Maybe also, the permissive ways of dealing with labour law violations may have proved to be attractive. We cannot obviously copy all these features. But, there are some which we can.

Amongst the different components of FDI, one recent trend is an increase in the flow for M&As. Even in the east Asian region, particularly South Korea, cross-border M&As accounted for $ 15 billion in 1999. Partly, this was accounted for by the economic collapse in the region following the crisis, when many firms turned bankrupt and were ready for takeover.

The UNCTAD document discusses the relative merits and demerits of FDI flows in the form of M&A activities, as compared to greenfield investment. When FDI takes the form of transnational M&A activities, it represents, first and foremost, their takeover of local firms. From the point of view of the foreign investor, such M&A activities are of special interest, because they enable foreign firms to enter quickly into markets and takeover facilities built up with great investment of time, effort and money in host countries.

One special feature of recent global investment flow is that the US has witnessed largescale M&A activity of the order of $ 233 billion. More than a quarter of all M&A activities in the US was the result of foreign acquirers taking over American firms. But, it must be noted that, on its part, the US acquired foreign firms valued at $ 112 billion in the same period.

Cross-border M&A transactions represent the invasive face of globalization. They raise important questions of concerns. This is particularly because transnational corporations are the principal beneficiaries of globalization, while local, small and medium industries are adversely affected. It is no accident that popular perception associates M&A activity of the cross-border variety with the expansion and dominance of global big businesses.

The WIO stresses that it is natural for host countries to take the view that greenfield investment is more beneficial than cross-border M&A. Such greenfield investments add directly to productivity capacity and employment. While greenfield investments, like transborder M&A activities, also involve control in the hands of foreigners, they are normally not so much the object of criticism as they involve creation of new jobs and new investments, besides bringing in new technology.

The WIO stresses that there are legitimate causes of concern when transnationals acquire local industries. Cross-border M&As can sometimes lead to creation of large monopolies and reduce competition in domestic manufacturing. Cross-border M&As also lead to the logical concern that control of strategic industries may be lost to foreign acquirers. In this sense, M&As can also threaten national identity, especially when leading industrial groups are taken over.

The WIO is careful enough to point out that such concerns related to cross-border M&As are not confined to developing countries. It cites incidents, which took place in the US, when a Japanese investor acquired the Rockefeller Centre and another took over part of the Hollywood industries. The US media had then expressed serious concern.

Recently, when the British company, Vodafone, threatened to acquire the German manufacturing firm, Mannesman, the media reacted adversely. The government had to take a position in this regard. Such nationalistic reactions to foreign acquirers of local industries are intensified when they extend to the media sector. The path of FDI is not smooth even in developed countries.

The UNCTAD document states that there are legitimate, but broader, apprehensions regarding the weakening of the national enterprise sector whether the entry is through M&As or greenfield investments. It has to do with the extent of foreign ownership which a country can accept comfortably — and the economic, cultural and political consequences of such ownership.

Policy measures need to be put in place to check the dominance of foreign ownership through noncompetitive behaviour. An appropriate competition policy should be established to prevent the emergence of dominance by monopolistic players from FDI or M&A activities. This is particularly important because foreign acquirers tend to represent relatively large players.

In spite of opposition by special activists and nongovernmental organizations, the .WIO notes that the phenomenon of globalization through FDI has progressed substantially over the years. Around the world, while concerns are raised against FDI, there is an active attempt to attract more and more FDI through amendments of procedures and legal impediments.

Blind opposition to FDI will carry us nowhere. FDI is expanding and extending its reach. We must formulate policies which attract FDI and at the same time mitigate its likely negative effects of encouraging monopolistic growth. Loss of strategic control is an equally important concern. The national debate on the future course of FDI policy has to keep these important aspects in mind.

While we cannot ignore global trends and afford to be dismissive of FDI in general, a selective strategy of welcome and facilitation, coupled with safeguards in the shape of an appropriate competition policy, is, indeed, highly essential.

The author is former governor, Reserve Bank of India    


 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ AIDS AND THE WORLD’S LARGESSE 
 
 
BY AYATSEN BHATTACHARYA
 
 
Big issues get big attention, but seldom the priority they deserve. The concern for AIDS is now finally making it to the top of the development agenda. The disease has affected 35 million people — needless to say, 95 per cent of them live in the third world.

The AIDS statistics are ominous. It is the fourth largest killer in the world, spreading with the ferocity of 15,000 new infections each day, the majority of the victims being between 15 to 24. Worse, AIDS has been known to hit adults in their childbearing years, causing an explosion in the number of orphans worldwide.

