Editorial 1 / Persian carpet
Editorial 2 / Taxing Problems
Singing in the bush
Fifth Column / Bihar’s misrule of the law
Account for the public figures
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / PERSIAN CARPET 
 
 
 
 
The importance of pursuing a realist foreign policy has been clearly illustrated by the landmark four-day visit of prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to Iran. Despite being two ancient civilizations, India and Iran are politically and socially very different countries today. They, however, share a range of common strategic and economic interests and it is this that has led to the fostering of a close relationship and the signing of the path-breaking Teheran declaration. In other words, it is real politick not Third Worldism that is the guiding spirit behind the declaration. Three issues need to be particularly highlighted. First, New Delhi and Teheran find the taliban regime in Afghanistan repugnant and a source of potential instability throughout the region. They also view themselves as victims of the terror that is being unleashed in the region. Not surprisingly, these two aspects are central to the declaration. Indeed, both Mr Vajpayee and the Iranian President, Syed Mohammed Khatami, denounced international terrorism “in all its forms’’ and strongly condemned those countries which “aid, abet and directly support’’ international terrorism. Significantly, both countries sought a stronger international regime against terrorism, and endorsed the Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism, which is currently being discussed in the United Nations general assembly. The most blunt message was, of course, reserved for the taliban. Mr Vajpayee and Mr Khatami called for a broad-based government in Afghanistan to replace the taliban-led regime.

There is clearly a convergence of economic factors. India’s growing energy needs need a secure flow of oil and natural gas from the Gulf. Iran needs a stable market in the East, given its problems with Europe and North America. Although there was no agreement over the most cost effective option of a land-based pipeline from Iran to India that would cross Pakistan, given India’s reservations, the two sides have agreed to accelerate efforts to find the most “appropriate’’ way of transporting natural gas from the Gulf to the subcontinent. Indeed, both sides have agreed to commission a feasibility study, funded by the two countries, of the various options. It is also interesting to note that Mr Vajpayee offered a credit line of $200 million, instead of the earlier planned $20 million, to support India’s participation in Iran’s plans for economic development, perhaps once it was realized that China’s credit line to Teheran was of a much higher order. Given this offer, bilateral trade should substantially increase in the coming years. Despite the talk about multipolarity and closer nuclear cooperation, both Teheran and New Delhi are keen to establish a closer relationship with the West. Indeed, Mr Khatami’s Iran may be viewing India as one appropriate conduit to opening up ties with the United States after more than two decades of estrangement. New Delhi, too, can only gain by helping to rehabilitate Iran within the international community, and particularly within the Western world.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / TAXING PROBLEMS 
 
 
 
 
An advisory committee on tax policy and tax administration, chaired by Mr Parthasarathy Shome, has just submitted its report to the Planning Commission. The main recommendation of the report is said to be the imperative need to broadbase the tax structure. The committee has recommended that a number of existing tax concessions should be eliminated and newer sectors should be brought into the tax net. It was perhaps no coincidence that while speaking at a seminar organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Mr Shome suggested the need to bring the information technology sector into the tax net. The IT sector is the fastest growing sector in the economy. The agricultural sector remaining virtually untaxed at least in so far as direct taxes are concerned. Personal income taxes are paid by less than two per cent of the population. Hence, the bulk of direct taxes is paid by an increasingly small sector of the economy. This is an unhealthy development because it means that an overwhelming fraction of the government’s tax revenues come from indirect taxes. In fact, customs duties alone account for roughly 30 per cent of total tax revenues. The corresponding figure in most east Asian countries is 10 to 15 per cent. The undue reliance on indirect taxes is undesirable for at least two reasons. First, it impairs the allocative role of taxes. Second, there is also the issue that direct tax rates can be more easily adjusted in order to increase the progressivity of the overall tax regime, thereby ensuring that the relatively more affluent pay proportionately more taxes than the poor.

