Editorial 1/ Playing too safe
Editorial 2/ Split end
The enemy within
Fifth Column/ Hung on a sticking point
This above all/ Another language for beautiful lines
Constricted by the chicken neck
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/ PLAYING TOO SAFE 
 
 
 
 
Banking constitutes a crucial element of financial infrastructure. Inefficiency and high transaction costs associated with banks affect costs of doing business. For example, high real interest rates are partly due to inefficiency. Bank nationalization has succeeded if the sole criterion is number of branches, but has failed if efficiency is a criterion. Efficiency requires competition and this implies privatization. Privatization has two nuances — first, dilution of equity in existing public sector banks so as to take them outside government control and limited moves have been made in this direction; second, entry of new private sector banks. Some entry of multinational banks and additional branches has happened. Other private sector Indian banks were set up, by around 1995, through the Reserve Bank of India guidelines issued in 1993. The results are revealing. Transaction costs have declined in urban areas and in general, market shares of private Indian banks have increased rather than those of multinational banks. The RBI has now revised the 1993 guidelines for new entrants. Non-bank financial companies are permissible. However, large industrial houses will not be allowed to set up banks, although applications were pending from Tatas, Birlas and Reliance. But large industrial houses can hold up to 10 per cent equity in new banks, this 10 per cent being calculated so as to account for inter-connected companies. Thus, NBFCs set up by large industrial houses are also precluded. The minimum paid-up capital requirement has increased from Rs 100 crore to Rs 200 crore and has to be further increased to Rs 300 crore, three years after the bank starts operations. Promoters have to contribute at least 40 per cent of paid-up capital and this will be locked in for five years. Any excess over 40 per cent will be diluted within a year.

Foreign banks, finance companies and multilateral agencies will have a separate cap of 20 per cent within the 40 per cent. All such banks will have to satisfy a minimum capital adequacy ratio of 10 per cent and must ensure priority sector lending of 40 per cent. Twenty five per cent of branches must be in rural and semi-urban areas to prevent urban concentration. Unlike the silly stipulation in the 1993 guidelines, which did not permit new banks to have headquarters in metros, this time, there is no such requirement. A three-member committee that will evolve its own criteria will scrutinize applications and the RBI doesn’t expect more than two or three licences to be approved in the next three years. While the revised guidelines are welcome, a major reservation concerns exclusion of large industrial houses. Apparently, the RBI didn’t want this exclusion, but was overruled by the finance ministry, which still suffers from the mindset of bank nationalization. Bank nationalization was partly triggered by perceptions of credit being preferentially allocated to group companies.

Increasingly, convergence makes nonsense of artificial distinctions between NBFCs, banks and development finance institutions, or between banking and other forms of financial activity. Instead, synergy is possible. Corporate governance and shareholder pressure should ensure that misallocation doesn’t happen. The finance ministry has signalled that it doesn’t believe these developments are adequate countervailing forces. There is a useful contrast between the United States, where restrictions like the RBI ones operate, and east Asia, where there are no such restrictions. Of course, fears like that of the finance ministry are also validated in the east As- ian context. There are risks associated with under-regulation and the government has decided to play safe and over-regulate. Hopefully, there will be a new set of guidelines without having to wait for another eight years.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2/ SPLIT END 
 
 
 
 
The golden rule for a politician who wants to stay on in politics in India is never to think about the country. Most of those who warm the seats in Parliament and the assemblies have long ceased to think about the people they represent, because changing sides and alliances on the basis of arithmetic rather that ideology is the only way to keep coalition governments running. But the members of parliament who have succeeded in splitting the Samata Party have gone one step further: they have shown themselves oblivious to the responsibility that devolves on them by virtue of being part of the ruling National Democratic Alliance. Not that the NDA will be shaken to its foundations. But even if the prime minister has grown used to persuading his ministers not to resign from time to time — Mr Nitish Kumar seems to be going Ms Mamata Banerjee’s way — it is not a reassuring spectacle for the people.

What is happening in the Samata Party is simply a shadow of what happened to the Janata Dal. Leadership issues, disagreements about mergers and alliances, squabbles over local chieftainships — all this is old hat. However hard Mr George Fernandes might try, the basic problems remain in place. A regional party at the Centre will always have regional rivalries and benefits in mind. This myopia cannot be corrected by a national position. The good that comes from regional parties being in power at the Centre is often vitiated by the narrowness of their internal focus. The result is sad but inevitable. The parties which prefer fragmentation to continuity grow peripheral to both the people’s consciousness and the spectrum of power. It is difficult to believe today that the Janata Dal once headed the United Front government. All the Samata Party has managed to do so far is to give Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav something new to laugh about.

