Editorial 1/ Unfair and Unfree
Editorial 2/ Post Mortem
Where the NSC has failed
What is to be done with Romania?
This above all/ Intrusions into a historic city
Mighty men behind those rolling machines
Letters to the editor

This year’s “Global Economic Prospects” report by the World Bank has come down heavily on protectionist measures adopted by developed countries and the resultant denial in market access to developing countries. The “quad” countries (United States, Europe- an Union, Japan, Canada) have been singled out. There are several strands to the criticism, articulated earlier in individual World Bank papers, now collated together. The first concerns tariffs on industrial or manufactured products. Tariffs on these have indeed come down, post-Uruguay Round, but average low tariffs in developed countries conceal high peak tariffs on individual items. Tariffs are generally higher on labour intensive products exported by developing countries than on capital intensive products exported by developed countries. Specific duties, as opposed to ad valorem ones, also translate into high tariffs. There is also the phenomenon of tariff escalation — low tariffs on raw materials, higher ones on intermediates and highest ones on finished products. This discourages value addition in developing countries.

A second strand is specific to textiles and garments. While quantitative restrictions on imports will progressively be phased out by January 2005, there is a lot of backloading, with garments not being liberalized before 2002. Even when these QRs are eased, tariffs will continue to be high on imports of textiles and garments. The third strand concerns agricultural products (meat, sugar, milk, dairy products, chocolates, tobacco, fruits and vegetables). In many ways, developed countries have circumvented the spirit, if not the law, of liberalization proposed in the Uruguay Round. Artificially high tariffs were set in the base period of 1986-88, so that reductions took place on a higher base, a phenomenon referred to as dirty tariffication. Export subsidy reduction commitments may have been adhered to at an aggregate level. But high export subsidies on exports of agricultural products have been maintained at an individual level. Tariff rate quotas (with low tariffs below a threshold level of imports and higher tariffs above the threshold) have been extensively and non-transparently used. The agriculture agreement permits exemptions on domestic reduction commitments through green and blue box policies. These have been misused. Fourth, food and sanitation requirements (or even technical barriers and labelling requirements) have been used as non-tariff barriers, since the Uruguay Round agreement allows standards that are higher than internationally recognized ones. Fifth, antidumping and anti-subsidy investigations have been used against developing countries, often as a disguise for protectionism.

This may not be a complete list of woes, but is indicative. It is therefore not surprising that many developing countries are lukewarm about the prospects of a Millennium Round, since they feel that the promised market access liberalization of the Uruguay Round hasn’t happened. Without condoning the behaviour of developed countries, the question to ask is — what should developing countries do about this? Economists like Mr Jagdish Bhagwati have argued that developing countries need to be more aggressive in pushing for liberalization, since developed countries are increasingly becoming protectionist. If this is not done, developing countries will continue to be marginalized. But for this logic to be accepted, developing countries have to accept the logic of free trade, which continues to face resistance. Complaining about the World Trade Organization system being unfair does not get one very far. A country cannot afford to stay out and redressal available within the system is not being sufficiently used by developing countries.


Assam’s time seems to have run out. A decade of foul politicking, equivocation and sheer ineffectuality has left the state devastated with a form of terrorism that now appears to have become unmanageable. The recent massacre in Tinsukia of 28 migrant labourers, originally from Bihar, by extremists almost certainly belonging to the United Liberation Front of Asom has resulted in a flurry of activities. A promising number of surrenders had lulled the security arrangements into a sense of security that has been shattered by this latest round of violence. ULFA extremists have now started randomly killing Hindi speakers living in the state, mostly Biharis and Marwaris. They have also started targeting family members of ULFA rebels. Assam has been ethnically cleansed of about 184 “immigrants” in the last couple of months by the ULFA.