The suggestion to tax the IT sector may seem preposterous at the present juncture. After all, even Infosys has sounded dire profit warnings and the IT sector as a whole is facing a gloomy future in view of the impending slowdown in the United States economy. On the other hand, there is no reason why the IT sector should be exempted from paying tax on the profits earned by it since other industries do part with a share of their profits. If the US slowdown or other factors lower profits of the IT sector, then the tax burden will also be correspondingly lower (once a tax is imposed on the sector). Unless the tax base is widened, there is no way in which direct tax revenues can be increased steeply. There is also a temptation to increase rates of personal income taxes since we are no longer in the regime of absurdly high rates where the highest marginal tax was 97.5 per cent. Now that even the highest rate of taxation is quite modest, the incentive to evade taxes is low, and so the temptation to raise income tax rates should be resisted. A careful analysis must also be carried out about the desirability of maintaining the existing exemptions.

   

 
 
SINGING IN THE BUSH 
 
 
BY K.P. NAYAR
 
 
Two things stand out about Jaswant Singh’s visit to Washington this month, the first structured meeting between India and the new Republican administration in the United States. First, the minister completed his talks in Washington and went, not back to India but to Teheran, the one capital which still sends a shiver down the spine of every American official who is called upon to deal with it.

Many Americans would like to see Iran wiped off the face of the earth for what the Iranians have done to the US and for the way the Persians have steadfastly stood up to Uncle Sam for 22 years. At any rate, anyone who is in charge in Washington, never mind which party he or she belongs to, wants to at least see the ocean of chadors rolled back from Teheran’s streets and the clerical robes taken off the corridors of power in the Iranian capital.

At a time when even some of the world’s bigger powers are bending over backwards to curry favour with the new crop of men and women who have assumed the levers of power in Washington, not many foreign ministers would dare to go directly to Teheran after meeting those who rule the US. It does not matter whether Singh’s decision to fly to Teheran from the US capital was an accident of timing — the prime minister was visiting Iran immediately thereafter — or whether his flight plans were proposed by some innocent airline booking clerk in Balmer Lawrie — the company which handles most of South Block’s ticketing — who coordinated the same with his contact in the external affairs minister’s office. The result was unexpected. It did not go unnoticed in Washington that the second most influential member of the Indian council of ministers after L.K. Advani had travelled from the seat of the “Great Satan” — as the Iranians still describe the US — to a “rogue state” — the US description of Iran — which is uncompromisingly inimical to the US.

The decision made those in Washington whose job it is to notice such nuances — even when they are unintended — conclude that whatever the US may expect from India, timidity cannot be on that list of expectations. There are few relationships for India in which perceptions are as important as substance, if not more. Indo-US relations count among those. In the last one year, the perception has grown among India’s friends and foes alike — not to speak of an ever increasing number of Indians — that relations between the world’s only superpower and New Delhi under a Bharatiya Janata Party dispensation has become unequal after the glorious defiance of US opinion by India in exploding nuclear bombs in 1998.

South Block’s mealy-mouthed reaction to events in Kosovo, the articulation of its stand on National Missile Defence and the slow, but unmistakable, effort at the United Nations not to offend US sensibilities all contributed to this perception. But nothing strengthened this view more than Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s decision last year not to go to Havana for the Group of 77 summit. The summit, which was impressive, belying the US’s expectations, took place soon after Bill Clinton’s presidential foray into India.

Even if the truth may well have been different, it was widely believed in India and abroad that Vajpayee had decided to avoid Havana lest a trip there to be hugged by Fidel Castro soon after the Clinton bonhomie be misunderstood in Washington. As if to add insult to injury, Vajpayee’s diplomat-in-chief, Jaswant Singh, too chose to skip Havana even though only days before the summit, Singh was in nearby Cartagena. Castro had to be satisfied with the presence of the human resources development minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, who valiantly articulated the Indian stand as best as he could in Cold War rhetoric designed to please the G-77 and Cuba’s ageing communist patriarch.