   

 
 
THE ENEMY WITHIN 
 
 
BY BRIJESH D. JAYAL
 
 
The closing month of this millennium must surely rank as a major watershed in the history of Indian security. It has witnessed the unfolding of momentous events both far and near. Events that will inevitably have a crucial bearing on how the security environment within and around the country evolves for better or for worse.

On the external security front, the most significant event was the politically bold and emotionally soothing unilateral declaration of ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian government during the holy month of Ramadan. Notwithstanding its rejection by fringe terrorist outfits, it evoked a positive reaction from the Hurriyat leadership and politically significant gestures even from the Pakistan government. These developments resulted in such a positive reduction of tension within Jammu and Kashmir and on the line of control that an emboldened prime minister announced in Parliament a decision to extend the ceasefire till Republic Day. Overwhelmed by such fast evolving events, even diehard pessimists were beginning to admit that at long last there was the hint of a thaw.

On the internal security front, not only was an active nexus between senior ministers and militants being reported in Manipur, but Manipur Rifles jawans had also resorted to an arms down strike demanding payment of arrears. The state assembly, on the other hand, had to be adjourned sine die following a bloody altercation between legislators. A depressing scenario in a region of the country where internal security concerns are high and where insurgency of differing kinds has long prevailed.

In the international arena, after the highly successful visit of the American president, Bill Clinton, to India and an equally successful reciprocal one by the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, it was only natural that any change of guard in the United States should now be watched with keen interest. The Americans, after a somewhat tortuous debate, declared George Bush Jr to be their president designate. He in turn has nominated General Colin Powell as secretary of state and Condeleeza Rice as national security adviser in his proposed administration.

While the name of the defence secretary was still awaited, students of foreign affairs and national security were already busy rummaging through backgrounds and deciphering what these appointments would hold for the future of Indo-US relations — more specifically issues like non-proliferation, the comprehensive test ban treaty, sanctions, strategic partnerships and so on. Whatever the conclusions, they would of necessity have a profound bearing on our evolving security matrix. Even as these events were unfolding, the winter session of Parliament had scheduled for discussion the Kargil review committee findings.

It needs recalling that it was for the first time in independent India’s history that the government had, after a border conflict, ordered a formal external review of events leading to and the actual conduct of the conflict. Previous reviews of the Indo-Chinese conflict of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 were conducted inhouse within the ministry of defence and to this day remain shrouded in secrecy.

In sharp contrast the findings of the Kargil review committee report were tabled in Parliament and published for public information. The committee report highlighted grave deficiencies in India’s security management system and blamed the political, bureaucratic, military and intelligence establishments for having developed a vested interest in the status quo. Following the tabling of this report in Parliament, the government promised follow-up action and appointed a group of ministers under the home minister who in turn appointed task forces to review intelligence, internal security, border management and management of defence. The task forces have since submitted their reports to the GOM which in turn has been reviewing their respective recommendations.

It is within this backdrop of major events, external and internal, that members of the armed forces, students of national security and indeed the people at large were looking forward to the proposed parliamentary discussion on the Kargil review committee report. There was anticipation that such a discussion within the sanctified forum of our parliamentary democracy would not only shed light on the causes of the current indifferent state of the Indian security system, but also on the steps proposed to set things right once and for all. Such a discussion would also provide the people with an insight into the depth of interest taken by their representatives, political parties and leaders in matters relating to national security. Expectations were heightened all the more because such a discussion on vital aspects of national security had never taken place in our parliamentary history, even after the pathetic debacle of 1962.

It therefore came as a deep disappointment to all that when the moment of reckoning finally came, what most had suspected but hoped against came true. Faced with the prospect of prioritizing a healthy discussion on the vital issue of national security and its management over other peripheral or divisive political issues, our parliamentarians chose the latter, thus displaying a distorted value system of national priorities. That this session achieved dubious records of unproductive business and degenerating parliamentary norms has been adequately reported. Whatever political or moral gloss the people’s representatives may now put on these happenings, they fail to carry any conviction. With momentous security happenings within the country and around the world, they chose to ignore national security and chose instead to play party politics. History will not treat such indifference lightly.

