Editorial 1/ Cops and robbers
Editorial 2/ Half a crown
Progressive holism
Fifth Column/ Statistics from a gloomy state
Putting profits over people
New light in the darkened corridors
Letters to the editor

It is somewhat axiomatic that a Jesus Christ or a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi cannot run an efficient police force. The chief minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, underlined this point when he told the police force that its members should not worry about the human rights of those who commit dacoities and terrorize people. He asked the police to be merciless in the handling of criminals. This is all but a licence to kill and the chief minister should be congratulated for being clear-headed about how to handle violence and terror. Criminals who kill and rob should not be treated leniently or with kid gloves. The job of the police is to protect life and property and to apprehend those who violate the right to life and the right to property. Only those who respect these rights should be entitled to the protection of their own rights. Mr Bhattacharjee’s statement has a certain urgency to it since immediately after he took over as chief minister, there have been a spate of robberies and murders linked with dacoities in the suburbs of the city. This has created a panic in the city. Mr Bhattacharjee’s instructions to the police will reassure citizens.

Perhaps Mr Bhattacharjee has been a trifle indiscreet by declaring in public his intentions and his means to achieve his goals. Such things are best left covert. By speaking his mind, Mr Bhattacharjee has allowed self-styled protectors of human rights to have potshots at him. It is significant that many of these advocates of human rights were in a different incarnation proponents of a political programme that upheld class violence and urban terrorism. They have no moral ground now to champion the rule of law and to put on a holier-than-thou mask. The state machinery cannot be run by sissies. The running of the state has a logic of its own which is different from that which dictates the working of a charitable institution. Violence that disrupts the daily lives of people and attacks their lives and property has to be countered by violence. The rule of law and the inevitable legal wrangling are by themselves not enough to stop violent crimes and to restore confidence among the people. It is necessary for the state to move swiftly and effectively. It is necessary to make an example of a few criminals to demonstrate the intentions of the state. To do this, what is required is controlled and well-directed police violence. The effectiveness of such methods was proved in the complete eradication of Maoist violence in West Bengal in the early Seventies and more recently, in the cleaning up of New York city by Mr Rudolph Giuliani.

Mr Bhattacharjee can afford to ignore all criticism because his instructions have touched a popular chord. It is evident to the people that West Bengal has a chief minister who is eager to be effective and not just popular. Good governance and popular governance are not always the same things. But in this case, there is no mismatch between the two. Ruthless suppression of dacoit gangs will show that Mr Bhattacharjee is effective, and it will also make him popular. Before he became chief minister, the public perception of Mr Bhattacharjee was that he was a man more interested in culture than in administration. Mr Bhattacharjee has completely changed this perception. He has shown that behind his gentility there is a toughness, under the velvet glove there is a mailed fist.


Legendary titles sometimes need to be put in their place. Viswanathan Anand’s recent victory is one such achievement. He has become the 15th FIDE world champion. He comes trailing clouds of glory — youngest national champion, first Asian world junior champion, two consecutive international chess Oscars, the defeating of such players as Alexander Khalifman and Reggio Emillia. But, this latest — and ostensibly most exalted — laurel needs to be considered more dispassionately. The status of FIDE, or the International Chess Federation, has been quite seriously compromised. Two of the best chess players of the world, Garri Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik, are not part of the FIDE any more. The former dissociated himself from the FIDE in 1992 to form the Professional Chess Association, a title that continues to elude Anand since his defeat to Kasparov in 1995. Earlier this year, Kramnik defeated Kasparov to become the “Braingames” champion, the rival title to the FIDE championship. Anand was not part of this circuit and is yet to take on Kramnik. He has been toying with the possibility of such a confrontation, but still refuses to be pinned down to it.

So the FIDE title, although nominally the highest, is no more representative of the highest league of chess players. Nor has Anand taken on the masters of the game. The men he has vanquished are definitely the lesser mortals. Khalifman falls below the world’s top thirty and his latest opponent, Alexei Shirov, is certainly not that formidable a contender. Anand has put in a stylish performance and has put India back on the international chess board. But seeing this as the “authentic expression of resurgent India”, as the president has done, may be indulging in unconsidered hyperbole. Anand’s rapid playing tactics and his instant moves are both the charm and the risks of his chess-playing personality. This also puts on Anand the onus of proving a more sustained and tested excellence. He will have to look beyond this feat, laudable in itself, and wrestle with the higher angels.


