Editorial 1/ Food for some
Editorial 2/ Ceaseless talk
The odour of wrongdoing
Fifth Column/ There is a worst in every religion
This above all/ No more taboos please, we’re liberal
Not to be seen and cannot be measured
Letters to the editor

A couple of statements in the finance minister’s budget speech have not generated much controversy so far. But if these reforms are implemented, the present agricultural economy will be transformed. The Essential Commodities Act of 1955 was originally enacted under the Defence of India Rules of 1939, during a period of war-time shortages. Commodities perceived as “essential” then are no longer characterized by shortages. The almost 200 Central and state-level orders promulgated under ECA are also dysfunctional and prevent a common market for agriculture within the country. Mr Yashwant Sinha has promised review of both ECA and assorted orders, although implementation will depend on the states. ECA provides the legal basis for procurement of many agricultural products, including foodgrains. Both procurement and distribution are in a mess, evidenced by a food mountain that is fed to rats. The National Democratic Alliance prevailed on the government to hike procurement prices and there is also well-documented inefficiency in the Food Corporation of India’s procurement operations. Conversely, the public distribution system has not worked satisfactorily and leakage has also been documented. The PDS has a pronounced pro-urban bias and does not exist in truly poor and backward areas. Very few of the genuine poor can source food requirements through the PDS. Ideally, in the process of reforms, the PDS should have been junked and replaced by properly targeted food stamps. Since this was politically unacceptable, the conventional PDS has been rendered unattractive by hiking central issue prices. The states do not have the courage to hike retail prices and fiscal bankruptcy prevents them from bridging the widening gap between central issue prices and retail prices. Hence the reduced offtake, contributing to the food mountain. Since market-determined prices are now often lower than conventional PDS prices, the PDS is no longer attractive to ordinary consumers.

However, two further rungs to PDS have been added: the below the poverty line scheme, with some subsidy component and the poorest of the poor (Antyodaya) scheme, with rice and wheat being distributed virtually gratis, if one nets out transportation and carrying costs. The budget suggests that procurement for PDS and its assorted variants will be thrown open to the private sector. FCI will only procure for buffer stock purposes and states will have the option of choosing FCI or the private sector for operating PDS. Allied and beneficiary states like Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh will thus no longer be able to pressurize the Central government to hike procurement prices and these states also have very little experience of procuring directly from farmers. Since the Centre will no longer procure for PDS, states can only hope for financial assistance from the Centre. There is great variation in operating PDS across states: with efficient Kerala at one extreme and inefficient Bihar at the other. Not more than half of the states and union territories have so far been able to identify BPL households and issue special ration cards to them. The Antyodaya scheme is too recent to judge.

Foisting responsibility on states is not undesirable, as it discourages populism. But it also contributes to enhanced inter-state disparities. There will also be Centre-state controversies, Andhra Pradesh being a case in point. The Centre can legitimately argue that 15 per cent of households in Andhra Pradesh are BPL, as demonstrated by the National Sample Survey and financial assistance will be linked to this figure. Andhra Pradesh would like 80 per cent of households to be BPL. One interpretation of first-generation vis-à-vis second-generation reforms is a switch in focus from the Centre to the states. And that is not without problems.


The ceasefire in the Northeast seems to be doomed. Although a formal announcement has not been made yet, the Centre seems to be hedging out of the idea of a unilateral ceasefire with all militant organizations in the region. This puts the clock back yet again, and the negotiations are once more heading towards confusion and doublespeak. The damage done to law and order, and to the prospect of overall development, in these blighted states will, of course, be immense. The home minister had recently passed through the states with much pomp and ceremony. Talks of an “extension” of the ceasefire were in the air. This, and the army’s suspension of operations against militants in Manipur for 15 days had begun to look hopeful. Yet, merely floating the word, “extension”, left Mr L.K. Advani’s assurances vague enough to have indicated, perhaps, that further confusions were on the way.