It is not without significance, therefore, that on the day that this infamous Parliament session came to an inglorious end in the heart of Lutyens’s New Delhi, terrorists penetrated the army camp within the Red Fort, once the seat of the Mughal empire and since the days of the British a prestigious centre for the army.

Today it houses one battalion of the Rajputana Rifles which is tasked with the security of the Red Fort, India Gate, the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the army’s intelligence unit interrogation cell where all Kashmir-related terrorists are questioned. It is the damage to national security psyche rather than the physical damage caused by this attack that merits deep introspection. Another dubious first has been added to our security history when a military installation in the capital has successfully been targeted.

It is time for the people’s representatives as a whole to introspect. In this age of information technology and instant communication, every word uttered and every action within and outside Parliament is being keenly watched and analysed by those hazarding death daily in the line of duty, because they have a deep personal stake. The message that the armed forces were hoping to receive from this Parliament session — and by its democratic extension the whole nation — was that there is genuine concern about the professional preparedness, safety, welfare and izzat of every one of their men and women serving in uniform and that the nation is committed to setting things right.

Regrettably the message conveyed is that national security is subordinate to playing politics and that thousands of lives sacrificed at the altar of national security mean less than a few farmers committing suicide — as the latter constitute vote banks. As the unending stream of body bags continues from Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and our forward areas — unsung and largely ignored by the media — the armed forces are left to draw their own conclusions.

As we step into the new millennium, the question that must worry the people of India, as indeed it does its armed forces, is simply this. How much closer must inimical forces strike at the heart of Indian institutions for our democracy to wake up to the call of national security?

The author is a retired air marshal of the Indian air force

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN/ HUNG ON A STICKING POINT 
 
 
BY GWYNNE DYER
 
 
It’s too late already. The past month has seen extraordinary movement from Israel for a final peace settlement with the Palestinians, but there’s no time to sort out what’s left. The sticking point is the “right of return” of some 3.7 million descendants of Palestinians who were chased in the 1948-49 war from their homes in what is now Israel. Not all would choose to go back, but enough would to destroy the “Jewish character” of Israel.

For Israelis of every political colour, this is truly non-negotiable. Even Yossi Sarid, head of the left-wing Meretz Party and a leading Israeli dove, says that “realization of the right of return means...the suicide of Israel.”

This right is a bottomline for most Palestinians, too, at least in the short run, especially since this round of peace attempts have run out of long run. This month, the United States president, Bill Clinton, hands over to George W. Bush, who is far less willing to spend his political capital on a west Asia peace. So long as Arab oil flows and there isn’t a big war, he won’t lift a finger. Then, in the Israeli election on February 6, the prime minister, Ehud Barak, will almost certainly lose to Ariel “Arik” Sharon, the hardest of hardliners. As justice minister Yossi Beilin put it, “a government including Arik Sharon will be seen as an Israeli decision to end the peace process unilaterally.”

Any deal Barak makes with Yasser Arafat now would be a post-dated cheque on a crashing bank, for Sharon promises not to honour it if elected. The peace process is over, and the near future holds only the killing of more Palestinians by Israeli troops, punctuated occasionally by the killing of some Israelis in bombings and ambushes.

Gains made

But it has not all been a waste, for the Israeli side has moved a lot in the past month. The concessions that the Barak government has made will allow the next round of peace talks to start from a far more realistic point when they finally get underway. At least one assumes that Barak’s government has already tacitly agreed to the terms of Clinton’s last-ditch peace proposal last month. “The Palestinians always complain that we know the details of every proposal from the Americans before they do,” as an Israeli official put it. “There’s a good reason for that; we write them.”

The latest US peace terms, implicitly accepted by the present Israeli government, hand over all of the Gaza Strip and 95 per cent of the West Bank to an independent Palestine. Most of the Jewish settlers who remain would be regrouped in the suburbs that ring eastern Jerusalem, but the Palestinian state would control Arab areas of East Jerusalem itself.

Barak may even have authorized Clinton’s proposal for a deal on Jerusalem’s holy places, with the Western Wall, sacred to the Jewish faith, remaining under Israeli sovereignty while the top of the same rock formation, the precinct known as the Haram al Sharif, would be under Muslim control. But he didn’t say that the 1948 wave of Palestinian refugees can return to their homes in what is now Israel, and neither he nor any other Israeli leader ever will.

