Editorial 1/ Don’t bank on it
Editorial 2/ Fringe benefits
Winds of change in the north
Fifth Column/ Less power in their hands
This above all/ Those magnificent men serving science and the poor
Letters to the editor

One of the main lessons which all countries have learnt from the east Asian crisis a couple of years ago is the importance of a strong banking sector. Countries with a weak banking sector are unable to withstand even very small financial shocks. Indian governments have also absorbed this fundamental truth, and have tried to adopt measures designed to strengthen the banking sector in particular and the financial sector in general. However, the continuing mistrust of reforms in India has meant that the implementation of reforms has been somewhat slower than desirable. Nevertheless, the banking sector today is vastly different from what it was a decade ago. Several new private banks have been allowed entry. These are all banks with a more than adequate capital base and an excellent asset portfolio so that the ratio of non-performing assets to the total volume of assets is negligible.

The weak link in the Indian banking sector is undoubtedly the public sector banks. Many of these banks have absurdly high volumes of non-performing assets. Several of them fail to satisfy any prudent norm of capital adequacy. In the past, the government has tried to inject fresh capital into some of them. But, the government’s own precarious state of finances rules out the use of government funds on a sufficiently large scale to make this a viable option. Some of the stronger public sector banks have raised money from the public by partial privatization. Unfortunately, this option is not open to the weaker banks, which actually need a fresh injection of capital more acutely than the others. This is because the public will simply refuse to invest in the shares of these banks on the principle that nothing is gained by throwing good money after bad. Perhaps the only sensible solution is a well planned scheme of mergers and consolidation of public sector banks. But all attempts in this direction have floundered due to trade union militancy.

The government has recently been more successful in tackling another problem in the public sector banks — namely overstaffing. The voluntary retirement scheme has been welcomed by many public sector employees. This has prompted the government to revise the target from 10 per cent to 25 per cent. The finance ministry has also decided to exempt up to five lakh rupees received in the VRS from tax. The total outflow on account of the VRS was earlier estimated to be as high as Rs 13,000 crore for 2.2 lakh employees. This sum will more than double if the government actually achieves its target of 25 per cent reduction in the total number of bank employees. Will this sum be well-spent? Under ideal conditions, the banking sector would certainly be more cost efficient once it gets rid of excess flab. However, the problem with the VRS is that at the end of the day, the conditions are likely to be anything but ideal. The fear is that the VRS is likely to be embraced enthusiastically by the better employees — employees who anticipate finding alternative jobs in other concerns because of their superior talents. The flip side of the coin is that the employees who refuse the VRS may well be those who are unemployable elsewhere. The unpleasant implication of this is that the employees who remain with the public sector banks after the VRS may be less efficient than the average employee prior to the VRS. In other words, public sector banks will be even worse than they are today.


What do birthday cakes, honeymoons and beauty contests have in common? The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh disapproves of all three. If only the answer was less wearyingly predictable. It is annoying that the mindless bigotry on which such attitudes are founded cannot be dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic fringe that does not really matter. This fringe is fast encroaching on the political, social and cultural lives of the nation. It is also being invested with increasing regulatory powers. Its wilder excesses have found the approval of the nation’s political vanguard.

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mr Rajnath Singh, has recently banned beauty contests involving women. This sort of thing has happened before in the state. The student wing of the sangh parivar, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, had earlier let loose all its bullying prurience on young people celebrating Valentine’s Day, with violent consequences. A dress code has been stipulated for female students in a number of universities, which some women have been provoked to resist aggressively. There is always a twofold rationale behind these steps — the protection of female honour from the lecherous male gaze and of Indianness from Western consumerism. However, the parivar is not alone in this. They have the support of Islamic and feminist fundamentalists. Two disturbing implications are worth pondering. Perhaps there is a link between this zealousness and the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence in the state, forcing women students to train themselves in aggressive forms of self-defence. This connection is frightening and unsavoury. Second, the ABVP — with its increasing influence in campuses all over northern and eastern India — is the nation’s political nursery. Several important Central ministers have served their apprenticeship in it. Some of them now legislate on what the nation reads, learns, creates, watches and enjoys. Perhaps the debased bigotries of the ABVP refine and mellow into higher expressions of concern for what it means to be a thoroughbred Indian or a Hindu. Fringe and centre are, perhaps, not that far apart.