The greatest harm that this dithering would do to the ceasefire talks could be the Centre’s complete loss of credibility as a negotiator. The series of swings, and the complete lack of clarity in the manner in which it sends out conflicting messages convey an impression not only of insincerity and ineptitude, but also of a great deal of ignorance about the social and political realities that determine the nature of militancy in the Northeast. Crucial factors are at work here. There is the entire issue of the relationship between state boundaries and ethnic identity: what constitutes Nagaland or Nagalim, for instance? There is also the more complicated situation involving the neighbouring countries of Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, cited as one of the excuses for the Centre’s vacillation. Most of the more powerful militant outfits in the region have already stopped trusting the Centre, or even taking it seriously. This latest retraction will certainly not earn the Centre any more bargaining power with the terrorists.


The heroes of yesteryear end up repeating the lines of erstwhile rivals. Even when announcing his resignation, the defence minister, George Fernandes, was unrepentant. He had done no wrong and was the subject of a political witch-hunt. All was above board: only the investigating journalists were at fault for undermining the country’s integrity and the morale of the services. The Congress sang a similar tune when questioned about the Bofors deal. It attacked the motives of the fourth estate when the latter dug deep. It took refuge behind the apolitical nature of the armed forces. It even planned to enact an anti-defamation bill.

But the political damage that such scandals can cause is all too real. During the storm over the Bofors gun, the then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, made a suo motu statement in the house of the people that neither he “nor any member of his family” had received any commission for the purchase of the Swedish-made howitzer.

The logic behind his plea was simple enough. Any doubt in the public mind about dishonest deals over the country’s security would be politically damaging. The question was not only one of ethics or of the bending of legal rules. It was one of political legitimacy. Once lost, it would be hard to retrieve.

Such a spectre has now come to haunt Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government. The difference is that Rajiv Gandhi had a huge majority of more than 400 seats in the Lok Sabha. Even that proved to be cold comfort, once the gun became the unifying symbol for his opponents. It was the singular symbol of the distance between the regime and the people. Today’s regime is not on such firm ground in Parliament.

The National Democratic Alliance is a combine of diverse political groups that see eye to eye on few issues and differ on their approach to many. Yet, at the heart of the enterprise was one critical view: that India needed a serious effort to put together a regime that was outside the Congress.

This is what made a man like George Fernandes, the giant-killer of the Sixties and the champion of democratic struggle against the Emergency, so important to the alliance. More than that he was among the first secular politicians to make common cause with the Bharatiya Janata Party once he parted company with his erstwhile Janata Dal allies in the post-Babri phase. If the call to restore democracy had been the clarion call of the Seventies, and corruption the issue in the Eighties, the new decade saw power emerge as an end in and for itself.

Fernandes was a symbol of rebellion in one era and ceaseless compromise in the next. The Tehelka tapes point to the limits of a political alliance that made security central to its campaign. Kargil was to Vajpayee what the Bangladesh war was to Indira Gandhi.

But a party like the Samata has a different standard when called to account for its own deeds. One policy for Patna and another for Delhi; one yardstick for opponents and another for one’s own party: this is the line being followed. Even the exit of its high profile party president and leading minister was only accomplished because of unprecedented public pressure and arm-twisting by allies. The delay was itself laden with deeper meaning: for a time, it seemed they would simply wish away the problem and deny the need to resign.

The odour of wrongdoing over defence is what is common to the late Eighties and the present day. But in many other respects, the picture in 2001 is a very different one. The BJP stands at the centre of a complex network of alliances, which are starting to unravel. The regime is still in place, though not with the kind of assurance a one party ministry could muster.

For the saffron party, the issue has already led to changes in the internal balance of forces. The exit of Bangaru Laxman was swift. Unlike in 1996, when the leadership rallied to L.K. Advani’s side, no major leader came to his support.

Having had to downplay the Ram mandir card, the party had settled on its record in defence of the nation. The sectarian card cannot be played for it will put the regime under threat. And now the call of a nation in danger will lose its vote-drawing appeal. The problem lies not in threats to survival but in a loss of face. It will not be easy to keep a straight face now when saffronites talk of corruption. The tapes will have a longer life than the hawala scandal of the Nineties.