Final round

The Arab states bordering Israel, as potential military threats, retained enough leverage to get their own occupied territories back. Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon have already done so. Palestinians, while posing no serious military threat to Israel, have enough nuisance value as a restive people to get a similar deal for their post-1967 occupied territories — but never for the lands they lost in 1948.

Arafat’s more intelligent advisers always knew this, but until mere weeks ago they were still struggling for concessions from Israel that were actually attainable. Now, thanks to the draining pros- pect of an interminable “second intifada” and the volatility of Israeli politics, all those concessions are suddenly on the table and we have reached the final sticking point, but it is both too sudden and too late. Arafat can’t respond fast enough, and Barak can’t deliver anyway.

But it has not been a waste of time. The outline of the final deal is now plain for all to see, and ultimately most Israelis and most Palestinians will find it acceptable. This is where the final round of the peace process will begin under Sharon’s successor (and probably Arafat’s as well, for he is not likely to live long enough to see it), after the coming round of violence and unreason has blown itself out.

   

 
 
THIS ABOVE ALL/ ANOTHER LANGUAGE FOR BEAUTIFUL LINES 
 
 
BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
 
 
People who do not understand Bengali have much to thank William Radice for bringing out the greatness in Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry. Many scholars, including Tagore himself, translated his works into English, but they left non-Bengalis with a feeling that Bengalis, prone to exaggeration, over-estimated Tagore as a writer. Few people dared to question their reverence for their Gurudev. I was rash enough to do so by airing my opinion that Indians including Bengalis had written better novels, plays and short stories, and was barely rescued from being lynched in the lounge of Calcutta’s airport hotel.

William Radice is currently senior lecturer in Bengali at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. He is also a poet and writes a fortnightly, “Letter from England”, for The Statesman. His latest offering is a collection of hitherto untranslated writings of Gurudev — Particles, Jottings, Sparks: The Collected Brief Poems of Rabindranath Tagore. The strange title in fact stands for three genres of poetry to which Tagore himself gave names Kanika (particles) or Kabitika (poemlet), Lekhan (jottings) and Sphulinga (sparks, published posthumously in 1945). They are reminiscent of the kind of messages sent out by Panchtantra tales and Aesop’s fables but in verse.

Tagore was almost forced to compose them during his tours abroad, particularly in China and Japan. His admirers and autograph-hunters would insist he write a few lines on whatever was handy: slips of paper, paper fans, napkins and so on. He obliged. Many of them were lost for ever; some were copied out by members of family and friends accompanying him.

Tagore was deeply rooted in Indian tradition, deeper than any of his contemporaries or any Indian poet after him. O.E. Lessing rightly remarked, “Tagore is perhaps the last great poet of ancient India.” This is amply borne out by Radice’s compilation. They are indeed, as claimed by him, “pointed, witty, lucid and profound”. Here are a few examples:

Plain Speaking

The forest blooms with the coming of spring:/ All that the koel-bird does is sing./ “I suppose”, says the crow, “you’ve nothing to do/ But flatter the spring with your hullabaloo”./ Pausing for a moment, the koel looks round:/ “Who are you? Where do you come from, friend?”/ “I am the plain speaking crow”, the crow replies./ “Delighted,” says the koel, and politely bows./ Be free to speak plainly all the year long./ I’m happy with the truth of my own sweet song.

The Need for Height

The flat field said in anger and pain:/ “I fill the market with fruit and grain./ The mountain sits doing who knows what,/ Like a great king perched on a throne of rock./ Why is God’s management so unfair?/ To me His reasons are not at all clear.”/ “If all,” said the mountain, “were flat and even,/ How could rivers bring manna from heaven?”

Professional Difference

Nose says, “Ears, your life must be poor./ No sense of smell, just earrings to wear.”/ Ears say, “Nose, how sad not to hear,/ And all you can do in bed is snore!”

The Same Path

Let’s shut the door to block out sin!/ “Then how”, says Truth, “shall I get in?”

Immutability

However you turn and turn about,/ Your left hand is left and your right hand is right.