There are strange things happening to the north of India, and when taken to their logical ends, these endeavours will change the visage of national security as appreciated and understood by practitioners in New Delhi. The ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir has already commenced with the sighting of the Ramadan moon. If maintained, despite provocations that will come its way, the ceasefire has the potential to change the course of the events in the troubled state as we have known it for more than a decade.

It has the makings of permanence, and both sides, the government of India and those Kashmiris seeking a peaceful resolution to the problems afflicting the state, must be aware of the pitfalls that are likely to be placed along the way forward. And both sides must not let these pitfalls derail the process. Indeed, it will then be an appropriate return compliment to the brave move by the Hizbul Mujahedin in July when the group offered an unconditional ceasefire. But changes to terrorism are not limited to Kashmir alone.

Further to the north, in fact to the northwest, across the River Oxus, interesting happenings are under way. They are likely to, when they fructify into operational engagements, change the nature of the relationship that the world has with the taliban in Afghanistan. At long last a transnational coalition of interests is getting together to chart out a series of actions to take against the taliban. Since it is a coalition of interests, each member brings to this league its own set of concerns: the United States may be justified by its motives to make the perpetrators of the suicide bombing of USS Cole pay a price; Russia by its own sufferings in Chechnya caused by taliban interference, and likewise too for the various central Asian states.

If, as reports suggest, India too is in the picture on this matter, then it can only be the outcome of the long supply line of terrorists that runs from Afghanistan up to Kashmir. This was most vividly demonstrated at Kandahar during the hijacking of Indian Airlines IC-814 last year. Replying to a question, New Delhi’s official spokesman on foreign policy said very correctly that “it has always been the position of the government of India that any solution to the Afghan crisis will have to take into account the interests of India”.

Kashmir and Kandahar are only the more obvious examples. Therefore, if the interests of all these nations coalesce into a coordinated policy against the taliban, it would say a lot for the nuisance created by the Kabul regime. The taliban and Israel are inimitable in that they have managed to alienate so much of their respective neighbourhoods. That, however, is where the analogy ends. But the most important changes in the north are taking place elsewhere, further to the east to be precise, and these, above all, have the promise of changing the features of security for not just India but the whole of Asia.

After wanting to for a long time, and despite declaring their intention to do so in the past, India and China have for the first time exchanged maps of a part of the long disputed boundary. This is clearly the most important event to have occurred in Sino-Indian relations since the verbal dispute snowballed into becoming a short war in 1962. And of all the happenings in the north this development is by far of the greatest significance for India, and beyond.

The joint working group, composed of military and civilian officials, set up to work out the boundary question between the two countries, met in the middle of November and exchanged maps of the middle sector of the disputed MacMahon Line. This is by far the least contentious of the sectors, and which affords the possibility of an early agreement. Ancient trade and religious routes have used this sector for movement, and the very fact that an exchange of maps has transpired for this stretch of the MacMohan line suggests clearly that there is little dispute on this point between the two countries. This is both an interesting and a pathbreaking event.

The interesting aspect of this event is the timing of its occurrence. A little more than two years ago, China was livid over what actually were misreported statements of the defence minister, George Fernandes. What he said was that in his view China posed a threat to India in the future; there was no mention of military or any other such hegemonistic aspersions. But this peeved the Chinese authorities no end, and matters only became worse when in the prime minister’s letter to the US president, Bill Clinton, after the nuclear tests, suggestions were made to Beijing’s negative role in India’s security.

Since then, however, the relationship has been on the upswing, particularly after the famous “untying the knot” and “two hands to untie the knot” dialogue on the sidelines of the 1998 Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional forum summit in Manila. It is interesting in that the changed atmosphere between the two countries follows what has already been happening in India’s relations with the rest of the world. There is greater Indian interface with the leaders of the world in security matters than has ever happened before. This, naturally, has not escaped the notice of the Chinese authorities.

Both India and China, thus, approach each other with a greater degree of confidence as to the purpose of national endeavours. And this changing scenario makes for a pathbreaking result on the boundary question. The two Asian giants, as different as neighbours can be, now even have an institutionalized security dialogue. But there is still a long way to go for the boundary question to be resolved. A great error will be to demand, or expect, early results. And for this relationship to bear fruits the Indian propensity of seeking instant results will have to be put on the sidelines for a bit. Democracy can extract a terrible price indeed.