Given the troubled history of the country over the last two decades, with memories of the Kargil conflict fresh in mind and insurgencies a major issue in key border states, this is but natural. Citizens are entitled to ask what kind of country we live in whose leaders are up for grabs.

Observers of provincial politics have rightly focused on Mamata Banerjee’s exit from the alliance. But there is more to this than realpolitik. All through her political career, she has worked to carve out a special niche in the urban middle-class mind. Denied a due place in the Congress’s family, she hitched her star to Vajpayee’s bandwagon. She endorsed his credentials on secularism, and crucially drew from his charisma. It is the latter that has been dimmed by inept handling of the tapes. It is still too early to predict whether this is only the beginning of middle-class disillusionment with the premier party of Hindutva.

But the climate of sleaze that hangs over the party and its parent organization will not be so easy to shake off. Middle-class opinion has been quick to gravitate towards a leader with a “clean image” in the past, and equally fast in moving on beyond this was the case with both Rajiv Gandhi and V.P. Singh. Will Vajpayee be next? If so, the implications for the loose gaggle of parties he heads is an obvious one.

The tapes will do much to redraw the boundaries within the ruling alliance in New Delhi. Old ties will come under fresh strains, and nowhere as much as between regional parties and the BJP. The last general elections clearly reflected the growing clout of its allies.

Within the NDA, the proportion of Lok Sabha seats held by the premier party declined from 70 per cent in 1998 to only 60 per cent in the 1999 house. The chief gainers were the state-specific parties, who held just under a third of all alliance seats. As the majority gets thinner, the premier party’s dependence on them will increase. They will gain and it will pay the price.

It is still unclear what this means for the polity as a whole. One conclusion is inescapable. Even governments with a clear mandate from the people find themselves out of touch with the popular mood, not in years but in a matter of months.

Coalition politics brought with it hopes of greater transparency and more accountability. It was the hope of many that in the absence of single-party hegemony, there would be more checks and balances in place. These hopes have been belied. The experiments with coalitions are far from over, but the present dispensation has not lived up to its promise.

Strangely enough, the government is being pilloried not for “the communal danger” but for alleged graft. This in turn will be sought to be linked by rivals to the state of the economy and the condition of the under classes. A scam over defence will keep the government on the back foot. Vajpayee will need every ounce of political acumen at his command to weather the storm as his ship sails on into choppy seas.

The author is an indepedent researcher on ecology and political affairs and former fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum Library, New Delhi


The problem is that the world is actually a very provincial place. Most people in the non-Muslim parts of the world have never been in any Muslim country, so if Muslims anywhere in the world do something really stupid, they will readily believe that those actions are typical of Islam — and of course, the headlines will suggest that they are typical. Like, for example, the headlines after the taliban regime of Afghanistan blew up the giant 1,700-year-old Buddha statues of Bamiyan last week.

It was vandalism and cultural intolerance on a massive scale, and rightly condemned by people and governments around the world, including most Muslim governments. But it is worth noting, now that the huge Bamiyan statues are gone — the taller of the two was 180 feet high — that the largest graven image from ancient times still surviving in the world is the Great Sphinx of Egypt. And Egypt has been under Muslim rule for about 1,300 years.

All the Muslim regimes of Egypt, like all the previous Muslim governments of Afghanistan for over a thousand years, protected the pre-Muslim heritage of their countries. The taliban mullahs who now rule the country are fanatical hicks from the deepest countryside who have been further radicalized by two decades of incessant war, but to imply that their behaviour is typical of Islam is slander.

Reflex iconoclasm

Intolerance is not a Muslim failing but a human one. Many ancient Egyptian archaeological sites have been vandalized, for example, with the faces hacked off the statues even in the tombs, but that was not the work of Muslims. It was the work of iconoclastic Christian fanatics in the last centuries before the Muslim conquest.

This is not to say that Muslims have been entirely blameless in these matters. Both Christianity and Islam harbour a significant prejudice against representations of the human face and form, partly as a result of their shared Jewish roots, and partly because in their formative stages they were at war with older religions that did indeed worship (or at least symbolically revere) carved and painted idols.

