Editorial 1/ At your own risk
Editorial 2/ Guns for roses
Braving the hard measures
Fifth Column/ Will their change of address do?
This above all/ When freedom of expression hit a great wall
Letters to the editor

Mr Yashwant Sinha’s market-friendly budget was supposed to boost capital markets and drive retail investors into stocks and taking risks, both because of incentives in the budget and because of cuts in interest rates on risk-less small savings. Indeed, in the first two days after the budget, the sensitive index did zoom. That it has taken a hammering since then and the president of the Bombay stock exchange has resigned (the second BSE president to resign in shady circumstances) suggest that something is rotten and much needs to be done before retail investors regain faith in the system. There are several strands in this tangled tale and it is difficult to disentangle them. There are the usual problems with valuing technology stocks and a meltdown is natural, as has indeed happened on Nasdaq. With the globalization of financial markets, it is also inevitable that a meltdown on Nasdaq should affect information, communications and entertainment stocks in India and no tears need be shed if speculators lose money in the process — even if the suicide of a couple in Haryana following the crash plucks at one’s heart strings. Nor should tears be shed if liquidity problems for these speculators lead to a snowballing effect on old economy stocks.

Having said this, questions arise about whether there is a systemic problem and an imminent payments crisis. The chairman of the securities and exchange board of India has argued that there are unlikely to be broker defaults and the finance minister has taken the same line of no settlement problems in Parliament. As regulators go, SEBI has plenty of teeth. There are strict margin requirements that are enforced and curbs on short sales have been imposed. After the crisis, the Reserve Bank of India has also asked banks to submit details of their exposure in stock markets.

But beyond post-crisis knee-jerk reactions, one needs to ask whether rules have indeed been broken and if they have, why weren’t these rules enforced in the first place? The stock market has witnessed three scams in this decade and prevention is better than trying to cure the problem post facto. Do regulators in India follow best practices worldwide? This assumes significance because the BSE is not professionally run, unlike the national stock exchange, and elsewhere, broker-run stock exchanges are subjected to disciplines not presently applied in India. For instance, on the New York stock exchange (which is also an association of brokers), the chief executive officer is not allowed to act as a broker as long as he holds office. In the present case, there seems to be some circumstantial evidence of bears attacking the K-10 stocks of the bull, Mr Ketan Parekh, and the Global Trust Bank excessively financing Mr Parekh’s market operations. There are suggestions that the BSE president accessed privileged information from the exchange’s surveillance department and may have passed on this information to other brokers, even though he may not have used it for his own benefit. While investing on the stock market is not risk-free, contrary to expectations of many retail investors, the system needs to ensure that rules are in place and these rules will be followed. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey argues that even mutual fund procedures are not as safe as is commonly believed. While the headline-grabbing statements of a stock market crash are undoubtedly exaggerated, serious introspection on the part of the finance ministry, the RBI and the SEBI is required.


The surrender of insurgents is always an important spectacle in Assam. The most recent case is also important in other ways. Six members of the militant outfit, Harkat-ul-Mujahedin — picked up by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence from the Goalpara and Dhubri districts for arms training in Pakistan — have surrendered to the chief minister, Mr Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. This is the first time that Harkat-ul-Mujahedin guerrillas have surrendered in the state. Some important information is being gathered from them about terrorist networks in Assam, which will also help in tackling militants belonging to the United Liberation Front of Asom. Such surrenders happen regularly in Assam, and the ruling alliance keeps furnishing impressive figures for converted militants. Their proper rehabilitation is, however, hardly a guaranteed or achieved fact, nor is the authenticity of such rituals.

Such an event would certainly be seized by Mr Mahanta to salvage the image of his increasingly unpopular party, the Asom Gana Parishad, with the run-up to the assembly elections having already begun in the state. This would be a particularly critical moment since the surrenders coincide with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s announcement that it would not form a poll alliance with either the AGP or the Congress in Assam. This could be a disadvantage for Mr Mahanta’s party. In the last two parliamentary elections, the AGP has failed to win a single seat. The BJP and the AGP enjoy a common support base in the state from among its mainstream voters. During the last parliamentary polls the BJP candidates had won from the traditional AGP strongholds. The BJP seems now to have clearly dissociated itself from a regional party whose track record looks increasingly bleak. Continuing insurgency, financial devastation, halted development and a great deal of ineffectual time-serving regarding the fraught issue of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act have all contributed to the dwindling of the AGP’s popularity. In such a situation, this sort of “guns for roses” show could become strategically important.