It is this peculiar Indian character trait that earlier resulted in worsening relations between the two largest Asian nations. A cursory glance at British imperial map-making would have told New Delhi and Beijing where the problems really lay, but then some leaders were in a terrible hurry to achieve results. And owing to that terrible legacy of the Jawaharlal Nehru period India is saddled with two of the longest, and most disputed, boundary problems.

With its two largest neighbours, India has unresolved boundaries, both issues that date back to the era of Neh- ru’s leadership. Both issues are currently the focus of much policy attention in New Delhi. There is progress on both counts, in Kashmir as well as with Chi- na. The question is to remain consistent with the policy initiatives, and not giving in to sectarian and parochial press- ures along the way. And if nothing else it is Chinese consistency that India could well observe, appreciate and learn from.

The true believers in the long term, distant future, and planning for generations, the strange Chinese state is neither benign and nor is it a hegemonistic neighbour. It is more a question of victory, defeat, equivalence, peer, benign, threatening — but all in the mind. Results are measured in the mental impact of policies, and for which planning caters for the long term.

India should not fool itself into a stupor believing that every Chinese intention is for the betterment of relations between the two neighbours. And neither is it a fact that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army is capable of mounting any viable military operations against any of its neighbours, least of all India. The PLA knows its limitations only too well. Ultimately it is really a question of India realizing what its own national strengths are, and its core national interests and the policies to be pursued for realizing them. Happenings in the north clearly suggest that such is now the thinking in New Delhi.


After every revolution, it is customary to denigrate the previous government. It is not surprising, therefore, that now that the liberalization process is on, it has become fashionable to lay the blame for failures on the bureaucracy. The officers of the Indian administrative service who occupy the top posts are held responsible for all hitches.

It is surprising that in the heyday of socialism, only a few spoke against the nationalization of commercial enterprises, or even about the ineptitude of the bureaucracy in managing the affairs of the state. The bureaucrats enjoyed absolute powers. They managed the expanding public sector and regulated the subdued private sector. As such, the current assault on the bureaucracy appears not just a bit too late, but also unnecessarily vindictive.

Often, bureaucrats are seen to be their own masters, which is a misconception. During the raj, the officers of the Indian civil services were part of the ruling elite, and enjoyed plenipotentiary political, administrative and judicial powers.

However, in a democratic set up, the bureaucracy is only monitoring the political machinery. It functions under rigid checks and balances, a strict code of conduct and a ruthless disciplinary control.

Moreover, bureaucrats are required to be objective in decision-making and in the application of rules. All decisions are taken in writing, and the records of how the decisions were arrived at kept for the scrutiny of the vigilance and audit team. In the bureaucracy, none is above the law.

Middling along

However, the bureaucracy, has some inherent disadvantages. A large bureaucracy is by nature rigid, slow, and unchanging. Moreover, the bureaucratic system in India is not based on the “carrot and stick” policy. Monetary reward for efficiency or good work is seen as an unwarranted interference in the functioning of the bureaucracy. In a system where good work does not get recognition, only mediocrity and not excellence can be expected. Such a bureaucracy is only good for general administration.

For the running of commercial enterprises, there has to be a different system of control, reward and compensation. It is not the fault of the bureaucracy that the set up meant for running general administrative departments has been used in the running of commercial enterprises.

The Indian bureaucracy is sometimes treated as the whipping-boy. This makes bureaucrats wary of taking risks. They refuse to experiment with or even propose new ideas unless forced to do so by political executives. This could be because of two reasons.

First, it could be that there is something wrong with the recruiting process. Second, it possible that there is something wrong with the service conditions or with the system itself. If the recruitment system is faultless, then the second reason becomes more plausible.

Survival tactics

In the private sector, job-hopping by executives is common. Bureaucrats do not have this advantage. There is a restriction against bureaucrats seeking jobs in the private sector. They have to obtain written permission from the government before they can join a private firm. There are instances when bureaucrats have not been allowed to join private firms even after retirement from the service. Besides, the experience gathered in the bureaucracy is not considered valuable in the private sector.