That’s just the human cost. What is equally worrying is the impact on the economy. By weakening and killing adults in the prime of their professional lives, productivity is being eroded, and skill bases compromised. According to a recent survey, almost 19 per cent of all skilled personnel in South Africa will be HIV positive by 2015.

A fallout of this will be the depletion of private savings on treatment, and of course, the colossal demand on public healthcare systems. The World Bank contends in any given nation, one year of basic medical treatment for one person costs about two to three times the national gross domestic product per person.

Cost of life

As the disease spreads, outlays on healthcare will reach an unimaginable high. All these factors will have a direct impact on economic growth. The World Bank avers once the disease affects eight per cent of the adult population, per capita growth will be 0.4 percentage points lower than what it otherwise would have been.

The global attention on AIDS was thus long overdue. An immediate agenda is needed to prevent the spread of this menace through a behavioural change. After all, half the population in the poor countries live in areas where there is little scope to prevent an epidemic. Contrary to popular belief, there has been the odd success with AIDS prevention programmes. Senegal, for example, has one of the lowest infection rates in Africa after a genuinely concerted national effort.

Most experts agree a vaccine will be a crucial part of the anti-AIDS weaponry. Unfortunately, scant funds have been devoted to developing one. In 1999, for instance, various governments and private firms spent a modest $ 300 million on vaccine research, of which only a tiny portion has been channelized to poor countries.

The reason for such apathy would appear simple — an AIDS vaccine symbolizes a global public good. And though it would benefit numerous countries, no single one has the incentive to sponsor the research. Recent studies suggest the benefits of the vaccine to poor countries could exceed returns to a private developer by a factor of 10.

Public good

The usual method of providing public good is through the public sector. But the international AIDS vaccine initiative offers a different idea. IAVI receives donations from various foundations and governments and invests directly in individual setups of AIDS researchers. That is why this non-profit establishment insists that the vaccine be compulsorily distributed, and cheaply, in poor countries.

There’s another approach — to create the right incentives for the private sector to come up with a vaccine by opening up a market that promises to buy it at a specific price. In fact Harvard University thinktank suggests the setting up of a purchase fund that would guarantee to buy effective vaccines for a particular price. Governments and international institutions could contribute towards such a largesse.

But how to commit resources genuinely? After all, firms need to be assured of a promised donation. Anticipating the dilemma, the United States government has announced a billion dollar progra- mme of tax credits over the next 20 years . The credits seek to match the sale of eligible vaccines to poor countries by drug companies.

But the best way to indicate commitment to a future market is for international institutions to increase their purchases of existing vaccines. Many vaccines for common third world diseases go unused in spite of being nominally priced. So, by funding better vaccine programmes at present, the World Bank and its allied forces would together help the poor and send a signal that they indeed would buy a future AIDS vaccine.    


 
 
FROM CEASEFIRE TO THE CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES 
 
 
BY RANABIR SAMADDAR
 
 
The third ceasefire in Nagaland, this time agreed upon between the government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), started on August 1, 1997. The Khaplang group of the NSCN also declared a “goodwill ceasefire” before the year ended on December 15. Though Kuki-Naga and Kuki-Paite clashes continued with less intensity, with ceasefire and the commencement of political dialogue between the government and the NSCN, there was hope in the public mind that the violent past would be buried in the quest for peace. The Naga Hoho also declared the willingness of all sections of the Nagas to live in peace.

What was less noticed amidst the widespread sense of relief was that along with this had started the old game of creating and propping up the opposition to the rebels in the form of the Nagaland chief minister, S.C. Jamir. Just six months before the declaration of ceasefire, Jamir had declared on December 28, 1996, his intention to seek Interpol aid to secure the extradition of the rebel leadership.

This was an indication that the history of the failed ceasefire of 1964 would be repeated. At that time, the participation of A.Z. Phizo, the leader of the Naga National Council, in the ceasefire talks had been opposed on the ground that he was in exile. The year, 1964, is worth remembering. Having created a new administrative unit called the Naga Hills Tuensang Area and placing it under the ministry of external affairs, Jawaharlal Nehru had entered into a 16-point agreement with a section of the Nagas to create the state of Nagaland within the union in December 1963. This statehood policy was primarily a piece of Realpolitik, dividing Nagas into moderates and rebels, and deepening the chasm between the government and society, and within society itself. Therefore it could not be the road to peace, and this was probably known to the government as well.