Moments before we moved into NDTV’s makeshift studio at the Confederation of Indian Industry headquarters, colleagues were unanimous in their view that the finance minister had indeed a very difficult task ahead of him. Then came the almost two-hour-long budget speech. And the result all around: overwhelming. What struck me most through Yashwant Sinha’s speech was how Sinha has grown in stature over the years. This year’s budget speech was delivered with utmost confidence and a body language more positive than I have ever seen in him. In these televised-democracy times that we live in, such positive body language certainly helps and makes a change from those angry and unsavoury gesticulations from our elected leaders. Well done, Mr Sinha.

I was very pleased to see such a strong thrust on agriculture. This was important. And it has been a long time since one has seen such a thrust. The power sector was mentioned and importantly, the concept of proper user charge and recovery was brought up more than once and this is a very positive step. At least, the concept of “no free lunch” has now been accepted. However, no road map for power sector reforms was outlined and I am not clear how power theft will stop, nor how the state electricity boards will actually reform themselves. This was hazy.

The reiteration by the finance minister that the government intends to proceed on schedule with the decontrol of petroleum, fertilizer and sugar sectors was very good to hear. I wish him god-speed in this endeavour. Like many others, I was happy to see that the dividend tax, that had been raised to 20 per cent last year, has now wisely been brought back to 10 per cent. Along with it, the surcharge on direct taxes has been done away with and there are some capital gains tax relief. What else can one want?

A significant strategic direction was the major thrust given on the debt market. For historic reasons, India has never given much stress on debt, whereas worldwide debt plays a significant role in the development of a country. India has always depended on borrowing from banks. Public sector undertakings and corporates have not exposed themselves to market acceptability norms. Once the clearing corporation for debt is set up and a major thrust is given to public debt, government corporations, municipal corporations, infrastructure companies and corporates will be able to raise bonds in the public debt market. Such bonds will have to be rated by the credit rating agencies and the investors will invest on the basis of a company’s track record and credit rating, as it is done in the rest of the world. This is a very major development for the longer-term development of the country.

In parallel, it was interesting that the budget gave a major signal on interest rate reduction by as much as 1.5 per cent, which, apart from anything else, leads to the expectation of a further rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India. But more importantly, the lower the small savings interest rate is, the lower will be the borrowing cost and, therefore, cost of production. Over time, investors in that segment will move over to the public debt market. These are all positive developments.

However, the most laudable feature in the budget is the outlining of certain hard measures. This was the first time any senior government official has actually spoken on hitherto taboo subjects like labour law reform and downsizing government. I can imagine there will be a mixed reaction to labour law reform. Mixed, because the unions may oppose and certain managements start grumbling about 45 days’ wages per year of employment. But let us not get into the fine print. The concept that a company can retrench people is being accepted for the first time and this is very good.

On the matter of downsizing the government, 10 per cent in 5 years is nowhere near enough. Anyone who has any experience in the government corridors, as in the railways and postal department, will know how many people are simply superfluous. Downsizing by 2 per cent a year is too little. But I take consolation from the fact that a finance minister has had the courage to utter the “D”-word. I applaud him for it and I hope that this National Democratic Alliance government will have an equal amount of courage to implement these path-breaking reform measures.

Lest this sounds like a poem in praise of the finance minister, let me point out the five counts on which I felt some disappointment. The subsidy bill, alarmingly, has not gone down, in fact it has gone up. This was bad. The interest quantum on past debt and its impact on the fiscal deficit will soon turn into folklore, the way every analyst is now discussing it. But Sinha has not given an indication of how he will be able to exorcise this ghost from the past. Third, as was expected, Sinha put a target of Rs 12,000 crore for disinvestment. Year after year such targets have been set and a mockery made of them. And now we have yet another target. Why should anyone believe that this target will be achieved? Fourth, I was ho- peful that Sinha will give a signal for ope- ning up the service sector. This would have helped in absorbing the surplus employees that may get affected by dow- nsizing. Maximum employment generation takes place in the service sector in many countries, but not yet in India.

Let this remain an unfinished agenda for Sinha for the next budget. Finally, I was disappointed with the lower level of capital expenditure. In 1990-91, the capital expenditure to total expenditure ratio was at 31per cent. It is now down to 15 per cent. This can have frightening consequences. But overall, a good job done under very difficult circumstances. It will have a strong growth impact on the economy, no doubt. Certainly a reformist budget, and to borrow the prime minister’s phrase, “forward looking”.