Both the Asom Gana Parishad and the Congress will now have to rise above the mudslinging they have got addicted to in order to make it unequivocal to the people that this brand of racist terror could have no political justification or utility. The ordinary people of Assam will also have to be absolutely and manifestly clearheaded about their apartness from the ULFA’s politics of autonomy. This is just as important as the Centre’s reinforcement of security arrangements and stricter vigilance along the borders between Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan. The situation also has its complicating spills and overlaps. Bodo militants now work in collusion with the ULFA men. For West Bengal, the quelling of this terrorism would help in the management of Kamtapuri secessionism, for here too there is a terrorist nexus. The route to surrender and rehabilitation will also have to be kept open. This is now all of the last urgency, because it has now come to a choice between to equally undesirable options — endless violence or president’s rule.


The national security council and its working has been in the news of late. The United Services Institute of India recently held a national security seminar to examine the way security has been managed since the NSC was created. The NSC and its functioning came in for trenchant criticism at the seminar. The NSC had been created with some fanfare in 1998 by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government. Has it served the nation’s security interests well?

The first thing to remember is that the NSC was an attempt by the government to duck the issue of keeping the promises made in its election manifesto. It was also an exercise in fudging the issue of security grandiosely mentioned in the National Democratic Alliance’s agenda. The government had promised to establish an NSC which was to prepare a strategic defence review. Based on the review, the government was to determine whether India should become a nuclear weapons state.

In the event, the government did a Houdini and conducted the tests first. It then constituted a committee to make re- commendations on the manner in which the NSC should be organized. The committee, headed by K.C. Pant and with Jaswant Singh as one of its members, made some sound recommendations. But the government could not find the courage to accept the recommendations. It therefore resurrected the NSC which had been created by the V.P. Singh ministry and had clearly failed to deliver.

How has the NSC performed? Performance and the quality of output from any organization depend on the organizational structure, decision processes and the people who run the organization. The NSC comprises three tiers at the cabinet, secretaries to the government and security experts levels. At the cabinet level it includes the cabinet committee for national security. Its members are the prime minister, and ministers of home, foreign affairs and finance. Other ministers are coopted, depending on the need for their expertise.

At the secretaries level, the strategic planning group includes the secretaries of all important ministries and their number goes up to double digits. As for the experts level, there is the national security advisory board. This also has a double digit size and its members are drawn from many disciplines. The link between the three levels is provided by the national security advisor. This important assignment has so far been handled by the principal secretary to the prime minister.

The processes used by the NSC are vague and amorphous. There is a vast security apparatus outside the NSC system consisting of the defence services, the intelligence agencies, the police and paramilitary. They function under their respective ministries and any coordination amongst them takes place more by accident than design and more for crisis management than on a regular basis. The cabinet or its subgroup, the CCNS, thus gets security inputs from different directions — from ministries, agencies and the NSC apparatus.

The multi-agency and multiple level inputs create a plethora of intelligence estimates, threat evaluations, and policy formulations on national security. There is no single window advice or policy recommendation available to the CCNS, or even to the prime minister. Thus they are bombarded by divergent and uncoordinated inputs.

There need be no surprise, therefore, that after every crisis there is confirmation that information was available on the event, which was either disregarded or overlooked. Kargil, Kandahar, the near debacle of the Sri Lanka army in Jaffna this year or the massacres in Jammu and Kashmir after the previous ceasefire are instances of the security apparatus being caught offguard. The creation of the NSC is not going to improve the state of affairs.

The NSC is therefore an overrated organization. Its impressive title — taken from the United States model — does little to instil confidence in the public mind. It does even less to convince India’s adversaries to fear its security system. Critics have pointed out that the much vaunted NSAB is no more than a peripheral group. Its advice is not taken by the government as was evidenced in the case of the nuclear doctrine.

The NSAB wrote a nuclear doctrine at the behest of the CCNS. On its publication its limitations were highlighted in and outside the country. The government, instead of standing by its NSAB, has gone silent on the status of the report. It has left the country which has nuclear weapons without a nuclear doctrine. The NSAB is supposed to have written a strategic defence review. The government is either afraid to have it published or, worse, is unable to get its ministries to endorse the review. The convener of the NSAB has publicly criticized the functioning of the NSC and the role of the national security advisor. The government has neither issued a rejoinder nor asked questions on the propriety of the NSC being publicly critiqued by one of its key officials.