Six rounds of talks between the government and the rebels were held between 1964-67. Not surprisingly, nothing substantial emerged, although among the rebels there was a young man who later became the chairman of the NSCN, Isak Chisi Swu, and who had then participated in the dialogue with remarkable patience. The peace mission’s efforts had brought nothing except the unsuccessful ceasefire agreement of 1964.

Just as the ceasefire agreement of 1964 signified nothing in terms of achieving a substantive political dialogue, there is now a possibility that the latest ceasefire may also come to nothing. The conditions agreed upon by the two sides — unconditional talks, talks at the highest level and the venue of talks to be outside India — may be woefully inadequate. Meanwhile, threats against the rebels allegedly continue, divisive tactics reportedly go on, and the substantive part of the discussion may be eternally postponed. Typically, Jamir commented in 1997 (and this was indicative of the government line of thinking) that the Naga Students Federation’s theme of rapprochement between various sections of the Naga society is not enough, and that without spending too much time and energy over what happened in the past, Nagas should think of this rapprochement in terms of “bridging the gap between past, present and future”.

Both Jamir and the Baptist Church of Nagaland wanted to become players for peace. Predictably the rebels, wise after the experience of the Sixties, refused to accept the entry of Jamir who, in their eyes, was the manipulator of the peace talks in the 1997 World Baptist Conference in Atlanta. However, the ceasefire initially agreed to by the NSCN (I-M) for three months continued.

Other problems, besides the Jamir factor, soon raised their heads. The rebels would lose no time to remind anyone willing to listen to them, that the two previous ceasefires in 1964 and 1974 were either preceded or followed by a split in the rebel ranks and a political grant from the government of India that meant only surrender to them. The ceasefire in 1964 had been preceded by statehood, and that of 1974 had been followed by the Shillong Accord — both now recognized as disasters in the chronicle of the peace process.

Even in 1964, the ceasefire had extended to the rebel operations in Manipur. But this time the ceasefire was confined to Nagaland areas only. This denied the stand of the NSCN (I-M) that Naga areas had all along included parts of what is known today as upper Assam and Manipur, and that an eventual political dialogue would have to deal with not only the artificial entity called the Nagaland, but the Naga nation. I.K. Gujral declared in Parliament that fratricidal confrontations between Naga groups and other rebel groups had seriously disturbed public order, and the ceasefire in Nagaland would usher in progress. Rumours started circulating to the effect that peace talks would lead to the break-up of Manipur. The chief minister, Rishang Keishing, declared in the state assembly that the union home ministry had assured him that “there was no question of disturbing Manipur’s territorial integrity in view of the peace talks with Naga rebels”.

The union home secretary, K. Padmanabhaiah, declared that the agreement would be valid only in the state and a panel would be formed to supervise the agreement. But while certain ground rules were framed and decided upon, political aggression by the Union government continued. It was at best a “moth-eaten peace and autonomy cheque” being offered by the government.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act continues to be implemented. On the basis of this, raid and search operations are continuing. Threats of detention without trial, search and seizure, shooting to death, public control measures, confiscation, and declaration of public assemblies as illegal remain as ever. Nagaland remains beyond the bounds of Articles 19 and 21. The ceasefire monitoring office of the NSCN (I-M) in Dimapur was suspended for sometime and has been allowed to function only recently.

In the Naga areas of Manipur, land alienation of the Nagas through the extension of land acts continues. The ceasefire has not brought a halt to the operation of the old colonial laws, such as the Land Acquisition Act of 1884 and the Forest Laws. Yanganpokopi has been taken from the Maring Nagas for a national park. One hundred thousand acres of land have been taken from the Tangkhul Nagas. Loktak hydroelectricity project has resulted in land alienation among the Zeliangrong Nagas. Similarly, political talks are now interrupted by new demands and questions by bureaucrats to the extent that the NSCN (I-M) leader, T. Muivah, was forced to declare, “We are not toys to be played around with”. The government, of course, had the last laugh when Muivah was arrested in Thailand early this year, a development that showed the rebels the reach of the government’s arms. So, though the ceasefire has been extended this year with effect from August 1 for another year, things are beginning to look ominous.

All this is not a product of a malice-driven campaign. Swaraj Kaushal, the government’s interlocutor in 1998-99, spilled the beans at the time of his fall from grace, when he remarked in his widely quoted report, “We agreed to the word ‘ceasefire’ whereas this should have been ‘cessation of hostilities’”. Kaushal, of course, did not explain what he meant by that.