It is because of the lack of job mobility that even the most committed officers are forced to make compromises in order to survive in the system. A bureaucrat has to do his job in the most adverse situations — amidst intimidations, harassment and squalor. Bureaucrats earn their livelihood by performing the duties assigned to them, and cannot demonstrate their allegiance to any cause or personal conviction.

The system functions under the leadership, direction, guidance and supervision of the political executive. The lack of good politicians, especially in the rural areas, makes the bureaucrats’ job more difficult.

Bureaucrats are government servants. Ultimately the range of their power is thus limited. As such, anybody having a serious complaint with the way the bureaucracy functions, should direct their grievances to the government that employs the bureaucrats. Blaming the public servants will lead us nowhere.


Not many people outside the Punjab may have heard the name of Bhagat Puran Singh. I met him a few times, saw the work he was doing and wrote about it describing him as the “bearded Mother Teresa of Punjab”. He died on August 4, 1992 in Chandigarh. I hoped someday somebody would tell the world about this saintly man. Unknown to me, young Reema Anand, grand-daughter of retired chief justice, R.S. Narula of the Punjab and Haryana high court had been in touch with Bhagatji in the last years of his life and made a documentary film of him.

She put all she knew about him, interviewed people closest to him, including Dr Inderjeet Kaur, who is carrying on his work, and published his biography: His Sacred Burden. It was released by Sushma Swaraj, minister of information and broadcasting at a public gathering at the India International Centre.

Puran Singh, born in 1904, was the son of a Hindu father and his second wife or mistress, Mehtab Kaur, a Sikh. His step brothers refused to accept their Khatri father’s liaison with a Jat Sikh woman and disdained him as a bastard. Under the influence of his mother, the boy turned from being Ramji Das to Puran Singh. He spent his adolescent years in Lahore dividing his time serving in the city’s main gurdwara, borrowing books from different libraries and reading them in his spare time.

The main influences in his life were Florence Nightingale, mahatma Hans Raj of the Arya Samaj and M.K. Gandhi. He took to nursing sick beggars and wearing khadi. When Partition riots broke out, he barely escaped with his life and trudged barefoot, carrying on his back a cripple across the border to Amritsar. It was in Amritsar that he decided to devote the rest of his life to the sick and the uncared for. He had no money to build a hospital or procure medicines. His hospital was a few charpais under the shade of a tree. Every morning he sat outside the entrance of the Golden Temple with a begging bowl. With what he got, he bought food and medicines for his patients. He rented a haveli.

Some people volunteered to help him. So began his Pingalwara for the sick and the destitute. He had black tin boxes with slits on their covers and the simple word Pingalwara put up in different parts of the city. People began to put money in the boxes. When he came to be better known, people made donations on weddings in their families or in memory of their loved ones. Sewa was Puran Singh’s bhakti and he came to be know as Bhagat Puran Singh.

Puran Singh did not go in for religious ritual but imbibed the essentials of religion. He did not discriminate between those who came to him for help: Manas kee jaat sab ek hee pahchaantoo (Regard all mankind as of one caste), Guru Gobind Singh had exhorted his followers. To Bhagat Puran Singh’s Pingalwara came Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims for shelter and treatment. He subscribed to the creed that service to the suffering was the greatest form of prayer: Bin sewa dhrig hath payr, hore nehphal karni (Fie the hands and the feet that are not used in the service of others, every other activity is fruitless).

At long last the Punjab government became conscious of Puran Singh’s existence. The Pingalwara was given a grant and Puran Singh was honoured with a Padma Bhushan. He returned it as a protest against Operation Blue Star.

I took advantage of Sushma Swaraj’s presence at the launch of Reema Anand’s His Sacred Burden and asked her to try out all the channels of her TV set. Every third is devoted to broadcasting sermons by sadhus, sadhvis, swamis, godmen, pracharaks — the lot. Hour after hour they go on telling us about the soul, spiritual life, meditation, truth, love, tales from the Puranas and lives of saints. They draw large audiences. It is talk, talk and more talk. They echo the ethos of our people: we have become a nation of talkers and not doers.

There are hundreds of men and women scattered in remote parts of our country who, like Bhagatji, devote their lives to the services of the poor, illiterate and disabled. If their lives were depicted on our TV channels, we might turn from a nation of sermoners to a nation of doers.