Bharat Ratna C. Subramaniam is no more. He has joined the rank of the immortals. I was privileged to work with him closely in various capacities in the Sixties. My tenure as his private secretary in Delhi overlapped nearly five years of his career in the government of India as cabinet minister, when he laid the foundation of the Green Revolution.

CS’s abiding faith in Indian science and technology was truly a source of inspiration. His success in introducing high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice to India’s farmers depended crucially on his choice of M.S. Swaminathan as the leader of the research and extension team. Early in his tenure at Krishi Bhavan, he took a decision that the administrative leadership of agricultural research should lie with a scientist. It was CS’s faith in science, and in Indian scientists, that enabled M.S. Swaminathan to lead from the front and give the Green Revolution its final shape.

Many were the criticisms at which a lesser man than CS would have flinched. The high-yielding varieties needed a lot of fertilizers. An initial objections raised to his idea was that it would be more effective to use more fertilizers on the existing varieties. This concept got the support of the Union planning commission, in which agriculture was in the portfolio of V.K.R.V. Rao. The official magazine of the Yojana Bhavan even published an article by two eminent economists challenging the assumptions of M. S. Swaminathan and company on the preferred programme of encouraging Mexico wheat, in preference to indigenous varieties. CS countered these and other critics successfully.

Credit for the success of the programme is primarily due to the able research and extension leadership that Swaminathan provided. CS was a past master at choosing an able team. In addition to choosing M. S. Swaminathan, CS placed late B. Sivaraman, an administrator par excellence, in charge of the agriculture ministry. B. Sivaraman had the ability to win support from his bureaucratic colleagues in the state as well as the Centre. Thus was the Green Revolution made a reality.

CS was an institution-builder. He set up the agricultural prices commission, for which he chose as chairman Ashok Mitra, who later became the finance minister of West Bengal — an inspired, albeit controversial, choice. The APC was set up as part of CS’s policy of ensuring remunerative prices for farmers. He realized that the introduction of high-yielding varieties would be a failure if the farmers were left with unsold surpluses. The policy of a remunerative support price was thus born. CS also evolved the idea of a buffer stock, although he would have been dismayed by the gigantic size of stocks, which today’s Food Corporation of India holds. His policies struck a decisive blow for self-reliance of India’s economy in the crucial field of food security.

I recall how President Lyndon Johnson had made India sweat for every shipment of wheat, which we had to import from the United States in the 1965 scarcity. It was perhaps President Johnson’s obstinacy that made India complete swiftly the agricultural reform, which CS initiated. This irritant must have confirmed CS in his opinion that never again should we live from ship to mouth.

Buffer stocks, which CS introduced, have enabled India to escape famines of the kind that other large developing countries, like China, have faced. They have also successfully prevented private trade from exploiting every occasional regional scarcity. I recall that when we were building buffer stocks, economists of multilateral financial institutions, like the International Bank for Rural Development, objected, saying that India need not build local buffers but could depend on the excess stocks in the US and Australia. Such dependence on externally held stocks would have only heightened food insecurity.

In addition to the Green Revolution, CS also initiated the “white revolution”. He was responsible for giving the redoubtable Verghese Kurien the platform of the national dairy development board, which was created in CS’s tenure. Kurien had been summoned to help the government of India to reorganize the Delhi millk scheme. Even in the first few interactions, CS recognized the wizard in Kurien. Once Kurien’s idea of NDDB caught CS’s imagination, it reached full flowering. Kurien went on to perform the miracle of Amul. Credit for this achievement should, at least in part, go to the late CS.