There were doubts cast on the veracity of the data the nuclear scientists obtained from the thermonuclear test of 1998. These doubts were expressed in and outside India by highly regarded scientists. The NSC would have been the appropriate forum where such doubts could have been laid to rest. The government, by choosing to remain quiet, has added to nuclear uncertainties. It chose four task forces to examine the security issues raised by the Kargil inquiry. The NSAB would have been the better choice to undertake the tasks. These examples show that the NSAB is viewed by the government as a marginal set up.

The special protection group has not fared any better than the NSAB. Its meetings are attended more by junior officials than the secretaries themselves. The secretaries themselves can at best look at current issues and have neither the time nor the inclination to go into long term security issues. Most secretaries are in any case generalists and their selection to the office has often been questioned on grounds of insufficient expertise. Their contribution as members of the SPG has been minimal by all accounts.

The CCNS is primarily key ministers struggling to keep up with the burden of running their departments. None of them have a security perspective other than what is given to them. In the absence of a secretariat for the NSC they are in no position to obtain a CCNS required security assessment. They are also swamped by the mass of multi-agency and multi-departmental inputs. Currently the secretarial support is being obtained for the NSAB through the joint intelligence committee. This arrangement does not do justice either to the role of the JIC or the needs of the NSC.

At the seminar organized by the United Services Institute in New Delhi the major criticism was about the lack of results obtained through the NSC. It was noted that the NSC does not meet regularly. It was felt that the CCNS has little time for the detailed examination of national security issues. The overload of the NSC apparatus, by the bottleneck at the prime minister’s office where the national security advisor becomes the funnel through which all recommendations must pass, was also noted.

The response of the NSAB, the members of which were present in strength at the seminar, was interesting. The additional secretary in the NSC gave out the number of times the NSAB met in its first and second years. He also indicated how often the subcommittees of the NSAB met. He did not deem it fit to mention what the numerous meetings produced. As everyone knew, there was little of lasting significant which the NSAB or the NSC had produced. No one out of politeness told the gentleman that national security is more than the sum of meaningless meetings.

The most serious shortcoming of the NSC has been the lack of concern for security issues in the cabinet itself. There is general agreement amongst analysts that the cabinet and its CCNS do not have the discipline of regular structured national security briefings or meetings. These are held when convenient, depending on the availability of the CCNS members from their political preoccupations. It would not be an exaggeration to state that national security is considered as an intrusion in the more immediate and profitable activity of political management.

Until the cabinet (read the top political leadership) accords the time and priority to national security that is necessary, the NSC in its current or improved form is unlikely to be able to do worthwhile work. In other words, unless the political leadership adopts the discipline of managing natio- nal security as a major activity to be continued on a regular and systematic ba- sis, national security will remain no mo- re than a crisis management exercise.

The author is director, Delhi Policy Group and former director-general, military operations


“It is clear that Romania is an ungovernable country,” said Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who is quite likely to win the country’s presidency in this Sunday’s run-off election, back in August 1998. “The disaster is so awful that...the only way to govern Romania is from the barrel of a machine-gun.” After Tudor did astonishingly well in the first round of Romania’s presidential election last month, he confirmed his intentions: “I will liquidate the mafia so fast that they won’t even have time to glance at their watches,” he promised. Exit Serbia as Balkan problem child; enter Romania.

The magazines Tudor publishes rail against Jews, gypsies and the country’s large Hungarian minority, seeing plots against the country on every side. In a speech specifically addressed to the high proportion of younger people (about a third of 18 to 34 year olds) who backed him in the first-round vote last month, he promised them “dormitories free of the gypsy and Arab mob and other criminals.”