Tales of a rare breed

Murli Manohar Joshi, minister of education et cetera is by no means the first or the only Indian who maintains that our ancestors had knowledge of everything worth knowing — aeroplanes, teleprinters, wireless, telegraphy, nuclear energy — you name it, they knew it. Westerners stole such knowledge from India and falsely laid claims to having discovered them.

Dr Meghnad Saha (1894-1956) had to contend with this form of patriotism. Dilip Salwi, in his recently published Folk Tales of Science gives one instance. “Saha once met a lawyer in Dhaka. By this time, Saha had already become internationally famous for his contributions to astrophysics. The lawyer became curious to know what exactly were his contributions to science.

“That was Saha’s favourite subject and he told him in detail about his work on the composition of stars. But the lawyer was not impressed. Every other moment he interrupted Saha to add. ‘But, Prof Saha, this is nothing new. We have all these in the Vedas.’ he said.

“Eventually, Saha’s fuse blew. He asked, ‘Would you please be kind enough to tell me exactly in which parts of the Vedas do we find the thermal ionisation theory of stars?’ But the lawyer was unmoved. He continued, ‘Well, I haven’t read the Vedas myself but it is my firm conviction that whatever you scientists claim as a new scientific discovery is all contained in the Vedas!’”

Our scientists observed high standard of rectitude. Sir C.V. Raman (1888-1970) was looking for a suitable person for the post of scientific assistant for his institute. He found one applicant, who was found unsuitable for the post, still waiting outside the interview room.

Raman approached him and asked sharply, “What are you doing here? I told you, we cannot take you in! Why do you linger here?”

“Sir, I know that, but I’ve come back to return the excess travelling allowance paid to me by mistake by your office...”, the applicant stuttered.

“Oh, is it?”, said Raman, surprised, keeping his had on the applicant’s shoulder, and taking him to his office, “Come in, you have been selected for the post! It matters not if your physics is inadequate. I can teach you that. You’re a man of character. That’s important to me!”

They were well-rounded personalities with interest in poetry, music and nature. One such personality was Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar (1899-1955), who set up a chain of national laboratories across the country. While in Varanasi he also composed the university anthem, Kulgeet.

He was indefatigable worker. Meghnad Saha converted his initials to “Steam Ship Bhatnagar”.

Salwi’s compilation has the merit of conveying valuable information of the works of eminent scientists and making it palatable by drawing the readers’ attention to their foibles and oddities.

My favourite is the first in the anthology, Louis Agassiz: “The Swiss-American naturalist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was such a popular figure in his home town of Neuchatel, Switzerland, that he was regularly invited to give lectures on geology. Once when he regretted his inability to give a popular science lecture, the organizer assured him that he would be paid for his lecture. In anger, Agassiz replied, ‘That is no inducement to me. I cannot afford to waste my time in making money!’”



Hard day’s morning

Sir — The news report, “First day, first show: house full”, will make thousands of Calcuttans heave sighs of relief. No one, except the government employees themselves, was happy with the arrangement that they could sail into office at any time they wished and up and leave whenever they felt they had worked hard enough for the day. Calcuttans, who are wellknown to be a grumbling lot, have silently endured this colossal indolence because of the implicit threat that they would never get any official work done if they complained. But in the midst of this serious concern, this news report brought a moment of laughter to all those who tried to imagine a scene where thousands of these babus ran helterskelter to get to work on time. Many of them raced down B.B. Ganguly street and clambered up the stairs in Writers’ Buildings. Finally, these people have had to pay for years of mindless laziness and antagonism for the common man. Revenge, even if shortlived, is sweet.
Yours faithfully,
Ramesh Goenka, Hooghly

Altar of discord

Sir — The recent comments by the prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, about the construction of the Ram temple being an expression of the national sentiment was shocking, “Atal steam for Ram temple” (Dec 7). Even if he now decides to go back on his utterances and explains that he did not actually mean what he so clearly said, the National Democratic Alliance partners should realize that the frequent “yes, temple”, “no temple” pronouncements by fanatics within the Bharatiya Janata Party and other factions of the sangh parivar puts them in the company of schizophrenic communalists.

Meanwhile, taking a cue from the prime minister’s statement, a leader from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has said that the meaning of Vajpayee’s statement is “crystal clear”. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s official statement has also been on similar lines. It has claimed that it is a signal for them to go ahead with the temple construction.