When India faced the Chinese incursion in 1962, there was deep despair among the top leadership. The US ambassador to India, Chester Bowles, wanted to ascertain from CS areas of potential help. CS sought long-term help primarily on how to turn round the Indian public sector. The Ford Foundation sent an expert, a professor of the now well-known Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. Out of this association was born a number of visits by leading managers of India’s public sector steel industry to management institutions in the US and the introduction of modern management techniques in at least a few of these undertakings.

CS also undertook the liberalization of India’s steel industry. At the time steel was under strict control, CS took the initiative of involving India’s leading economists, K. N. Raj and Raj Krishna, to suggest ways of dismantling steel control. Thus was born the idea of the joint plant committee, which for the first time utilized computers and computerization to rationalize the distribution of steel.

CS was a pioneer in the use of scientists-cum-technologists for administration. He evolved India’s science and technology policy. While his term as deputy chairman of the Union planning commission was remarkable for the many initiatives he took, I recall, in particular, how with the help of Ashok Mitra, the then secretary of the planning commission, he brought up the idea of the integrated children’s development service. India’s ICDS is today hailed as a model programme in the developing world.

The Bihar famine of 1965-66 challenged CS’s ability as a coordinator. Lyndon Johnson was not too sure of India’s ability to handle large shipments that the US’s gift would involve. CS’s inspired choice of A.L. Diaz to head the food ministry was a significant decision. Diaz was a dynamic leader who had solved the myriad problems of the Bombay Port Trust. He turned out to be the ideal choice for handling the flotilla of ships that landed in India, bringing the massive US gift of 10 million tonnes of foodgrains and distributing it to every nook and corner of the country.

CS was well-known for the open door he kept to new ideas not only from scientists but also from economists. His periodical idli-vada parties, where he entertained the best and the brightest of Delhi’s economic community, were legendary. Not only did he get exposed to many new ideas, but in turn, he also gave economists a sense of participation in government.

Though a follower of Jawaharlal Nehru, CS believed in a mixed economy and the freeing of entrepreneurial instincts. He was, however, no stranger to the use of geopolitics. When President John F. Kennedy dithered over aid for Bokaro, CS did not flinch. He sought and obtained Russia’s offer of assistance to build the steel plant.

CS had a holistic vision for India’s public sector, which transcended narrow ideas of Soviet-style management. He wanted to emancipate the public sector from the constraints of intervention by bureaucrats. He believed that the pursuit of trivia by bureaucratic financial advisors and auditors is, to a great extent, responsible for the halting progress made by India’s public sector. He believed there was considerable scope for improving management techniques in the public sector. He initiated the idea of developing the Administrative Staff College of India as a leading consultancy and training institution, keeping in view the need for India’s public sector management.

Above all, CS believed that India’s public sector had the potential to give the best in India itself. He tried to restructure the steel industry of India and the machine tools industry on these lines. But unfortunately, in one sense, he did not get a long enough tenure in the ministry of heavy industry and steel.

Till the end of his life, he upheld probity and high standards of public life. The best tribute we can render to his memory is to uphold the traditions of public life he maintained during the seven decades of his career. Till the end, he remained a true citizen of the world, who believed in the ability of Indian scientists and technologists to transform India’s economy and society.

The author is former governor, Reserve Bank of India


It is only logical that a country or state which successfully alleviated poverty has also, in effect, created employment for its population. In other words, when the state claims to have done wonders in removing poverty, it should certainly not show burgeoning unemployment figures. But West Bengal seems to have defied this logic. According to many leftist pundits of the state, its economy has been performing exceedingly well, since the state government has reduced the numbers below the poverty level at a rate faster than the all-India average. In sharp contrast, the statistics on employment reveal that West Bengal has failed to create an adequate number of jobs for its growing population. Between 1979 and 1998 there has actually been a reduction in the total number of jobs available in West Bengal.

The veracity of poverty statistics in West Bengal is not the topic of discussion here. It would be interesting to know whether people are actually getting jobs. The statistics say otherwise. In 1979, total employment in the public and private sector in the state stood at 25.26 lakhs. In 1998, after two decades of left rule, the number had come down to 22.85 lakhs. In the course of 20 years there has been a loss of 2.41 lakh jobs in West Bengal.