It was a mistake on the part of Vajpayee not to have travelled to Havana last year. The participation of General Pervez Musharraf in the Havana summit did more to legitimize his dictatorship than all the efforts by Islamabad till then to win de facto recognition for the military putsch against Nawaz Sharif. This, at a time when India was still referring to Sharif as the “prime minister of Pakistan”.

Musharraf made deep inroads into some of India’s traditional constituencies at the Havana summit. But what was more regrettable about Vajpayee’s absence was that he lost a valuable opportunity to interact with a whole new generation of third world leaders in Havana, men who had come to power in various countries during the years when India was hobbling from one United Front government to another, men who had few contacts with India as heads of state or government.

By travelling to Iran from the US this month, the external affairs minister dispelled the strong and widely prevalent notion that Indo-US ties had made many of New Delhi’s other friendships hostage to the bonhomie with Washington. If there is less skepticism, doubt or suspicion about South Block’s initiatives involving the US in the coming months, it will be, in a large measure, because of the assuaging images of Jaswant Singh landing in Teheran straight after his talks in Washington.

It is true that many of those in India who shout “Yankee, go home” may add in a subdued tone, “But please take me with you”. That does not, however, diminish the political power of that slogan and its appeal, just below the surface. The second element which stands out about Singh’s visit to Washington is the wholesome praise he sought to heap on president George W. Bush. “I was impre- ssed by the grasp which president Bush had of the totality of Indo-US relations”, Singh said at a press conference at the end of his meetings in Washington.

Lest readers in India should miss the significance of this statement, it is necessary to explain what it implies in the context of today’s Washington. Here is a Republican president in the White House with a short political career, very little experience of foreign policy, hardly any foreign travel to his credit, and to top it all, very poor English. Nothing upsets the Bush White House staff as the media’s constant jibes about the president’s poor grammar and articulation and insinuations about his inability to be on top of any situation. It does not help either that the president frankly admits that he was exercising in the gym, but his vice president, Dick Cheney, was working when there was a shooting incident in the White House the other day shortly before noon. Or that it has become public knowledge that on the president’s first visit abroad — to Mexico — he went to see the mother of the Mexican president, Vincente Fox, because she stayed on a ranch and Bush could not resist staying away from a ranch, his favourite location in Texas, which he misses in Washington.

Later, Singh went further in interviews he gave in Washington: “I think a great many things that are being said about President Bush are completely untrue. He is a marvellous person”. That was more than what Tony Blair, prime minister of Britain, with whom the US has a special relationship, was willing to say in defence of the president. In fact, on Blair’s trip to the White House — the first full-fledged foreign visit after the Republican takeover — the British prime minister was ill at ease in public with the new US president and made it clear, perhaps unintentionally, that he neither understood nor shared Bush’s jokes at their joint appearances in Washington.

Singh did not just praise president Bush. He paid a tribute to the US’s ruling dynasty when he told the president that it was under the presidency of Bush Senior, between 1988 and ‘92, that Indo-US ties actually got off the ground. And he touched a chord in the president’s heart when he said: “Now you have the opportunity to transform the relationship forever”. When Singh spoke those words, Bush invited the Indian minister into the Oval office surprising his own senior staff who had kept a chair for him in the Roosevelt Room, where he was to have had a brief chat with the visitor from New Delhi.

Singh has set the stage for a season of good relations with the new administration in Washington. The rest now depends on what follow ups the people down the line on both sides can arrange to turn Singh’s vision into reality.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / BIHAR’S MISRULE OF THE LAW 
 
 
BY NIRMALENDU BIKASH RAKSHIT
 
 
An ugly incident in Bihar has once again brought to light the workings of our democracy. Sadhu Yadav, a member of the legislative assembly and brother of the chief minister, Rabri Devi, has allegedly manhandled a senior Indian administrative service officer. Word of the encounter has reached the cabinet and even the governor, B.C. Pandey, who is reportedly very annoyed with the matter.