Their reflex iconoclasm may subside for long periods of time, but it keeps bursting out — as when Protestant rebels rejected Roman Catholic religious imagery four centuries ago to pursue a more austere vision of Christianity, and when the puritanical Wahhabi reformers imposed an even more austere version of Islam on Saudi Arabia in the last century. What we are seeing in Afghanistan at the moment is an offshoot of the latter.

The Wahhabi religious authorities have been zealously eradicating any evidence of pre-Islamic religious practices in the Saudi-controlled part of Arabia since 1820, when they destroyed the 12th-century statues of Dhu Khalasa. They’re still at it today.

Lives above rocks

When the Lebanese professor, Kemal Salibi, suggested in a book a decade ago that the once-Jewish villages in what is northwestern Saudi Arabia might have been the location for many of the earliest passages in the Bible, they immediately bulldozed the ancient buildings in those villages.

Only if the world archaeological community is mobilized early — as in the discovery of a 5th- or 6th-century Christian church in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province some years ago — can the Wahhabi vandals be stopped from erasing the evidence. (The church is now surrounded by barbed wire and off-limits to archaeologists, but was still standing at last report.) But their behaviour is no more representative of the tolerant spirit of the best of Islam than the Orthodox iconoclasts and the Puritan witch-burners were representative of the best of Christianity.

There is a best and a worst in every religion, as there is a best and a worst among the non-religious. All the great monuments of the past will be destroyed sooner or later. And people’s lives are still more important than pieces of rock. The taliban should not have destroyed the statues of Bamiyan. But they cannot have failed to notice that blowing them up focused more international attention on their country than all the years of war, all the lives that have been snuffed out, all the survivors living in hopeless misery. They are not exactly seeking help for the people they rule — they are far too bitter and cynical for that — but it wouldn’t hurt to send some help anyway.


During my college years in the Thirties, it was bad manners to even mention the names of red-light areas in different cities: Sonagachi (Calcutta), Kamatipura (Mumbai), Heera Mandi (Lahore), Chawri (Delhi), Mahboob ki Mehndi (Hyderabad). Talk of prostitution was taboo. No papers published four-letter words: even “fart” was regarded as odious. Male homosexuality was severely censured and punished as an act of criminality. Lesbianism was not heard of. The first lesbian novel I came across was The Well of Loneliness, published by the Obelisk Press in Paris. That, and other books like Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and Henry Miller’s books were banned in England and were only available in France.

Till the mid-Seventies, Ismat Chughtai’s Lihaaf (coverlet), a story of a begum’s affair with her maidservant, was banned. Even I, who claimed to be a non-conformist, refused to publish it in The Illustrated Weekly of India. Ismat and Sadaat Hassan Manto brought revolutionary changes in Urdu literature but their works, when translated into English, were unacceptable.

The world has moved at a faster pace than anyone could have foreseen. In many Western countries, homosexuality has been removed from penal codes. Marriages between members of the same sex have been validated. Writing on sex has become explicit. Even straight-laced papers like The Times of London print four-letter words. Tabloids go much further.

You can see changes in the Western direction in our newspapers and television channels. Sushma Swaraj has imposed her prissy, schoolmarmish views on TV channels, but most newspapers publish pictures of scantily-dressed models and starlets because if they did not, their circulation would drop. All the fiction writers put in dollops of sex to make their works saleable.

The Islamic world is more puritanical and confused. Iran, under the ayatollahs, has rigorous censorship imposed on writers and TV channels. The taliban have taken Afghanistan a few centuries backwards. Prostitution, like adultery, is punishable with death but as should have been anticipated in a severely segregated society, sodomy, which is rampant, is overlooked. The situation in Pakistan is full of contradictions. Despite General Zia-ul Haq’s draconian imposition of shariat laws, the red-light district of Lahore, Heera Mandi, flourishes as ever before, while adultery and blasphemy are punishable with death, and imbibing alcohol (which is easily available) punished by flogging.

For a realistic picture of Lahore today, read Mohsin Hamid’s Moth Smoke. Pakistani newspapers, journals and TV channels are duller than their Indian counterparts. As in India, male homosexuality is a crime. Nevertheless, in both countries, there are gay clubs and gay literature is openly sold.