West Bengal is the only state where political stability has been accompanied by a reduction in employment. In all the other Indian states, changes in the government have led to an increase in jobs. Perhaps a change in the electoral fortunes could have forced the state governments to look after the economic well-being of its citizens. This has not happened.

Figures of doom

During this period, the number of job seekers has more than doubled. According to the employment exchange figures, the total number of registered unemployed persons in West Bengal stood at 20.82 lakhs in 1979. This rose sharply to 57.39 lakhs in 1997. A comparison with Bihar — the state ranked second to West Bengal in 1979, in terms of unemployment — reveals the shocking apathy of the government in West Bengal. Bihar had 19.99 lakhs registered unemployed in 1979, about 83,000 less than West Bengal. In 1997, the number of registered job seekers in Bihar rose to 33.51 lakhs, 23.88 lakhs less than West Bengal. Clearly the rate of growth in unemployment has been higher in West Bengal than in Bihar.

Another indicator of a state’s economic health is the number of jobs created in factories. In West Bengal, 7.16 lakh people had been employed in various factories since 1979. The number increased marginally to 9.06 lakhs in 1995.

During this period the total number of persons employed in factories in the country doubled — from 48.83 lakhs to 97.74 lakhs. There has been hardly any increase in the number of jobs in our state unlike Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Poverty blues

This economic stagnation has led to the growth of frustration in the youth. West Bengal has the highest number of suicides. In 1997, 14,075 cases of suicide were recorded. Failure in examinations had led to 1,092 suicides in West Bengal in the year 1997.

This illustrates the frustration that has engulfed young people in West Bengal. Given the limited number of jobs, they have little to hope for unless they perform well in their examinations. Faced with the prospect of failing the examinations, they decide to end their lives.

The statistics of poverty in West Bengal are hardly accurate. It is the only state where the number of jobs has come down during the last two decades. Most people list their names in employment exchanges adding to the numbers of registered unemployed.

This shows the failure of the state government in creating alternative sources of livelihood for its population. In fact, on looking closely at the unemployment numbers, one finds large numbers of farmers and residual farm workers registered for jobs in West Bengal. In 1997, there had been 5.96 lakh farmers and fishermen registered in West Bengal’s employment exchanges. The next highest number had been in Assam — only 26,800.

There are more than 22 lakh educated unemployed registered in the employment exchanges in the state. The number is equal to the total number of persons working in West Bengal, taking the public and private sector together. The enormity of the problem does not indicate a healthy economy or governance.


When a senior World Bank representative defended the Bank’s anti-poverty policies at the People’s Health Assembly in Dhaka, he failed to convince the 2,000 delegates. Men and women from 95 different countries sang protest songs, waived posters and shook their fists at the visibly embarrassed Richard Lee Skolnik, the bank’s regional director for south Asia. “People not profits”, “Health is a human right” and “World Bank must be dismantled” were some of the angry slogans shouted at Skolnik.

On December 6, Skolnik addressed the PHA, an international initiative aimed at bringing movements together, organizations and networks that believe health is a fundamental human right which cannot be fulfilled without commitment to equity and social justice. He spoke about the bank’s concern for the poor and how it helped governments to provide health subsidies for marginalized people. Refuting Skolnik, several delegates pointed out how the bank’s policies led to the devastation of third world economies, public health systems and the lives of the poor.

“We don’t need charity, but justice”, said Charles Mutasa of the Institute of Development Studies, Zimbabwe, blaming the bank for imposing economic policies pushing Africa into a debt-trap. “The money spent by African countries on servicing debt is now four times the amount they spend on health and education.” Antonio Tujan, chairman of the Asia Pacific Research Network from the Philippines, pointed out that the bank’s economic policies had led to the commercialization of healthcare to the benefit of the drug multinationals in his country. He said that less than three per cent of the $ 1.8 billion loans provided by the bank to the Philippines is being spent on health.

“Health for all” was not merely a slogan a few decades ago. In 1978, nations endorsed the Alma Ata declaration, from the watershed global conference organized by the World Health Organization, that outlined a revolutionary strategy called “primary health care” that aimed to reach its goals by the year 2000. “The vision was modelled after the successful community-based health programmes in various countries. The thrust of the programme was strong community participation in healthcare instead of over-dependence on costly specialists and technologized medical care,” said H. Mahler, former director of WHO, a major architect of the Alma Ata.