As expected, there has been an overwhelming support to the budget from all parts of India. And as expected, there has been a strong negative reaction from West Bengal. Perhaps neither of these over-reactions is right. Any budget is only as good as its implementation. Does this government have the ability to implement? Equally, I could not understand why ministers from West Bengal were saying on television that the budget was anti-people and anti-Bengal. Anti-Bengal? Being a good Bengali, should I be concerned? And the answer came back a loud “no”. I was actually quite pleased.


The Dayaks gave up head-hunting 30 odd years ago, but they still know how to chop off heads. Many of the 400 Madurese settlers murdered by bands of young Dayak men since the killing started a few weeks ago in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, have been found headless. Is this merely savagery versus civilization — or is it an ugly but legitimate anti-colonial struggle?

The Madurese settlers moved to Borneo in good faith, but they do not share either language or religion or ethnicity with the indigenous people of Borneo, who did not invite them. And it is an open secret that the whole policy of “transmigration”, while ostensibly meant to relieve overcrowding on the congested central island of Java, was really designed to homogenize and control the non-Javanese, largely non-Muslim areas of the Indonesian archipelago like Borneo, the Moluccas and West Papua.

Then the old dictator fell in 1998 after 30 years in power and was replaced by a weak democratic government. Senior armed forces officers, worried that democracy will reduce their opportunities for large-scale corruption, secretly encouraged regional separatist movements in the hope both of making themselves indispensable and of destabilizing democracy itself.

Mau Mau revisited

So soon there were “ethnic clashes” in Borneo, in West Papua, and in the Moluccas, building on existing grievances but facilitated by the military’s deliberate policy of non-intervention. The first Dayak-Madurese clashes, in western Borneo in 1999, left 260 dead. This time the fighting is in south-central Borneo, the death toll is worse and the military have done little except help the Madurese to flee.

It’s a bad business all round, but what can explain or justify the brutality of the Dayaks’ behaviour? The best analogy, perhaps, is the Mau Mau movement in Kenya.

Back in the Fifties, the last decade before the British realized that the game of empire was up, there was a substantial white settler population in the Kenya Highlands, the most desirable farming land in Kenya. Kikuyu tribesmen, whose families had been pushed off that land, formed a terrorist army called Mau Mau and began attacking the settlers, often massacring entire families. Whatever the rights and wrongs of their tactics, they were certainly right to resist the invasion of their lands. They won, in the end, and their leader, Jomo Kenyatta, became the first president of independent Kenya.

The motivation of the Dayaks in Borneo is not much different from that of the Mau Mau in Kenya. So are they headed for the same outcome? It depends.

Leave and let live

Indonesia is undoubtedly still an empire, not a coherent nation. The archipelago was never united under a single government until the Dutch imperialists did it, using mostly Javanese troops to conquer the rest. After the interlude of the Japanese occupation during World War II, the war of independence against the Dutch in 1947 was fought and won mostly in Java by the Javanese — and they just took over the empire.

Under both the independence hero Sukarno and his successor Suharto, it remained an empire, run mostly by and for the Javanese, who account for less than half the population. If its new democratic rulers do not realize that it now has to be run differently, with enough self-determination for its smaller peoples, then Indonesia will break up as other colonial empires have.

It is entirely possible to reconcile most of Indonesia’s other peoples to living in a genuinely multi-ethnic democracy if their rights are respected (with the exception of West Papua, which will probably have to be set free in the end). But in order to win back the loyalty of the Dayaks to the Indonesian state, most of the Madurese, who were evidently sent to the wrong place, will probably have to be evacuated.

Can the Indonesian government act on these realities in time? Not under the present president, Abdurrahman Wahid, a blind and increasingly erratic leader who showed his deep concern for the fate of the Dayaks and Madurese alike by leaving for a two-week trip to west Asia and Africa as the slaughter mounted in Borneo, saying he was not worried about it.

Unless “Gus Dur”, as he is popularly known, either resigns or is impeached in the next few months, both Indonesia’s democracy and its territorial integrity are at risk.