A deeply unappetizing man — but Tudor’s only rival in this run-off election is former president Ion Iliescu, a barely reconstructed ex-communist whose whole campaign has consisted of fierce attacks on what little has been achieved in terms of market reforms in the Romanian economy. He claims that he wants Romania to make a “dignified entry” into the European Union, but of the twelve candidate members in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, Romania is the least credible.

Deeply unappetizing

The EU’s caution is hardly surprising, since Iliescu served the long-ruling dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, as first secretary of the Communist Party until Ceausescu dismissed him for trying to subject Romania to an even more extreme form of Communism modelled on Mao’s cultural revolution. Iliescu now pretends to be in favour of market reforms in principle, but part of the reason for Romania’s present desperate condition is that under his previous presidency in the early Nineties, very little actual reform took place.

Iliescu’s continuing political prominence (even though he is now 70) is due to the same basic fact as all of Romania’s other problems. When most other eastern European countries peacefully overthrew their communist regimes in 1989, Romania had a revolution too but it was a fake.

What happened was that senior members of the communist elite, anxious not to be driven from power along with the deeply unpopular dictator, Ceausescu, staged a coup against him and executed him and his wife after a brief trial in a kangaroo court. They dressed it up as a popular revolution for public consumption, but it was really just a way of saving their own skins. It worked. Romania’s first “post-communist” president, elected in 1990 and again in 1992, was none other than the man Ceausescu sacked for being a radical Maoist, Ion Iliescu. The entire Romanian political elite, continued to seethe with former communists hiding under a thin coat of fresh paint.

On a stretcher

After Iliescu’s long obstructionist term in the presidency, Emil Constantinescu won in 1996 and actually tried to bring in free-market reforms. But the economy was already so devastated, and the habit of corruption so deeply entrenched, that he made virtually no progress. The economy went on getting worse. So in the first round of the current voting, Romanians overwhelmingly rejected Constantinescu as president, and his Christian Democratic Party failed to win a single seat in parliament.

The run-off presidential race, therefore, involves two candidates who remind one of the United States state department’s private opinion of the Iran-Iraq war: it’s a pity that they can’t both lose. But whereas an Iliescu government would merely condemn Romania to more years of stagnation, marginalization and resentment, Tudor has the potential to be another Milosevic in a country with over twice the population of Serbia.

The odds still probably favour Iliescu, but many votes that went to smaller parties in the first round may shift to Tudor in the second. Romanian polling firms, whose owners all deplore Tudor’s excesses, have stopped publishing their polling results. As Silviu Brucan, former Romanian ambassador to the US, put it, if Tudor wins, “we can roll Romania over and carry it out on a stretcher”.


The deterioration of our metropolitan cities and large towns should be a matter of serious concern to all of us. They appear to be choking on their own vomit. Even new cities like Chandigarh have jhuggi-jhonpri settlements coming up around it. Calcutta has been dying for many decades. Only its citizens remain chronically optimistic. Mumbai has gone to the dogs; Chennai is only marginally better off. Patna has become a cesspool of filth. Hyderabad is valiantly trying to defeat the forces of destruction. Delhi has finally realized that unless remedial methods are adopted immediately, it is doomed.

The primary causes of the deterioration of the quality of life in our cities is our exploding population and the belief that cities provide more opportunities to earn a livelihood than are available in small towns and villages. Consequently, a constant stream of the poor and the unemployed flows from the countryside into the cities creating slums and making life increasingly unliveable.

I am more concerned with the fate of Delhi than of other cities because Delhi is where I have lived for most of the 87 years of my life and it is to Delhi I belong. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and it has some of the oldest monuments. I have watched with dismay as it has gradually sunk under the weight of slums — encouraged by politicians of different political parties. All of them are guilty of ruining my beloved city. There was a time, not so very long ago, when I used to cycle from Safdarjang to the Qutab Minar and beyond just to gaze at the ruins of ancient monuments on both sides of the road. It was the same on the road from the Qutab Minar to the massive ramparts of Tughlaqabad fort and beyond that to the Rajput temples at Surajkund. Now, all of this has been obliterated from view by houses and shops — most of them built in defiance of the city’s Master Plan and encroaching on public land. Every department of government concerned with housing and preservation of historical monuments colluded in this criminal act of robbing the city of its heritage.