There is no doubt that over the past 50 years there have been major gains in the health status of the people. Globally, life expectancy increased from 46 years in the Fifties to about 66 years in the Nineties. Child death rates have fallen by half since the mid-Sixties. What augurs well for humanity is that the combined primary and secondary school enrolment ratio in developing countries has more than doubled.

Why then did the PHA delegates disbelieve the powerful international financier of treatment against killer diseases like leprosy, malaria and tuberculosis? Why did they shout “Liar, liar!” when Skolnik stressed that the bank did not ask governments to cut health expenditure or levy fees on patients? Or, for that matter, when he claimed that the bank helps governments to increase subsidies for the health and education of the poor, that the bank does not advocate the privatization of healthcare services?

Whatever Skolnik may claim, it is well known that the impact of the bank’s intervention far exceeds the loans it provides. It shapes sectors by influencing domestic policies through its “reports” and consultants. In some countries like Uganda, the national budgets are first endorsed by donors before the parliament examines them. The bank laid the foundation of a new health strategy in 1993 when it published its report, Investing in Health. This proved to be the death-knell for the community-based, low technology health strategy to save children and mothers, said Mahler, who described himself to be a “disturbed” man today.

Mahler’s being disturbed is understandable. In no ambiguous terms, the bank advocated the restructuring of health systems in line with its free market ideology. It recommended a combination of private services, cost recovery schemes and other measures that tends to place healthcare out of the reach of the poor. “To push its policies down the throat of poor indebted countries, the bank arm-twisted preconditions to the bail-out loans”, said Mutasa.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had used the debt crisis during the Eighties to force governments to uniformly adopt economic policies across Asia, Africa and Latin America without sensitivity to local circumstances. Among the stringent measures imposed were cuts in government spending of social sectors like health and education and removal of social subsidies. In some third world countries, cutbacks on health and education have been drastic, resulting in the deterioration of services. While developed countries increased their spending on health, it has been stagnant in developing countries and has decreased in the least developed countries.

Since the Nineties, the bank has taken over the WHO’s role as world leader in health policy planning. The takeover was powered by money. The bank’s budget for “health” is now triple that of the WHO’s total budget. With the bank’s invasion of healthcare, comprehensive primary healthcare has been effectively shelved.

“Health is no longer a human right”, said Mohan Rao of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. “You now have to pay for what you get. If you are too poor, hungry and sick to pay for it, forget it.” Today, the yawning gap between the rich and the poor has widened significantly and, in turn, has increased the disparities in healthcare between countries and within countries.

The United Nations human development report of 1999 states that the size of the income accruing to the top 20 per cent of the world’s population living in the rich countries and that of the bottom 20 per cent living in the third world has widened from a ratio of 30 in 1960 to 60 in 1990 and further to 74 in 1997.

That is why despite the unprecedented advances in medical technology and wealth, more than 800 million people in the world lack access to any form of basic healthcare. Measured on the human poverty index, more than a quarter of the 4.5 billion people in developing countries still do not enjoy some of life’s basic rights — survival beyond 40, access to education and adequate public services like healthcare and education A breakdown of the child death and life expectancy data reveals that the gap has widened significantly between rich and poor countries and also within countries. Even if in aggregate terms there is an improvement in global rates, in poor developing countries, compared to European countries, the relative probability of children under five years dying jumped from a ratio of 3.4 in the Fifties to 8.8 at the close of the Nineties.

“It is obscene that better-off children in some countries are 10 times more likely to be immunized than poor children in that same country. Poor women die of childbirth at rates more than 100 times that of better-off women. In the golden land of America, 43 million Americans have no access to health insurance. What else is obscenity?” said the Nobel prize winner James Obrinski of Medecins sans Frontieres fame.