Ifti Khar Nasim is Pakistan’s best known champion of male homosexual rights. He writes in English, Urdu and Punjabi. He was in India a couple of years ago to attend a conference on Urdu literature. He read a paper on Mirza Ghalib, quoting couplets to prove that the poet was not averse to homosexual relations. None of the seminarists was able to find any fault with him. Nasim now lives in Chicago. He is one of the founders of Sangat, a society of south Asian lesbians and gays. He delivers lectures on sexual diversity in different United States universities; the World Peace Academy of Delaware has given him an honorary doctorate of literature.

Nasim sent me his latest publication, Myrmecophile: Selected Poems, 1980-2000. I had to look up the dictionary to find the meaning of the word — ant-eating. The poems are good but explicitly homosexual; I will refrain from quoting them. Perhaps the acknowledgement will suffice. It reads, “Special thanks to Robert Klien Engler, Viru Joshi, Altaf Khan, Prem Chopra and all the people I slept with.”

Dances with rhyme

I have yet to meet an Indian woman as outrageously outspoken a smasher of middle-class conventions as Chandralekha. And at the same time a talented Bharatnatyam dancer during her younger days, choreographer, poet, essayist and activist in the Indian women’s struggle for equal rights. No other woman even looks like her: fair, with a monstrously large red bindi on her forehead. In one of her books you can see her photographs in which she is doing yoga, including the sheershasana (head stand). I once interviewed her for a TV programme and was quite bowled over by her transparent honesty. Chandralekha’s latest offering is a long poem she wrote in the Sixties: Rainbow on the Roadside, Montages of Madras. When she composed it, Chennai was a dreamy middle-sized town with a string of fishing villages along what is now Marina Beach. They were among the poorest, given to hard liquor, wife-bashing and pregnancy year after year.

Chandralekha chose her maidservant, Kamala, a full-bosomed Keralite, to tell the story of the lives of the people: extremely poor, yet chronically cheerful. She tells them in staccato one-word-lines which drive the lesson home like hammers drive nails into soft wood. The passage I have chosen is not about Kamala, but what she and her kin had to go through during the monsoons:

The rains came/ and the first smell of earth./ harmony of all things fragrant.

city soil/ hot and thirsty/ stirred and heaved./ on the roads/ everywhere/ puddles filled with sky./ and out came children/ screaming / shouting/ fiercely ecstatic/ they leapt in the air/ black and bare/ their skinny bodies wildly elemental/ in the muddy puddles

but men/ they looked at the sky and sighed/ no sun, meant no work./ and women kept watch/ at the roof, at the floor/ as the drops fell fast./ they set tins and pans/ and pots and buckets/ all over the floor/ to contain the leaking sky/ the leaking roof/ but water seeped from under, usurping all./ all clothes were drenched/ walls went damp/ huddled they sat/ and shivered/ the firewood was wet/ it wouldn’t burn/ the lungs were tired/ breath grew short from blowing/ in the pouring rain.

Burdened by the bank

Why worry about the state’s mounting deficit?
Our IT-savvy CM can deal with it
The World Bank will generously lend;
our rulers can liberally spend
And present a “zero-based” budget and bury us under it!

The 2001 census has assessed the participation of women in economic production, including the unpaid work done by women at home or in the fields. In underdeveloped countries like India, this work usually goes unnoticed. And this despite the fact that such work contributes either directly or indirectly to household and national incomes. In India, women have always worked as members of the labour force, in both the organized and unorganized sectors. But seldom has this work got a mention in national accounts statistics.

According to an estimate by the national commission on self-employed women, 94 per cent of the total female workforce operate within the vast rural and urban unorganized sectors. While in the urban unorganized sector, a majority of the women are directly involved in the construction business, in its rural counterpart, most of their work can be traced in nine employment systems. These are agriculture, dairying, small animal husbandry, fisheries, social and agro-forestry, khadi and village industries, handlooms, handicrafts and sericulture. The first five sectors are broadly classified as agriculture and allied occupations and the last four are categorized as the village and small industries sector.