Is there any hope of restoring the capital to its pristine glory? I pin my hopes on Jagmohan. He knows his Delhi better than most Delhiwallahs. He is both a destroyer of slums and a builder of alternative accommodations. When convinced that he is in the right, he can be ruthless. He showed his mettle during the Emergency when he bulldozed whole streets on which houses and shops had been illegally built. At the same time, he provided new housing for those he had displaced. I heard him speak in the Rajya Sabha on Delhi’s Master Plan and how successive governments had connived with builders to ignore its provisions. Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Madan Lal Khurana and Ambika Soni made lots of noise because their political futures depend on encroachers and slum-dwellers. I count on Jagmohan to rid Delhi of polluting industrial units and encroachments on our historic monuments. He did not get much applause in the upper house but I cheered him as I heard his speech on my TV set.

Magic potions from a new world

Americans are people of great ingenuity. Every few years, they discover a new disease and persuade millions the world over that they are afflicted with it. Some time later they announce a breakthrough in research and prescribe medicines to cure it. Their pharmaceutical companies make vast fortunes selling new medicines. Twenty years ago the only venereal diseases we knew were gonorrhoea and syphilis. They were wiped out by the introduction of penicillin. Then Americans discovered AIDS and warned everyone it would spread like bushfire. So, thousands the world over are dying of it. And will go on dying till some American drug company announces it has found a cure and make billions of dollars in profits. Male impotence after a certain age has been with us since the days of Adam and Eve. Americans gave it a new name, penile dysfunction — as if that was all there was to impotence. Now the manufacturers of Viagra assure ageing males that all they have to do is pop a pill in their mouths. And presto, they are ready for action.

Then we have depression, loss of memory and senile dementia. Those two have been with us since Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise. Americans found a name for this chemical imbalance in the brain — Alzheimer’s Disease. First, they marketed Prozac; it did not do anyone much good. Now they have put out a murderously expensive drug called Exelon. It earns huge profits for its manufacturers. Its efficacy can be judged from the fact that its most distinguished user, Ronald Reagan, cannot remember he was the president of the United States of America.

The latest disease discovered by American doctors goes by the name, Fibromyalgia. The word is made up of Greek and Latin: algia (pain) my (muscle) are greek, fibro, meaning connective tissue of tendons and ligaments, is from Latin. The three put together mean acute pain in all parts of the body. American doctors discovered it in 1987.

Since then they have organized many seminars attended by rheumatologists and others specializing in bodily pains. Many such gatherings are financed by pharmaceutical companies. Soon fibromyalgia will spread all over the globe and we will hear of cures: homoeopathic, ayurvedic, unani, acupuncture, reiki — whatever. They will be dismissed as placebos. The winners and fortune-makers will be American pharmaceutical companies.

Cruelties of an animal kind

M.G. Narasimha Murthy, retired principal, who lives in Hyderabad, has sent me this elegy on the death of the tigress, Sakhi, in the local zoo on October 4: “Sakhi, darling tigress of our famous zoo,/ Bright-eyed princess of royal mien,/ Graceful figure and flowing stripes/ On fascinating golden brown,/ Moved with perfect ease, feeling free,/ Unaware of her captivity,/ Without a thought of her tragic end/ Until her throat was slit by human hands!/ Callous humans, worse than beasts,/ Torture and kill their fellow-beings,/ Abuse children, burn their brides,/ Commit heinous crimes wantonly,/ Hunt helpless creatures for trade and sport,/ Destroy habitats to build their homes/ Sight of Sakhi, stripped of her skin,/ A picture of horror, heart-rending!/ Will this stir the conscience of evil gangs,/ Fill every heart with compassion/ And make human beings truly kind?”    