Cessation of hostilities is a broader term. It would have implied not only ceasefire, but also withdrawal and cessation of all measures considered as hostile. It would have meant, in the first place, withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the scourge of the local people. It would have inaugurated a gradual, but concrete, plan of demilitarization including withdrawal of army to the barracks, stopping of physical checks and harassment. It would have implied cessation of menacing patrolling, full restoration of civil liberties, and above all, the withdrawal of the ban on the NSCN (I-M).

Also, it would have meant cessation of hostilities in Manipur. In short, with a broad-spectrum step, this would have signalled an agenda for the creation of trust, essential for a peace dialogue.

Instead, what has happened? On alleged grounds of inter-Naga clashes, the ceasefire-monitoring cell office of the NSCN (I-M) in Dimapur was closed down. The mutual charges of violation of ground rules were allowed to continue. On April 6 this year, Major Peter Parik reportedly asked the NSCN (I-M) to vacate the designated camp at Munglaimukh. The complaint about this went unheeded. Before that, on March 22, Captain Jouhal of the Indian army had again reportedly issued a similar “request” for the movement of the armed forces personnel in certain rebel-controlled areas.

A member of the monitoring group of the NSCN (I-M) was arrested and held without trial in Diphu jail. Several other cadre were detained during the ceasefire period under the National Security Act. The houses of some members of the rebel army were raided. On July 25 this year, Momba Moa, a rebel army sergeant major, was arrested at Jingkieng Nongshiliang in Meghalaya. Some of the outposts of the rebel monitoring arrangement were forcibly closed down. For six months, the government took no initiative to have the ceasefire monitoring group meeting.

The Indian government’s argument was that these outposts were being misused for rebel activities and regrouping. The army’s argument was that while there was a ceasefire, its normal activity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act should and would continue. The added irony to the already twisted scenario was that the NSCN (I-M) was an illegal organization. It had been allowed to function within “strict limits” by the government in the interest of peace, and it wanted the latter to realize that.

No wonder, the NSCN (I-M) thinks that the ceasefire has only enabled the government to continue its policy of suppression under the garb of the cessation of fire. It complains of 149 incidents of violation of ceasefire by the government. Equally unsurprisingly the government, following the murder of a senior functionary of the Khaplang group and the attempted assassination of Jamir, thinks that the ceasefire has become, for the rebels, a “license to kill”.

The Nagas wonder what the ceasefire is worth if no substantive dialogue takes place, and injustice and the denial of basic rights continue. If the Indian constitution can be amended about 80 times, why can it not be done once more for bringing peace? If the legal-bureaucratic process is allowed to overtake the political process, will not this ceasefire embitter a situation which is already sullied between two unequal parties?

Ceasefires, in the recent history of peace politics all over the world, have been shown to be a part of the politics of war. That is why, in Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam never took government offers on ceasefire seriously. In Kashmir, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front declared a ceasefire which led to nothing. The ceasefire declared by the Hizbul Mujahedin collapsed on account of a lack of trust and the lack of a policy in the government to conduct the political dialogue.

A ceasefire delinked from the agenda of democratic peace is typical of a statist peace where the state thinks that by talking to the leader of the adversarial camp, peace is achieved. It is a thinking that divorces from the peace process the condition and feelings of the people, their desire for justice, and their activism for peace.

Is not the recent Palestinian experience enough to make us realize the futility of this much-talked-of peace process? Do we not have the alternative ethic of truth and reconciliation, which is built on the path of transforming retributive justice to restorative justice? Not only diplomacy, but also popular participation and sociopolitical initiatives make the peace process democratic and sustainable. The ceasefire in Nagaland is fast crumbling. The only people who will enjoy such a situation will be those who live off guns.

The sole way to salvage the peace process in Nagaland is to involve wide sections of the people — the Naga Students’ Federation, the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights, the Mothers’ Front, the Naga Hoho, the church and various other solidarities who have sympathy for the cause for which the rebels took up arms, but who desire justice and peace. Unfortunately, neither the government nor the rebels had the larger vision to argue for a democratization of the process. To do this they have to free themselves from this deadlock by broadening the agenda and extending their notions of who ought to be participating in the peace process.    


 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Whither revolution?