A little bit more of Monica

I am an admirer of K.P.S. Gill and share his passions for Scotch, dames and poetry. A common friend, Lakhshmi Goswami, sent me his composition on the Clinton-Lewinsky affair:

Bill Clinton: An Astrologer’s Advice: “Verses Without a Copyright”

All others were asked to kneel/ Only Monica was told to lie/ There is nothing that is sinful/ In what is oral and done on the sly/ All tomes which talk of sin/ Will surely testify

In this hypocritical world/ You are the greatest man they say/ Most want some freedom around midnight/ You want it throughout the day/ As any astrologer will tell you/ There is a malefic Star(r) in your stars/ With a Lewinsky he’ll surely Trip(p) you/ And make you wage mid-eastern wars/ Make you shed bitter tears in your pillow/ Make you slide on the popularity charts/ Make you ponder on the State of the Union And the ways of unconscionable tarts

By scanning your frumious horoscope/ A sure remedy the astrologers espy/ Wear a watery agate on your finger/ And a lock on your errant fly/ All others were asked to kneel/ Only Monica was told to lie.

   

 
 
CONSTRICTED BY THE CHICKEN NECK 
 
 
BY BARUN KUMAR SAHU
 
 
The feeling of being isolated from the mainland is common throughout the Northeast, despite the region’s location at the confluence of south and southeast Asia. Even small distances appear enormous. The classic example is Agartala, which is a mere 325 kilometres away from Calcutta. But even a non-stop drive by car from Agartala will take two days to reach Calcutta by the roundabout Silchar-Siliguri route.

The entire Northeast is territorially connected to the rest of the country by a narrow stretch of land, the “chicken neck” of Siliguri. All vehicles to and from the Northeast, including trains, have to pass through this narrow and strategically crucial route.

This tenuous rail and road link with the Northeast is at the heart of the region’s problems. Militants take advantage of this. By simply disrupting the rail tracks and the road network near the chicken neck or in lower Assam, they manage to cut off the entire Northeast.

The poor link also means that all other states are affected when there is a disturbance in lower Assam, or even floods and landslides. Northeastern states get cut off from the rest of the country so frequently that it does not even make it to the front page in national dailies.

One way out is to find other routes connecting the Northeast to the rest of India. With other routes, disruptions in the road or rail network in lower Assam or north West Bengal will not cut off the Northeast.

The present strategy appears to be to seek transit facility for Meghalaya, Barak Valley in Assam and Tripura through Bangladesh. While West Bengal and Bangladesh are now well connected by bus, and will be even better connected by rail, transit facilities for the people of and goods for the Northeast is still a daydream.

Certain influential sections in Bangladesh are opposed to the idea of transit facilities. While India must persuade Bangladesh to provide them, it needs to look to other countries in the region as well. For example, the road connecting Guwahati and Bihar could be made to pass through Bhutan, Sikkim (or Darjeeling) and Nepal. India might seek transit facility through Myanmar too, by developing the road connecting the southern part of Mizoram to Myanmar. Manipur has border trade with Myanmar, which could be strengthened. This will also require updating of the travel rules of government servants.

At present, government servants posted in the Northeast have to travel either by air or by the roundabout route through the chicken neck. The rules should be changed to allow government servants to travel via Bangladesh if it is the cheaper or shorter route.

India’s national leaders frequently ask the people of the Northeast to join the mainstream. In this age of road politics, when every village is being linked by road, these leaders will make a great contribution to national integration and economic development by providing necessary roads, including sea routes, to the people of the Northeast so that they are easily linked to the rest of the country.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Unpardonable intervention

Sir — It was shocking to read the news report, “AIDS virginity test triggers rights debate” (Jan 1). The growing menace of AIDS and the fear of getting infected has revived an age-old custom in South Africa. Young teenage girls wearing colourful loincloths are regularly subjecting themselves to the ordeal of having their virginity tested by a stranger. The test which takes only a few seconds, is carried out by a tester with bare hands. While the attitude of the young girls is understandable given that the disease is believed to claim one out of 10 lives in the country, that of the authorities is unacceptable. Instead of introducing such ludicrous tests, the authorities should introduce sex education in the school curriculum. Not only does this test increase the chances of infection, it is also offensive on moral and ethical grounds. It violates the basic human rights of the person who is being subjected to it. Have the advocates of this test stopped to consider the psychological repercussions of this ordeal? Or do they just not care?
Yours faithfully,
Mahela Bhattacharya, via email

Magic of the greenback

Sir — Ashok Mitra’s article, “Dwindling bounty” (Jan 3), portrays an interesting picture of foreign investment in India vis-a-vis non-resident Indians. While there may be some truth in what he is saying, the scenario is not as grim as it looks. Not all NRIs have connections with corrupt politicians, nor are they eager to dispose of their illegal holdings by investing in India. Most of them are decent human beings interested in giving something back to the country of their origin.