This obscene injustice and pressure tactics by the bank has been made possible because the governments of developing countries find common cause with the transglobal elite than with their poor. Even if the bank waives the mounting debts, there is no guarantee it will lead to social trade-offs. Much of the borrowed money in most developing countries goes towards buying arms or is siphoned off to overseas bank accounts.

There are resources, but not for development. Merely an outlay of one per cent of the gross national product will be adequate to send all the children to school in south Asia. This is less than what is spent on cosmetics in the US or on ice cream in Europe annually. The problem, says Obrinski, is that we have been too passive and polite for too long. We have to actively demand health as our birthright.


Only a fortnight ago, electricity employees and engineers had observed a nationwide strike against the provisions of the new electricity bill 2000. Supporters of the bill feel that once implemented, it will improve the service in the sector considerably. The bill’s critics argue that private participation in the power sector will increase the price of consumption substantially and hit consumers.

With the initiation of second-generation reforms, an overhaul in the country’s power sector was inevitable. The draft electricity bill 2000, prepared by the National Council of Applied Economic Research after interactions with the segments concerned — the state electricity boards, the central electricity authority, the independent power producers, regulators and investors — has generated mixed reactions. While the IPPs, regulators and investors have welcomed it, most of the SEBs have found it unacceptable. The employee unions have also disowned it. The CEA is dissatisfied because it feels that the bill has failed to explain its role.

Regulated process

The existence of a central electricity regulatory commission and state electricity regulatory commissions in 11 states puts the need for fresh regulation in question. The supporters of the bill say that the old acts of 1910 and 1948 have become obsolete. They further argue that under the new regime involving inter-state and national grid operations, existing provisions have to be changed.

In view of the failure of the SEBs to generate enough power for the nation, the draft bill provides for their corporatization within six months to bring in accountability and competition in their structure. The most encouraging step has been the differentiation of transmission from generation and distribution. The transmission entity has to be corporatized within four months of the bill becoming an act since survey reports reveal that the SEBs lose most of their resources due to transmission and distribution losses.

Open doors

The bill partly opens up transmission to private companies, but is silent on privatization of the SEBs. Investors looking for investment opportunities have been disappointed by this.

The draft bill makes it mandatory for all consumptions and supply to be metred and fixes a penalty of Rs 50,000 for non-compliance. It is a positive approach because lack of proper metering contribute to a large portion of the SEBs’ losses. Tariff has also been sought to be rationalized so that the consumer is not charged greater than the “marginal cost” of electricity supply. The regulators have been empowered to regulate entry or exit of the firms in the sector and to enforce orders. The CEA’s power to grant clearance for projects have been taken away to the cheer of the IPPs, who think it would result in faster clearance of their projects.

The objectives of the bill are commendable, if confusing. It shows a positive approach to the problems. Once passed, it will usher in long overdue reforms in the power sector.



Party animals

Sir — Sonia Gandhi is taking her role as the leader of the opposition a little too far (“Guess who was not invited to iftar”, Dec 22). It is true that politics is not the most ethical of vocations, but it is equally true that a politician is remembered as much by his social graces as his political acumen. And Sonia Gandhi is only doing herself a disfavour by not inviting the prime minister to her iftar or by refusing to send Atal Bihari Vajpayee a get-well card when he was recuperating from his knee-surgery. The suggestion of some Congressmen that Sonia Gandhi had thrown the party in her capacity as the president of the Congress, serves as a weak defence if one glances at the picture of the opposition leader with Mamata Banerjee at the iftar (Page 6). In the recent history of Indian politics, iftars have been known to be the happy hunting ground for kingmakers. Does Banerjee’s invitation to and attendance at Sonia Gandhi’s iftar then hold a special meaning?
Yours faithfully,
Sadhan Ganguly, Howrah

Energy drain

Sir — Tirtho Banerjee’s article on the global warming phenomenon (“Harsher measures for a liveable earth”, Nov 21), though not the first to warn countries on this lurking danger, is certainly a timely indication of the time bomb ticking away. The depletion of the ozone layer in the stratosphere is mainly caused by uncontrolled use of fossil fuels, chloro fluoro carbons in refrigeration systems, aircondition plants, aerosols and so on.