Yadav allegedly intimidated the transport secretary, N.K. Sinha, and ransacked his office to stall the transfer of one of his favourites, a motor-vehicle inspector in Gopalganj. The finance minister shot off a letter to the chief minister, saying that necessary measures had to be taken to restore the morale of the bureaucracy. Yadav has however refused to lay down his arms. On the contrary, he has demanded the dismissal of the finance minister.

The incident has raised important questions. First, what should be the actual relation between elected representatives and civil servants? Obviously, legislators are chosen to serve the interests of the people and, hence, they have the inherent right to ventilate grievances of the people of the relevant constituencies.

Building on the frame

But ministers conduct the administration with the help of civil servants. If a legislator feels that a member of the civil service should be removed from or retained in his constituency, he may try to get round the authorities. He may, for that purpose, even create pressure upon them, but he can, by no means, carry out his wish by either intimidation or force.

The Constitution does not guarantee such authority to the elected leaders of the people. Article 194 gives them certain privileges like the freedom of speech and freedom to vote in the legislature, freedom from legal proceedings against anything published by the legislator on behalf of the house. But it does not give them the right to manhandle any government official.

Civil servants have an important role to play in the country’s governance. Their work is primarily concerned with policy matters on which they advise ministers, who are often new-comers in affairs of the state. Civil servants are the permanent staff who provide the framework of the administration. It is only when the political executive and the bureaucracy work in tandem that an ideal governance can be provided. Ministers make the government popular, but it is the civil servants who make it work efficiently.

Equal members

The IAS association in Bihar allege that the state police tampered with the evidence against Yadav. If the state administration moves in to shelter a close relative of the chief minister, it would indicate a breakdown of the democratic machinery. According to Articles 6 and 14 of the Constitution, all persons are equal before the law, which means each person is equally amenable to the judicial process.

The preamble to the Constitution also assures this principle of equality. Even a legislator is not exempt from the law and cannot arrogate to himself the authority vested in other functionaries of the state. If any person seeks to take advantage of his birth or kinship, it becomes an attempt to thwart the rule of law. We must remember that when the principle of equality runs amok, a democracy turns into an oligarchy.

A civil servant can obviously commit a mistake or may even act with an evil motive. The procedure initiated against him, even then, has to be both legal and democratic. An influential person may have the police within his control and make a farce of the law. If so happens, the officer naturally forfeits his right to remain in office. In such a situation, it is the duty of the chief minister to restore the dignity of the civil service. He has to make it clear that in a democracy no one is above the law.

“Equality before the law”, according to A.V. Dicey, meant that among equals law should, without exception, be equal, that the like should be treated alike. It would probably to better to interpret Article 14 as guaranteeing “equal protection of the law”. Which means that from the legal point of view, everyone is under the law and that no one can claim to have acted beyond the jurisdiction of the law. In this case therefore, neither the Bihar chief minister, Rabri Devi, nor anyone of her relatives can act in defiance of the legal process.

   

 
 
ACCOUNT FOR THE PUBLIC FIGURES 
 
 
BY SUGATO HAZRA
 
 
Did Tehelka really expose something hitherto unknown? Or did it just establish the fact that is true not only for Indian politics but also for politics in general all over the world? Money is, and has always been, changing hands in all human activities — more so in politics. In Socrates’ Greece, high ranks in the army as well as in the administration went to the highest bidder. The last years of the Roman Empire saw the Praetorian guards auctioning the imperial throne. Things are no different in the United States, the mightiest of all democracies. An eminent fundraiser commented that the corridors of the White House were like sub-way gates, “put coins and these will open”. Politics, we like it or not, is a way to riches. Nobody joins it to serve anybody else.