To read and write about a novel over 500 pages long, with unpronounceable names of people and places comprising unlikely combinations of letters like “q”, “z”, “n” and “j”, is a daunting task. However, there are compelling reasons to try and read Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain. For one, it has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for literature. Though quite a few second-raters were given the award and first raters overlooked, making one’s own judgment is well worthwhile. For another, Gao, who had attained some eminence in his country, fell foul of the communist regime and his writings were pronounced obscene. He fled the capital before they arrested him, disappeared in the mountains, visiting old Buddhist and Daoist monasteries, looking for mythical serpents and the Chinese counterpart of India’s yeti, meeting scholars and farmers and making love to women.

When he felt the government had forgotten about his existence, he slipped out of the country; since then he has been living in self-imposed exile in Paris. His books are banned in China, but published in Taiwan. It is probable that the Nobel prize committee chose to honour him because besides being a master of prose, he was persecuted for speaking his mind. Soul Mountain is a mixture of travelogue and fiction. Gao has one of his characters pronounce on his behalf, “You’ve slapped together travel notes, moralistic ramblings, feelings, notes, jottings, untheoretical discussions, unfable-like fables, copied out some folk songs, added some legend-like nonsense of your own invention, and are calling it fiction!”

Gao is being very harsh on himself. As a matter of fact, there is a link which connects all his characters with himself. To start with, there is a nurse who, like himself, is trying to escape from unpleasant realities of life at home and the hospital she is working in. She meets the author, they become companions and lovers. Both share a lust for travel and each other’s bodies. “It is the absence of goals which creates the ultimate traveller,” writes Gao. It is the same with love; if marriage is its goal, it ceases to be love. His description of union with his lady companion is as lyrical as any I have read.

“Flushed cheeks and leaping flames are suddenly swallowed in darkness, bodies are twisting and turning. She tells you not so rough, she calls out you’re hurting! She struggles, calls you an animal! She has been stalked, hunted, torn apart, devoured. Ah... this dense palpable darkness, primordial chaos, no sky, no ground, no space, no time, no existence, no non-existence, no existence and no non-existence; non-existence exists so there is non-existence; of existence; non-existence of existence exists so there is non-existence of non-existence ; burning charcoal, moist eye, open cave, vapours rising, burning lips, deep growls; human and animal invoking primitive darkness; forest tiger in agony, lusting; flames rise, she screams and weeps; the animal bites, roars and, possessed by spirits, jumps and leaps, circling the fire which burns brighter and brighter, ephemeral flames, without form. In the mist-filled cave a fierce battle rages, pouncing, shrieking, jumping, howling, strangling and devouring...The stealer of fire escapes, the torch recedes into the distance, goes deeper into the darkness, grows smaller and smaller, until a flame no bigger than a bean sways in the cold breeze and finally goes out.”

Gao’s style of writing is unlike anything I have come across. But one does not have to cultivate taste for dog meat and fiery mao thai to come to terms with it. He discovers that there is nothing inscrutable about the Chinese, their women are not flat-chested or frigid. On the contrary, from those Gao encountered they are full-bosomed, wanton and more eager than men to get into bed. At the end of page 509, one wishes Soul Mountain should have gone on another 509 pages.

It’s all in those lines

It must have been more than 20 years ago when she first came to see me in my office; thirtyish, chubby with engaging manners and a winsome smile. She told me of the eminent men and women whose palms she had read and correctly predicted ups and downs in their political futures: Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi, Jagjivan Ram, Chandra Shekhar and others.

That kind of spiel is common among astrologers, palmists and others of their tribe. “Tell me something about my future,” I asked her. Without looking at my palm she said, “You will be going abroad in a few days.” Three days later, I left for Europe.

If it had not happened, I would not have written about her. Since it did, I wrote a longish piece about her other predictions. Then I lost track of her.

She rang me up from Meerut where she lives and made an appointment. She had put on a little weight and her frontal hair had strands of grey. Nevertheless she looked as fetching as she was 20 years earlier. Since then she had been practising tantra. In addition to reading palms, she has developed skills to ward off evils by tantric rituals. She claims to have saved a man condemned to death and exorcized evil spirits. She chats away merrily of her many achievements switching from Punjabi to Hindi to English and peppering her monologue with Sanskrit slokas. Ravi is one of a family of six children of bharadwaj Brahmins of Multan who migrated to India during Partition.

She got her BA degree privately. In 1971 she married Sahib Das through the matrimonial columns of The Hindustan Times, and settled with him in Meerut where his family owned a flourishing business in electric appliances. Her husband was an active member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. When the organization was banned, he changed his name to Rakesh Mohan. He was jailed during the Emergency. In 1982, he suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed. Ravi nursed him for five years till he died in 1987 leaving her a childless widow.