It is very unfortunate that the censure motion was defeated in Parliament. The secular allies of the ruling coalition should make it very clear to the BJP that they are a part of the coalition because of political expediency. They do not share the BJP’s agenda and therefore, if he wants stability at the Centre, he should never bring up the Ram mandir issue again.

Mamata Banerjee has already done something like this but the message obviously has to be driven home with greater vehemence. Vajpayee has even gone to the extent of saying that the three chargesheeted ministers, L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, have not in any way been responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid. This is a blatant lie. Vajpayee would be well advised to do something about the recent goings-on. This would salvage some of his reputation among the people. He can order a reconstruction of the Babri Masjid for instance. That should certainly help matters.

Yours faithfully,
Robin Sherwood, Mumbai

Sir — The prime minister has stirred a hornet’s nest with his recent comments. Perhaps there is some truth in his statements but the protests that his statements evoked from the opposition and coalition partners within the NDA are indicative of how sensitive the issue continues to be.

But the prime minister should be trusted. A resurgent and unified India will rise out of the bitterness surrounding the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue. But definitely not in the manner in which Vajpayee currently envisages it. The BJP is in a good position to organize a creative and radical solution to this problem. This would certainly please the lord, Ram.

Yours faithfully,
Sumit Majumdar, Calcutta

Sir — The debate in Parliament over the issue of the resignation of the three chargesheeted ministers caused a great deal of confusion and a loss of a great deal of money. The opposition had no business demanding these resignations. Moreover, the Congress was ruling this country when the demolition took place.

It was ridiculous to see the Congress itself demanding the resignations. Our law does not prohibit a chargesheeted minister from holding office. If the demand was to have any substance at all, there should emerge a consensus on the categories of chargesheets which will prohibit a politician from holding office. It is common knowledge that many of the sitting members of parliament have charges against them ranging from income tax evasion to murder.

During the last year when the NDA was in governance, India made tremendous advances in the fields of technology, agriculture, rural development, prevention of corruption in the bureaucracy and so on. On the other hand, most Congress stalwarts are symbols of corruption and the communists are involved in stifling democracy.

Yours faithfully,
A. Chattopadhyay, Mumbai

Sir — The stand taken by the prime minister on the mandir issue has shocked millions of Indians. It was a totally unexpected event. He has behaved more like an RSS chief than as the prime minister of India.

True to the traditions of the BJP, he has started another controversy. This is despite the fact that there is no historic, rational or factual basis for it. The BJP will now watch the response of the media and the people and if these turn out to be positive, it will attempt to convert this into a mass movement. We have seen all of this before.

Yours faithfully,
Prema Dunne, via email

Animal rites

Sir — Maneka Gandhi deserves praises for saving 634 cows from getting slaughtered in Calcutta by getting them off a train near Delhi, “Maneka locks horns with Mamata” (Dec 12). Mamata Banerjee and her cohorts must understand that diversity in Indian society does not mean that one can sacrifice the interests of the nation under the guise of appeasing certain minority groups.

It is against national interest to slaughter cows. One does not start slaughtering “human beings” just because there is an abundance of them. Neither does one slaughter buffaloes, for instance, just because there is a shortage of the quantum of fodder required for them. Cats and dogs are also not regularly slaughtered. So why are cows selected separately and killed?

Successive governments since Jawaharlal Nehru feel pride in riding roughshod on the sentiments of the nation. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had repeatedly said that he considered the protection of the cow and its progeny more important than attaining swaraj.

Who does Mamata Banerjee think she is? How can she be so dismissive about the father of the nation? Some may argue in favour of the economic considerations, such as the export of leather. But is that enough?

Yours faithfully,
Vandana Rathi, via email

Sir — It is high time Maneka Gandhi stopped her antics. Her recent involvement in removing the cows from the train near Delhi was completely uncalled for. Her enthusiasm about animal rights, although understandable, should be kept under control. Otherwise it will become impossible to keep a developed civil society functioning.

Nobody likes cruelty to animals. But that does not mean that one should carry around this sentiment like a banner everywhere. Besides, if she understands the mechanics of any ecological system, she will come to terms with the fact that the whole concept of the “food chain” is premised on the inevitable killing of creatures. This is hardly cruelty. This is the purpose of biodiversity. When is she going to learn?

Yours faithfully,
Mohit Agarwal, via email

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