The Howrah-Amritsar train disaster would not have taken place if the Amritsar Mail had been running late, or the derailment of the goods train against which it collided had occurred much earlier, or the goods train had been derailed after the other train had passed, or, of course, if the goods train had not been derailed.

The decision of the Union minister for railways, Mamata Banerjee, to resign brought with it the usual round of political drama. She also suggested a judicial probe into the accident. Why has she done this, despite the fact that an inquiry is already being conducted by the commissioner of railways safety?

The cause of this accident was patently obvious. Therefore, it cannot, by definition, be called an accident. It was the result of criminal negligence.

Newspaper reports suggest that a wagon coupling opened out. Another report claims that the track was under repair for some days. It can be safely said that either of the two factors independently, or the two factors in tandem, contributed to the derailment. It is not by mere chance that eight bogies of the Jhelum Express derailed on the same day on another route. Such derailments have become an everyday occurrence.

The commission of railway safety, supposed to be the watchdog of public safety on railways, seems blissfully unaware of these happenings. The recent occurrences expose the deficiency in track maintenance for which the commissioners of railway safety are responsible. There has been an alarming increase in the number of derailments over the last two or three years. Someone must ask why this has happened.

Wagon and locomotive maintenance engineers must explain why the couplings in the trains come apart, in spite of heavy investments on “centre-buffer couplers”, which are supposed to be “parting-proof”. The nature of the makeshift fitting of the “transition” couplers is responsible for the couplings coming apart in most trains fitted with the CBC.

When the scenario is such that an “accident” is actually the result of reasons which can be foreseen, it can no longer be called an accident. It becomes an avoidable, manmade disaster. High-speed trains require mechanical maintenance of the tracks, which, in turn, requires that trains be stopped from plying for at least two hours at a stretch. If one knows this, then there is no reason why these trains should be run on tracks where a two-hour long halt is not possible.

If modern technology has to be introduced, in the form of air brakes and other such features, without adequate training for its operation by the rolling stock maintenance staff, one invites accidents. And if the equally expensive centralized panel locking has to be introduced, in preference to the end cabin system, in full knowledge that it is less safe and less efficient, one should be aware that one is increasing the chances of accidents.

Similarly, if half-baked track-circuiting or interlocking at stations is introduced, one is asking for trouble. If the size of trains is indiscriminately increased, disregarding the maintenance requirements and ignoring the safety margins, more vigilance is being demanded out of drivers, guards and station masters than what the system allows for.

There are, therefore, institutional causes behind such accidents and not merely, as is commonly projected, “human failures”. It is a myth that the dearth of financial resources is the cause of deficient safety measures. Materials earmarked for track renewal and replacement are continually diverted for the construction of new lines and gauge.

If this kind of thing keeps happening, the ministers, the railway board and the financial commissioner of railways must be together held responsible.



Old shoulders to lean on

Sir — Jyoti Basu’s health seems to be doing fine ever since he quit as chief minister of West Bengal (“From seat of power to sit-in”, Dec 6). For an octogenarian who was being forced to cut down on public meetings only a couple of months back, Basu is juggling a hectic schedule quite admirably. The resumption of Basu’s public life makes one wonder whether his party had an unexpressed motive in allowing him to retire from the chief ministership. The politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has made it clear that Basu will be the CPI(M)’s biggest campaigner in the coming assembly polls in West Bengal, defending the party in remote villages of the state. But is this good enough? Having relinquished his post, Basu is no longer answerable to the people of the state for the actions of a government headed by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Why should the people of West Bengal accept the assurances of an individual no longer at the helm? Shouldn’t Bhattacharjee do the explaining himself?
Yours faithfully,
S.K. Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta

New class of troubles

Sir — The Centre’s decision to reserve 20 per cent of the seats in private schools proves that it is committed to the spread of education among poor and underprivileged children (“Quota for poor in private schools”, Nov 21). But this decision is not very practical given the social setup in our country. The admission of poor students to affluent schools will give the economically weak students an inferiority complex and this could lead to major problems. Instead, the government should have suggested the introduction of evening or night schooling for these children. Government schools are known for their inefficiency and it would be unfair to make the private schools pay for it.
Yours faithfully,
Sush Kocher, Calcutta

Sir — The new education policy drawn up by the National Council of Educational Research and Training under the aegis of the human resources development minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, is a step in the right direction (“Free ride plan from Class I to X”, Nov 15).