Besides, massive denudation of forest cover is causing not only unprecedented floods worldwide but also contributes substantially to global warming. Trees, which are natural purifiers of the atmosphere and protectors of the ozone cover, are also being cut down mercilessly.

The contribution of the third world to the conservation of energy, in the cottage and small scale industries, is upset by capitalist countries, like the United States, with their profligate energy use. The US consumes 40 per cent of the world’s resources and energy. The cold weather in the countries of the northern hemisphere require massive energy from fossil fuels. But as Banerjee rightly points out, non-conventional energy sources are not being tapped substantially. Non-conventional energy sources, coupled with the promotion of cottage industry and the service sector, could help in conserving fossil fuels and in providing more employment. Fortunately, the information technology revolution is likely to lead to an increase in service sector employment, reducing commuting for work considerably. A concerted effort must be put in by the government of India to mobilize public opinion against agents that denude forests, waste power and water and so on. To start with, charges for water, power and other civic services should be raised steeply to make people conserve these resources and use them sparingly.

Yours faithfully,
S. Ramakrishnan, via email

Sir — The recent conference sponsored by the United Nations at the Hague on global warming has failed like the previous one in Kyoto. The reason is the lack of will power of the industrialized nations. High per capita emission of carbon dioxide by the US and other developing nations is the main reason behind the increased menace of the global warming phenomenon. Industrialized nations are the greedy guzzlers of fossil fuel as well, lest they have to slow down their industrial progress. The bright spot in this gloomy picture is that the increasing power generation by nuclear and hydel processes will lower our dependence on carbon dioxide-producing thermal plants.

Yours faithfully,
Manoranjan Das, Jamshedpur

Heading twelve point

Sir — Any talk of the implementation of a uniform civil code is bound to raise a great deal of controversy and resistance, primarily from the minority communities, and on religious grounds. Given that the largest democracy is governed by the laws laid down in the Constitution, the existing discrepancy is nothing to be proud of. The anachronism is most pronounced in reports such as “Law denies tribal women rights” (Dec 19). That these tribal women have been denied rights to their ancestral property is a clear example of the subjugation of women and of the denial of financial power to them.

The fact that they are governed by two laws simultaneously and each is adapted to suit the male-dominated tribe makes a farce of the judiciary. Indians must stop using ignorance and illiteracy as excuses over such issues.The government must intervene in cases where the law is being misused to subjugate the weaker party. The judiciary is there to ensure that women get what they legally deserve.

How could the civil court tell these women that they came under the outdated Gaekwad Law? That the women have appealed at all shows their awareness of their rightful entitlements. This is a good sign, considering the constraints they face. The state would do well to rise above the reservation debate and resolve these issues first to prove that it genuinely intends to let women share the same platform with men.

Yours faithfully,
Sarita Kejriwal, Calcutta

Sir — Women like Mevar are living proofs of the innumerable instances of inhumanity and insensitivity that the Indian society tolerates and even nurtures (“Price of a virtuous maiden is measured in gold”, Dec 17). Virginity tests are not uncommon in rural communities of India. But egged on by the motive of making money, as in the village of Rajasthan, they become crimes deserving the strongest possible punishment.

It is useless to reiterate that this can only be fought by spreading literacy among rural women. Non-governmental organizations and the government must come forward to protect the women who evidently cannot protect themselves. The judiciary also has to shoulder its share of the blame for not having brought virginity tests into the ambit of the Indian Penal Code. These women have not yet mustered up the courage to protest. When they do, this legal lapse will be a major impediment.

Yours faithfully,
Shrimati Bogadia, via email

All in the game

Sir — The victory of Priya Ranjan Das Munshi in the presidential elections of the All India Football Federation clearly illustrates the long hand of political leaders in soccer administration in India (“Das Munshi stays AIFF president”, Dec 17). The election was reduced to a mockery even before it actually took place by the skillful manoeuvrings of the camp in power. This was an action replay of the general elections in the country. Administration of football and cricket has become the hub of unsporting activities. Dedicated fulltimers should look after the administration of these sports, not self-seeking politicians like Das Munshi.
Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti De, Calcutta

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