Although investment outlays in these sectors commend a high priority, and several government programmes exist to boost the productivity of these sectors, most endeavours focus on men. Women are viewed as indirect beneficiaries through the male members of their households, and not as participants or target groups. Most jobs in these sectors are also low-paying. Women are gradually being replaced in these sectors. There is a strong relationship between class and caste in the ownership of land which works to the disadvantage of women. Poor women are also “invisible” workers. This invisibility is thrust upon them by confining them to the so-called subordinate roles. The activity profile of poor female workers presents a complex picture. On account of the intermittence and erratic availability of work, they are generally engaged in a multiplicity of activities.

Women work for longer hours and contribute more than men in terms of energy spent by the household members. Because of deeply entrenched social attitudes, women’s work continues to be invisible and confined more to non-monetary activities. There are a host of problems involved in measuring the economic contribution of women. The available data is grossly inadequate and underestimate their contribution to family income. Poor women are primarily self-employed, usually doing work which is home-based — a situation where their work intermingles with their household duties.

Much of this work that women do, despite adding to their household incomes, are outside the purview of a market economy. There are numerous activities like free collection of fodder and fuel, maintenance of dairy, poultry and animals, vegetable growing, food processing sewing, weaving and so on, in which women are engaged and which increase the “household’s command over the necessities”. Virtually every rural household would have to spend substantial amounts of money in procuring these services and commodities if they were not made readily available by women.

There are glaring differences in the average earnings of men and women doing the same work, especially in the unorganized sector. The unprotected female workers in this sector receive wages which are less than half of the wages earned by men, and the earnings of self-employed women are even lower. In spite of a constitutional guarantee of “equal pay for equal work”, women workers all over the country consistently receive much lower wages than men. Half a century after Independence and notwithstanding several constitutional guarantees, the status of women has not improved in India.



State of improvement

Sir — The chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has held out immense hope with his latest pronouncements at the gathering of the Ladies’ Study Group last Friday (“CM sops for GeneratioNext”, March 17). He is right about taking investors around in helicopters because the roads here are simply unusable. Even in our neighbouring state, Orissa, highways and city roads are better than what we have here. The tale of the Gariahat flyover is at best woeful. Naturally, all youngsters want to leave this city and go to other parts of India, where the quality of life is marginally better. Despite the degree of difference, there is at least a relief from the despair that the Calcuttan life stands to represent. Bhattacharjee’s high-powered plans to open centres of genetic engineering, biotechnology, oceanology, information technology and so on will certainly be good news, but the Calcuttan has heard all of this before. Unless foreign investors actually pump in money, the lives of people in this city and state are going to remain hapless.
Yours faithfully,
Vinod Agarwal, via email

Lost composure

Sir — One read Ian Chappell’s diatribe against the Indian skipper, Sourav Ganguly, with dismay (“Sourav on trial as captain, batsman”, March 11). More appalling than Chappell’s condescending tone was his misrepresentation of events. But then he is known for his jingoistic speech and campaigns of hate which he feels fit to broadcast over television and have printed on prime space.

One is also disappointed with Ganguly’s total loss of composure in reacting to Chappell. Shouldn’t he be more concerned with the sport than with what his critics are saying about him? He is lucky that India eventually pulled off that magical victory. But the initial debacle of the Indian team may have been brought on by Sourav Ganguly’s preoccupation with Chappell’s comments on Sunday morning.

Yours faithfully
Bibhu Dutt Padhi, via email

Sir — Sourav Ganguly’s letter on the front page (March 12) alongside Ian Chappell’s “Guest Column” is both interesting and ironic. Ganguly, as captain of the Indian cricket team, must be aware that cricket is a “gentleman’s game”. A cricketer ought to be known for his tolerance, acceptance of criticism and introspection. Ganguly’s reaction to Ian Chappell’s critical views shows his ego, which unerringly gets flaunted at the wrong time.