Take India for instance. There are thousands of prominent leaders beamed on various talk shows every evening. None of them looks underfed, despite most of them having no known source of income. Where do they get their monthly expenses from? Growing vegetables in their kitchen garden? Barring a few political parties, there is no system of paying monthly allowances to party leaders. Predictably, these men have some other means of making money. As long as they don’t receive it on camera, we are not concerned. Unfortunately, Tehelka rudely forced us out of the slumber. We can’t keep our eyes closed any longer. And instead of glossing it over as a common sin, there is an urgent need for rearranging the whole system of political funding.

In the absence of any fixed criterion, political funding in India has in effect been instrumental in offering shelter to corruption. For business, politicians of all hues come handy. For them any money that changes hand is part of the transaction cost. True, often the money so advanced may not yield any result. However, such losses are part of any business transaction. Tehelka, for example, spent money for nothing but the sensational story that it could create as a result has established its brand image. It has managed to lure new investors. The company, which was busy doling out sack notices, has turned the corner. In short, it makes immense business sense for business to sponsor politicians. Politicians, too, need such sponsors. The deals will go on howsoever much we would like these to stop.

The issue of money power in elections was raised way back in 1973. The joint parliamentary committee on amendments to election law felt that use or abuse of money power in elections could be tackled effectively “only if it is accepted in principle that all election expenses should be a legitimate charge on the public fund.” The suggestion was, “a process should be initiated whereby the burden of legitimate election expenses at present borne by the candidate or the political party is progressively shifted to the state.” A quarter century later, we have done nothing further on the score. Thanks to Tehelka, the debate may be resumed.

The debate in fact has been raging elsewhere. The US had been the first country to legislate on campaign finance. In 1867, the first attempt by the US federal government prohibited officers and employees of the government from soliciting money from naval yard workers. Sixteen years later, the same was extended to all federal civil service employees. Prior to the 1883 Civil Service Reform Act, US government officials were expected to make campaign contribution in order to keep their jobs. The point to note is that in a soft state like India, despite government officials having no responsibility of raising money for political parties, many indulge in the act to retain their positions. Often enough officers award tenders and contracts to companies recommended by their political masters. And such masters may not necessarily belong to the ruling political party. It is naïve to assume that such aberrations can be arrested with the introduction of rules governing public funding of elections. This will be apparent if one takes a careful look at the US experience.

According to Bradley A. Smith of Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, there is hardly any serious evidence that campaign finance regulation has actually controlled the abuse of money power in the election process. In India, too, the efforts of the Election Commission so far have yielded little result. As per the commission’s directive, a candidate in an assembly constituency can spend a maximum of six lakh rupees for electoral purposes. More often than not, this limit is violated by showing extra expenses under different heads. An easy way is to set up dummy candidates who in their returns account for a part of the extra expenditure of the principal candidate.

The commission cannot be faulted for the lapse. If it attempts to restrict the number of contestants in a constituency, it will be blamed for curbing democratic rights. Few will buy the argument that in effect a dummy candidate is one who is earning quite a packet from the principal he has represented.

This brings to the fore the complexity of campaign finance in a country like India. The politician here needs money not only to contest election but also to maintain his lifestyle. This includes maintaining a horde of hanger- ons and their families. This is true for the elected representatives as well as the leading defeated leaders from the constituency.

To do so, the political leader resorts to influence peddling. This takes the form of getting contracts for his henchmen so that a certain percentage may plough back for his own benefit. The leader sometimes tries to transfer some pliable officer to some crucial post in his area. Often enough, the fee for that is taken upfront from the official, who in turn collects the same from the various contracts he awards. If the leader can manage to win a seat, say, in Parliament, he has the option of pocketing rupees two crore of tax payers’ money every year.