It is common knowledge that there is corruption in the education system right from the primary level. Teachers have been known to exploit their students by providing private tuitions. They also punish those who refuse such tuition. By abolishing the current system of evaluation and by introducing grades instead, the new education policy would put an end to such corrupt practices. This would also reduce the number of dropouts.

Joshi’s plan however fails to discuss the fate of students completing their courses from open boards or universities. Students with certificates from open boards are denied admission to regular schools and colleges. The government should try and put an end to this.

The government should also take steps to ensure that educational institutions do not exploit students. Principals of certain wellknown missionary and government schools have been known to ask for hefty donations. The new system would fail if all such practices are not taken care of.

The entry of the private sector in education would not be a bad idea, provided there are guidelines to prevent education from becoming a profitable business. In order to make education secular, no educational institution should be allowed to have places of worship. The introduction of value education in schools and colleges is also a good idea.

Yours faithfully,
Santosh Kumar Sharma, Kharagpur

Sir — It seems that the NCERT is fully armed to create hurdles in the progress of education of the country by introducing value education which is restricted to religious thought (“Catch them young”, Dec 3). It is sheer folly to place religious thoughts above scientific ones in this era of scientific advancement. Value education will further widen the abyss between the religions and put the secular character of the nation in danger. The government should organize a meeting of the country’s intellectuals to ponder over the situation.

Yours faithfully,
Mohammed Faizuddin Khan, Bokaro

Sir — Recently the “Careergraph” did a piece on computer engineering (“Computer engineering”,Oct 25). It was disheartening to see that none of the private engineering colleges of West Bengal had been featured in the article. Prestigious colleges like the B.P. Poddar Institute of Management, Netaji Subhas Engineering College and so on, which admit students according to their performance in the joint entrance examination, were never mentioned. Their absence might send the wrong message to students who may think that a B.E./B.Tech degree from these colleges do not carry any weight, which is certainly not the case.

Yours faithfully,
Roshnai Chaudhuri, Calcutta

Paralysing ignorance

Sir — Persons struck by paralysis need post-medical treatment in the form of physiotherapy. Any mishandling of a patient in the course of physiotherapy can cripple him forever because the brain and the nerves of the patient tend to be in a delicate state at this time. In New Delhi, the Delhi council for physiotherapy and occupational therapy bill was passed in the assembly in 1997. All professional physiotherapists have to register themselves under it before they practise.

There are many quacks who pretend to have competence in physiotherapy. Many claim to have mastered the art of massage from their gurus and operate in the small towns and villages. Others pass a short diploma course, conducted by one of the many unauthorized institutions, and claim to be professionals. This type is most often found in the cities. They know little about the human anatomy and promise “quick rehabilitation” in three to six months. They charge anything between Rs 150 and Rs 200 per session.

Before long, the patient feels the movements of the limbs deteriorate and there tends to be more stiffness of the affected parts than ever before. At least 80 per cent of such cases report these complaints. Those who escape are lucky.

A quack physiotherapist usually gets away unscathed because most of us do not know that physiotherapists are expected to have qualifying degrees. Unless more people become aware of this, there is going to be an alarming growth in the number of physically incapacitated people. In Calcutta, there are two recognized institutes: the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research at the Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital and the National Institute for the Orthopaedically Handicapped at Bonhoogly, B.T. Road. In India, there are 18 such institutions including the above two. They are all recognized by the Indian association of physiotherapists.

Yours faithfully,
P. Ansari, Calcutta

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