Sir — Naxalism has been put to good use — to feed the fantasies of a writer and provide grist for his coming book (“Naipaul looks for second mutiny”, Nov 22). If Naxalites are lucky, they might have a flowing tribute to their “cause”, their movement and have the world read about them through the pen of one of the most brilliant writers of today. Will that make a difference to the people on whose behalf they claim to be carrying out their “struggle”? Unlikely. In spite of the folk-loric proportions of the movement, Naxalism has not turned the world upside down. In Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, Naxalites have added to the political pressure the poor have to cope with. While Naxalism has forced upper caste landlords to reaffirm their might — witness the countless slaughters of poor Dalits by the Ranbir Sena in Bihar — it has also forced the poor to adopt the very methods of violence they are trying to fight. Hence, violence has been met with counter-violence and the bloodshed is as bad as always for the downtrodden.
Yours faithfully,
Jayashree Sen, Calcutta

Great expectations

Sir — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s interview to The Telegraph, outlining his priorities over the next six months, made amusing reading. His party, trapped in an outdated ideology, seems to be making a desperate effort to shake off the trappings of the past. Unfortunately, this is a case of too little too late.

While major multinational corporations like Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Intel and so on are making a beeline for setting up development centres in Bangalore and Hyderabad and have already committed millions of dollars worth of investments, West Bengal tomtoms a few names like Wipro, Sema and Tata who apparently “want to come in”. But when will this happen and in what terms? Even a relatively obscure city like Bhubaneswar has seen giants such as Infosys and Satyam set up development centres.

As far as Salt Lake is concerned, which is supposed to be bursting at the seams with such units, one has only got to see the status of Infinity — the much-flaunted joint sector project between Webel and Globsyn Technology — where the construction of a second 17-floor-high tower has been stopped after the construction of only four floors because of a dearth of takers and of funds.

What Bhattacharjee and his party do not realize, or at least do not admit, is that West Bengal has been converted into an industrial wasteland. This has happened because of the retrograde ideology of the ruling party, a supremely unresponsive bureaucracy and militant trade unionism. Whenever this state is mentioned, industrialists shudder.

Young people continue to leave the state in droves. Those who have stayed back have seen their professional careers nosedive even as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its cadres have been fighting violent battles, both electorally and otherwise.

Yours faithfully,
A. Ghosh, via email

Sir — With the change of leadership in this state we are all expecting a better future — especially vis-à-vis West Bengal’s industrial performance. We must understand that, as the new chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, will be the captain of the “same ship” that the CPI (M) has been sailing for so many years. He will not wield any authority as the chief executive officers of corporate houses do. But he can display his capabilities by engineering some basic changes in the industrial policy of the state.

Priorities should be fixed and such priorities should concentrate on a few core areas. If he tries to attend to all the problems of the state with the same commitment during the short period before the next elections, nothing of any worth will get done. Some of these priority sectors could be the restoration of peace. Another should be industrial development, not only in and around Calcutta, but also in the other districts where enormous human resources remain unutilized.

Yours faithfully
Nimai Chandra Chakravarty, Calcutta

Sir — Although Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is reputed to be a benign, honest man, he needs to be a tough leader in order to provide good governance. He should have a programme of action to which he should adhere against all adversities. He should have a continuous programme for the upliftment of the rural poor. This should include providing employment opportunities. He urgently needs to build a good investment climate in West Bengal. He should also concentrate on developing fringe towns like Siliguri, Burdwan, Kharagpur, Malda and Naihati.

Yours faithfully,
Manoj K. Basu, via email

Sir — The editorial, “Mind of a chief minister” (Nov 11), had the right tone. The new chief minister will have to break with the past. One should understand that time had stood still for West Bengal all of the 24 years that Jyoti Basu was in power. It is the press which should set the tone in judging any regime. The ascription of greatness to Basu was more by the media than by the average man in West Bengal. This myth needs to be debunked.

Yours faithfully,
V. Prakasa Rao, Calcutta

Remember them

Sir — The group of cabinet ministers was supposed to present the now famous recommendations after reviewing the findings from four task forces set up after the Kargil fiasco. But no report has been made available yet. No one is surprised by this kind of vacillation. K. Subrahmanyam rightly says that the prime minister’s office has a “casual approach” towards national security. When will our politicians and bureaucrats discipline themselves and learn to do things within their allotted time-frames?

Yours faithfully,
Dinesh Agrawal, Albany, US

Sir — We have forgotten the brave soldiers of our army ever since the hoopla over the Kargil crisis has died down. These soldiers have the most trying times in areas like Jammu and Kashmir. On the line of control the enemy fires thousands of bullets every day. They have small arms, 1000 mortar and artery shells and sometimes they use their armour shells. There persists an atmosphere of an undeclared war. Our men have to live in bunkers or crawl in trenches. They cannot come out in the open. We have at least a couple of injuries every day. This is a sad state of affairs.

Yours faithfully,
Virendra Modi, Ahmedabad

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