This fund is allotted to honourable members of parliament to spend on certain kinds of developmental work within their constituencies. Not so honorable ones can easily siphon off a major part of the funds by colluding with the collector of the constituency. Some other innovative ways of raising funds are to organize fairs and get hold of some public sector undertaking to sponsor the same, to organize puja and bring out souvenirs. Certainly, when we debate over the issue of election funding, we cannot incorporate the income arising out of the aberrations mentioned here. However, unless we do so, no amount of reform on campaign finance will stop the influential from doling out favour against payment.

The question is not one of campaign finance, but how to offer gainful employment to thousands of aspirants who are not qualified enough to go in for any other paying profession. One solution to the malady seems to allow only successful professionals to join politics. But the problem is that not many will be interested. Second, even if they accept the offer, they have to maintain the retinue of supporters, which will cost a packet. Even the most successful professionals engaged in electoral politics will have to seek innovative finance. Moreover, politics itself is a full time occupation. In fact, at times it is difficult for a politician to maintain a normal and healthy personal life. Naturally, a politician needs means to run his personal life which has to come from the full time occupation called politics. Since there is no political venture fund to finance budding politicians, we cannot hope to remove the aberrations highlighted by Tehelka easily. Perhaps the only permanent solution could be to suspend democracy which none of us can dare to propose. More so since corruption is no less rampant in other forms of governance.

Does it mean that post-Tehelka there will be no reform in Indian politics? Judged by the complexity of the problem it seems so. There, of course, will be caution. Politicians will be extremely careful in accepting money from unknown persons. This, in turn, will mean bonanza for the middlemen. They will keep their cut and pass on a part to the boss. This, however, may not be so easy when one is dealing with hardcore politicians. They will have means to check and cut out the middlemen.

The system cannot be cleansed, whether we introduce state funding for election or not. Even in the US despite strict disclosure norm, “soft money” easily moves into the political system. Thus, interests detrimental to citizens thrive with tacit political support. In short, there cannot be any foolproof system of money buying out favours, be it in a democracy, autocracy or monarchy. This was never in place in the history of the human civilization. This is difficult to introduce in future. But we have to do it as Lord Niell said while presenting the fifth report on the funding of political parties in the United Kingdom, “A fundamentally new framework is needed to provide public confidence for the future, to meet the needs of modern politics.” Question is, who will do so in India?

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Her untold story

Sir — The making of the new film based on Helen Fielding’s thirtysomething, perpetually-trying-to-reduce-weight-and-have-steady -boyfriend, working British girl, Bridget Jones, draws attention to the portrayal of the modern Indian young woman in the Indian television serials (“Ally McBeal has competition”, April 5, and “Sad women in the box”, April 8). Once one starts taking a closer look at the Indian scenario, what becomes glaringly evident is the strange tussle in the Indian woman’s negotiation with modernity. Modernity here is as much about the opening up of socio-cultural windows as about being exposed to the workings of a market economy. While the winds from the West have made Indian women lead lives considered “unconventional” by traditional standards, the demands of the market make it increasingly difficult for such lives to be realistically portrayed in soaps and serials. Will the opening up of the market force the Indian woman to trace back the few steps to emancipation she has managed to take?
Yours faithfully,
Sreela Guha, Calcutta

Sparked off

Sir — Most of the political leadership of the country is busy indulging in highfalutin rhetoric in the aftermath of the Tehelka exposé. Where is the time or the inclination to resolve the payment crisis posed by Enron, which insists that the government must honour the contract and has invoked the “political force majeure” clause (“End-of-the-road signal from Enron”, April 10)?

First, there is the problem of excess supply of electricity. It may be recalled that at the time the Dabhol project was conceived, Maharashtra was apprehensive of an acute shortage of power developing in future. Hence, it wanted to get whatever power it could. The time has come for paying the price. The situation is similar to the one faced by the Food Corporation of India, overflowing with nearly 42 million tonnes of foodgrains which the people of India cannot buy owing to a lack of purchasing power. Like the FCI, the Maharashtra state electricity board is facing the problem of high procurement costs in the Enron case.