Their efforts to set up enterprises are often foiled by bureaucratic red tape. If they are able to cross that hurdle, there are other problems in store for them. One is the absence of infrastructure. The second is the presence of local criminals, who harass them by demanding a cut. Denying them only invites trouble.

Unfortunately, the problems they face go unnoticed and unrecorded. Even though the government has reiterated its desire to encourage foreign investment, it has failed to follow up its promises by helping those NRIs who are not connected to large corporations.

Besides, Mitra seems to think that it is rather unique for a person to have dual citizenship. But many countries allow it. It is neither politically incorrect nor morally wrong as long as the two countries are on friendly terms. Whether a person with dual citizenship can become the prime minister of India is a different matter altogether.

One cannot help feeling a bit surprised at the one-sided and extremely biased point of view expressed by the writer.

Yours faithfully,
Gouranga P. Chattopadhyay, via email

Sir — Ashok Mitra deserves praise for his illuminating article on NRIs. It is partly true, as Mitra has pointed out, that they are given too much importance by a nation eager to create heroes out of ordinary men. However, given the state of the Indian economy, the government cannot afford to alienate them either. Unfortunately, India needs foreign investment and they can provide it.

The government should not give the NRIs a free hand. There have to be some safeguards to ensure that nothing goes wrong. Since the growth rate in the current financial year has so far been a meagre 5.8 per cent, compared to last year’s seven per cent, the government should also consider steps that would rejuvenate the economy.

Yours faithfully,
Ruchira Mukherjee, via email

Battle over Ayodhya

Sir — Recently, the Ayodhya issue paralysed proceedings in Parliament for several days. The government and the opposition are equally responsible for the waste of valuable time meant for discussing issues of national importance (“All words and no work in House”, Dec 23). Those who claim that the Ayodhya issue is an expression of national sentiment perhaps forget that there is no historical evidence to support the existence of Ram. Therefore this fuss over his birthplace does not make any sense.

Instead of building a mosque or a temple at the disputed site, can the government not build a technological or educational centre there? At least that will demonstrate that the Centre is sincere about furthering technological education. This may increase the popularity of the Bharatiya Janata Party among the young. And it should be acceptable to both Hindus and Muslims.

Yours truly,
Turbo Majumder, via email

Sir — The pitfalls of coalition politics are becoming clearer day by day. While the statements of the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on Ayodhya have been criticized by almost all political parties, there can be no excuse for the continuous disruption of Parliament for over a week. A parliamentary democracy cannot function properly if the house fails to conduct its proceedings and important issues are not debated. The ruckus over the prime minister’s Ayodhya statements cost the exchequer crores of rupees. The ill-fated women’s reservation bill was once again held over for the next session. It is disappointing to see that the opposition parties have ceased to play a constructive role.

Yours faithfully,
Rama Dey, Bangalore

Tough talk

Sir — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is right in asking the police to get tough with criminals (“People behind Buddha line of fire”, Dec 28). This move will be welcomed by the Calcuttans who have often felt let down by the police. One expects the police to be merciless with criminals as it is the police’s job to protect the life and property of the common man. Bhattacharjee has brought back life into the administration. One hopes he will keep up the good work so that West Bengal is freed of violence.
Yours faithfully,
Niloy Sinha, Azimganj

Sir — While the desire to improve the law and order situation of a city is commendable, the chief minister of a state should not make such irresponsible remarks. By asking the police to be ruthless in its dealings with criminals, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is only asking for trouble. Soon the police will no longer differentiate between criminals and innocent civilians. Ever since he became chief minister, Bhattacharjee has been making all the right moves. He is scoring points with the people of West Bengal and this is likely to affect his fortunes in the coming elections.

Yours faithfully,
Mrinal Kaur, Calcutta

Twice foreign

Sir — The revelation that Alberto Fujimori, who was the president of Peru for several years, never lost his Japanese citizenship should serve as an eye-opener for India. A parallel can be drawn with the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s citizenship.

According to Italian law, Sonia Maino continues to remain an Italian citizen. Italy does not recognize the renunciation of citizenship. Therefore, Sonia Gandhi is entitled to hold an Italian passport. This is exactly what happened in Fujimori’s case. It is time for the Congress to get over its fixation on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and ensure that a person of foreign origin does not become the prime minister of India.

Yours faithfully,
Mukur K. Khisha, Apopka, US

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street
Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
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G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007
   
 

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