Ravi was born with the gift of prophecy. Often what she said came true and she was loaded with gifts. She decided to further the gift by studying palmistry from her guru, P.C. Chauhan, and soon acquired a large clientele of her own.

“How is it that no fortune teller was able to predict the partition of India in 1947 or the Gujarat earthquake of January 26, 2001?”, I asked her.

“I am not an astrologer, but a palmist,” she replied unfazed. “Besides that fortune-tellers avoid giving bad news to customers.”

I did not buy her explanation because she herself told me of deaths she had predicted. I asked her to explain how she read the future through lines on palms of the people. Instead of showing my hand, I took her hands in mine; they were soft and the lines much clearer than on mine.

She took out her magnifying glass and explained; “More important than the bold lines demarcating length of life, fortune and brain power are the barely perceptible lines in between which convey messages.” She showed me circle of Venus on her palm and whorls on her fingers: four on one hand, three on the other.

In addition to fortune-telling, Ravi is now marketing two magical potions: Mukh Shodhak Jal, which is meant to cure muscular and joint pains, and Supati Jal, to be applied externally to cure skin diseases. I asked her how these jals acquired healing powers. “It is largely a matter of faith. You have to believe they are curative and they will cure you. It may sound miraculous but miracles do happen.”

Keeping a close watch

Lord Babington Macaulay, the famous historian, was in Rome on holiday. One evening after dinner, he decided to take a stroll to the Colosseum. On the way a dark figure in a cloak brushed against him. Soon after, Macaulay found that his watch was missing. Being no weakling, Macaulay immediately gave chase and overtook his quarry. As communication proved impossible, neither being able to speak the other’s language, the encounter ended in a struggle in the semi-darkness, during which the Italian was forced to hand over a watch. Feeling well-satisfied with himself, Macaulay walked back to his lodgings.

There he was greeted by his landlady who said, “Excuse me, signor, I have put your watch on the dressing table in your room. I found it in the dining room after you had gone.”



Tea for the second sex

Sir — While most women’s organizations were busy conducting seminars to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, tried to do his bit by organizing a tea party at his residence (“Atal tees off gender party”, Mar 9). However, this attempt to demonstrate the government’s sensitivity on women’s issues has not fooled anyone. One doubts if Vajpayee is even aware of the fact that there are certain communities in our country who believe that beating a child with a red-hot sickle cures all diseases. Ignorance coupled with poverty and the lack of proper education makes the situation critical, especially in the rural areas. The government’s failure to pass the women’s reservation bill says a great deal about its lack of initiative as far as women’s issues are concerned. Vajpayee has only done what is considered appropriate in this age of political correctness. He must understand that inviting celebrities from all walks of life to a tea party accomplishes nothing.
Yours faithfully,
Sumita Saha, via email

No good will come of it

Sir — One wonders what will happen if tens of thousands of schoolgoers are told that they would not have to appear for examinations in the near future (“10 years in school and no exams”, Mar 3). To acknowledge the shortcomings of the present system of examinations and to redress them as far as possible, to sensitize teachers and parents to the woes of examinees, to reduce the burden of studies on very young children — all these are laudable objectives and long overdue, but any talk of doing away with examinations altogether is sheer lunacy. As a teacher and parent I am absolutely sure nothing good will come of it.

While the desire to change the existing system is no doubt commendable, things should not become too easy for the students, otherwise most of the youngsters will neglect their studies. Teachers know more about the psychology of students than research scholars, bureaucrats and ministers.

If the system of examinations is to be done away with, an alternate system of evaluation will have to take its place. Will the policy-makers and educationists be able to guarantee that such a system will be able remove the disadvantages of the previous system? If the schools are left to devise their own systems of evaluation, there will be gross disparity in standards from one school to another.

At present, all good schools prepare their pupils well for public examinations. By the time most students reach the secondary and higher-secondary levels, they are psychologically equipped to deal with them. Despite the fact that they are accustomed to regular examinations, most of them find the prospect of sitting for their board examinations frightening. Imagine their confusion and helplessness if they were not used to the system of examinations and would have to sit for them for the very first time at the age of 16.

Many “alternatives” to conventional examinations have already been tried out in many schools. By and large they have proved to be either a nuisance or a farce, or sometimes both. Do we need more of the same?