Enron is the largest single foreign investment made in the country till now. Any default in payment and/or renegotiation of the terms of the second phase of the project with particular reference to prices is likely to have an adverse effect on the prospects of further investments.

It is the Central government which has to spearhead the liberalization of the economy. The state governments, at best, can only play second fiddle. The Centre should, therefore, resolve the payment crisis even at the risk of setting an unhealthy precedent in the Centre-state relationship. This will be in the long-term interest of the country

Incidentally, the chairman of Enron, Kenneth L. Lay, is a friend and adviser of the United States president, George W. Bush. Hence, further pressure may build up in favour of Enron in the coming months. However, India should take heart from the fact that the new Republican administration seems genuinely interested in strengthening Indo-American ties. All the more reason for India to solve the Enron issue amicably.

Yours faithfully,
Kangayam R. Rangaswamy, Durham, US

Sir — The ongoing imbroglio in the Dabhol Power Company case between the MSEB and Enron, involving both the Centre and the state government, might be better resolved through negotiations across the table rather than the route chosen by Enron — to refer the dispute to the court of law. Arbitration can settle specific disputes, but is incapable of bringing about an amicable relationship between the parties involved.

The much-awaited report of the expert committee comprising individuals associated with the agreement of power purchase at the initial stage of the proposal should suggest means of resolving the problem on a long term basis. A few members of the committee should be included in an empowered set-up to renegotiate the terms of the power purchase agreement so that both Enron, as the supplier of power, and MSEB as the consumer, maintain cordial relations with each other. This is absolutely essential in the service sector, and in the power sector in particular, to ensure mutual benefits. Unless the dispute is resolved, there will remain large question marks against private entrepreneurship for mega power plants in the country.

Yours faithfully,
C.R. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

Dazzle of white

Sir — The influence of the media in international cricket is taking on alarming proportions. The press often tends to decide the fate of matches even before the first ball is bowled. Sunil Gavaskar, in his article, “Don’t play second fiddle to biased Aussie media” (April 14), hit the nail on the head when he criticized the Australian media for its bias and double standards. Whether at home or on tours abroad, the Australian media has always attacked rivals without substance while carefully defending the acts of the Australian players. This was evident during the recently concluded series, when the Australian scribes went after the Indian captain, Sourav Ganguly, even before they had arrived in India. Ganguly replied boldly, but unfortunately lacked the support of the India media. It is time to let cricket matches be decided, as it should be, on the field.
Yours faithfully,
Avin Sharma, Calcutta

Sir — Sunil Gavaskar has echoed the sentiments of many Indians who do not agree with the Indian media’s stand with regard to its own team. What is intriguing, however, is that Gavaskar has come out so late with it. Was he, along with the rest, suffering from “white skin complex” all this while?

Yours faithfully,
Ajit K. Bajpai, via email

Sir — Sunil Gavaskar must be thanked for his attempt to lead the spineless Indian media out of its tongue-lolling, toe-sucking obsession for foreign half-writers and sports journalists. Led by an arrogant Ian Chappell, the Australians made a calculated assessment of Sourav Ganguly’s strength and followed a well crafted plan to demoralize, unnerve and humiliate him and the team he led. They were merely doing their job — helping their country add another feather to its cap. And behold, who do they have as their accomplice? A grovelling Indian media which jumps up on its hind legs to complete their half-utterances.

More than 50 years after colonial rule, our nation still suffers from the hangover and finds all things white superior. But thank god for the few like Gavaskar. Hopefully, he will continue to explode the myths propagated by the white cricket “experts”.

Yours faithfully,
S. Basu Roy, via email

Show stealer

Sir — All over the country, shows are being held to raise funds for the victims of various national calamities. While the effort is commendable, it must be ensured that the funds collected go to the victims and do not become a source of income for the organizers. Is the government vigilant enough?
Yours faithfully,
A.S. Mehta, via email

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