Yours faithfully,
K.S. Adhikari, Calcutta

Sir — Ian Chappell’s column, “Sit-back Sourav gifts Steve front seat” (March 13), leaves little room for doubt that Chappell is extremely biased against the Indian team and Sourav Ganguly. The kind of language used by Chappell to describe the intial poor performance of the Indian team exposes his deep contempt for our nation and team.

Would Chappell have used a similar language had the Austrialian team and/or their captain failed to perform? Surely there are other, less harsh, words which could have been used to describe the poor performance by the Indian team and captain. It is also unfortunate that an esteemed newspaper like The Telegraph has thought it fit to allot front-page newsspace to such a biased and obnoxious columnist. Ganguly and his team have supplied a fitting reply to Chappell’s apprehensions with their victory at the Eden Gardens.

Yours faithfully,
Ranjan Guha Majumder, Calcutta

Sir — Sourav Ganguly should learn to accept criticism from senior cricketers like Ian Chappell and use them constructively and send out his replies with some dignity.

Yours faithfully,
S. M. Fernandes, via email

Sir — It is indeed overwhelming to read that, after Sunil Gavaskar, another Indian captain has come up with a strong refutation against Ian Chappell’s “I know all” allegations. Chappell has been a great cricketer and captain, but his behaviour has always raised eyebrows. Who can forget his misdemeanour in one of the Sheffield Shield matches, when he removed his trousers in front of his home crowd to show his displeasure against the umpire? Of course, he was not penalized because the rules were not stringent enough in those days.

One cannot imagine how a nation which has produced Don Bradman, Bill O’Reilly, Neil Harvey, Ray Lindwal, Richie Benaud and the present captain and a true gentleman, Steve Waugh, could have also given us a person like Chappell.

Yours faithfully
Ashok Roy, Asansol

Explanations needed

Sir — The special court judge, Ajit Bharihoke, has been transferred (“Judge transfer”, March 6). The competent authorities, who have arranged the transfer, will probably come out with a statement calling the transfer a “routine” one. However, it will be very difficult for them to convince the people. Unless the reasons are made public through the Parliament or the press, the issue will remain controversial. This is because Bharihoke has been handling the VVIP cases, including an ex-prime minister. At the moment the crucial Bofors case is sub-judice and comes under the same court.

With due respect to the judiciary and the system of judicial administration that is concerned with the transfer of judges, could it be that the circumstances under which this transfer has been brought about are not exactly above board? In the past, there have been cases when political pressure has exerted influence on the appointment and transfer of judicial officials. Perhaps the Union law minister, Arun Jaitley, owes the nation an explanation.

Yours faithfully,
Pramod Patankar, Kanpur

Sir — In any country, where the life and property of common people are under regular threat, a law empowering the police to arrest any suspected criminal without a warrant should ideally be in the public’s interest. (“Not at your majesty’s discretion”, Feb 28). But, in that case the state administration and the political parties should be unitedly against organized crime. But the situation in India is different — although the police has the necessary powers under the criminal procedure code. Crimelords here are multimillionaires. There is a popular belief that they are the ones who also supply the political parties with money for their electoral campaigns. Under these circumstances, even an honest effort by the police is likely to be scotched by political intervention.

Yours faithfully,
Samir Ghosh, Calcutta

Impossible to legislate

Sir — The proposed domestic violence bill is not going to help those unfortunate rural women who are the most oppressed. There is a slender possibility that the bill’s safeguards will reach those households where they are most needed. This is because the tortured women are usually uneducated and have neither the means nor the opportunity to voice their grievances. There is also the possibility that the bill will be misused by some women who have these chances and are willing to go to any extent to exploit men. It may also result in more divorces and broken families. This will be an unfortunate fallout. At the moment it appears that this is the latest attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party to woo the women voters of the country. No bill can improve the conditions of women in India unless they are sufficiently empowered to use the law.

The real problems of women will be mitigated if they are given the opportunity for education. The female child continues to be deprived and neglected in thousands of families. A bill aimed at populism will achieve very little.

Yours faithfully,
Nilanjan Biswas, Malda

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:
Third Floor, Godrej Building,
G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007

Maintained by Web Development Company