Considering the fact that examinations are an inescapable reality in life and these students will have to sit for them when they are looking for jobs, abolishing them makes little sense.

Yours faithfully,
Suvro Chatterjee, via email

Sir — The human resources development minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, deserves praise for proposing to abolish examinations at the school level. The current system of examinations has become a torture for students. Over-ambitious parents set impossible targets for their children and drive them to distraction. Abolition of examinations will make a lot of people nervous in the beginning but will pay great dividends for our future generations.

Yours faithfully,
P.L. Kumar, via email

Sir — The proposal made by the Murli Manohar Joshi to dispense with examinations for children upto the secondary level is irresponsible. Most children study for and during the examinations. Joshi could easily have made suggestions that would improve the existing methods of conducting examinations. As far as devising alternative methods of evaluation is concerned, he should first spell these out before talking about doing away with tests and examinations.

Yours faithfully,
S.M. Fernandes, via email

Sir — The editorial, “Spare the Child” (March 9), while criticizing the interventionist attitude of the state fails to suggest an alternative system of evaluation that would benefit Indian students. It also states that “schools should be as free as is practically possible to formulate and implement their own contents and methods of teaching and evaluation”. Such a statement seems to contradict what had been said a few lines earlier regarding the fate of states like Bihar if the government decides to implement an alternative system of evaluation. While a centralized system of evaluation is definitely on the cards, the abolition of examinations cannot be the right solution. The assessment of students is bound to suffer if there are no examinations. Oral tests and class evaluation also give the less dedicated teachers an opportunity to shirk responsibilities.

Yours faithfully,
J.K. Saha, via email

Sir — It was interesting to read the editorial, “Spare the Child” (Mar 9). While the first part of the editorial rightly pointed out the need for a change in the educational system which would subsequently reduce the children’s burden, the second part is full of doubts and seems to question the government’s intentions.

Moreover, it would be unfair to to accuse the government of interference in matters of education. The government is not really trying to get a bigger say in education, rather it is trying to get out of it.

Yours faithfully,
Sush Kocher, Calcutta

Balco battle

Sir —The sell-off of Bharat Aluminium Company to a private sector aluminium company, Sterlite Industries, has triggered a nationwide debate (“Jogi joins Balco legal battle”, March 4). The main area of controversy is the valuation which, according to government sources, is Rs 1,080 crore while the opposition claim that it is around Rs 3,500 crore. It is astonishing to observe the reaction of the disinvestment minister, Arun Shourie, who is so preoccupied with his stand on the issue that he has paid very little attention to what the opposition had to say. Shourie has reportedly said that Balco can be compared to a software giant which has no assets but is still worth a billion dollars.

Given that public sector units like Balco were built out of taxpayers’ money, the government should disclose further details so that the public can understand what is going on. Another interesting fact which has no doubt escaped the attention of the government is that Balco has a bauxite mine in Chhattisgarh. After the sell-off, Balco is now a private enterprise and one cannot help wondering how it will get permission to continue mining in an area which qualifies as a tribal area. Moreover, according to the fifth schedule of our Constitution mining is prohibited in tribal areas.The Supreme Court had upheld the sanctity of the fifth schedule in a famous 1997 judgment. Will the government allow the tremendous pressure exerted by the multinational companies to cloud its judgment so much that it may actually proceed to amend the Constitution to suit its purposes?

Yours faithfully
Somnath Bhattacharyya, Calcutta

Sir — The disruptive criticism of the disinvestment of Balco by some members of Parliament deserves to be condemned. The country is seriously in debt and the Union government alone is paying more than Rs 1,10,000 crore as interest on the loans that it has incurred. The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu, has said that the amount of Rs 9,000 crore that has been allotted for development in the fiscal year 2001-02 will have to be financed by loans as all other avenues are sufficient only to cover salary expenditure. Under the given circumstances, the sale of public sector units and the use of the proceeds to make up for the debt makes perfect sense.

No one will buy a company which is sick. Almost all our PSUs are lossmakers. Even companies that are predominantly monopolies have often suffered losses whenever they had to compete with private companies. The delay in the sale of Balco would only have resulted in a decline in the profits. It is better for PSUs that are suffering from losses to sell their shares while they are in a position to do so. There is no reason why the government cannot reveal the details of the sale once the deal has been clinched. This would answer the public’s queries and enable them to judge the wisdom of the government’s decision.

Yours faithfully,
T. Mani Chowdary, Secunderabad

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