Editorial 1 / Chinese puzzle
Editorial 2 / Case to the point
Drift towards anarchy
Fifth Column / No one to pick bolshoi’s brains
Assuring the birthright of a few
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / CHINESE PUZZLE 
 
 
 
 
Few could have predicted that the worst crisis in Sino-United States relations, in recent years, would occur so early on in the tenure of the new Republican administration. The stand-off that occurred after the collision between a US Navy EP-3 surveillance plane and a Chinese F-8 fighter aircraft near the Chinese coast has ostensibly been resolved with the return of the American crew that had been detained by Chinese authorities. But the incident is reflective of a growing tension between the US and China, which — if unchecked — could lead to a new Cold War in Asia. On the one hand, within the US, and especially in the new Republican administration, there are growing fears that China, which is slowly but surely emerging as a military and economic power of some standing, despite many internal problems, could threaten American interests in Asia and beyond. China’s plans of rapidly modernizing its armed forces, its efforts at qualitatively and quantitatively improving its nuclear arsenal, and its disregard of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, have all led to these apprehensions. Public opinion in the US is also deeply concerned about the huge trade surplus that China enjoys vis-à-vis America, even while the Communist leadership demonstrates little sensitivity to democratic values and human rights. In contrast to the Clinton administration, key members of the Bush team have viewed China more as a strategic competitor rather than as a strategic partner. On the other hand, China suspects that the US is embarking on a policy of “containment” against it, not very different from the one that was adopted against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It views US plans of arming Taiwan with the PAC-3 antimissile systems and Aegis-equipped destroyers as deeply threatening China’s national security. Indeed, Mr Sha Zukang, the seniormost official in charge of arms control in Beijing, argued recently that “arms sales to Taiwan were the biggest issue in Sino-US relations” and if the US did “not behave well, it may destroy bilateral relations.” Similarly, Beijing has reacted strongly to American plans to introduce anti-ballistic missile systems, which it feels will destabilize the nuclear deterrent relationship.

However, despite these differences Sino-US relations have far from collapsed. Already, an eight-member US delegation is in Beijing to discuss with Chinese officials issues raised by the collision of their aircraft. China and the US continue to be engaged in a relationship of deep economic interdependence that will not be easy to derail despite political and strategic differences. Be that as it may, the importance of countries like India will inevitably rise with the growing possibility of a Sino-US Cold War. However, it would be best for New Delhi, at least for the time being, to wait and watch rather than impulsively take sides. Fence sitting may not be a viable long-term strategy, but it is probably the most prudent policy for India to adopt for the foreseeable future.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / CASE TO THE POINT 
 
 
 
 
A number of radical measures are needed to make a system lean and efficient. The overloaded Indian justice system is in desperate need of a few such. One certain way to prune its workload is to do away with the process of public interest litigation altogether. The Supreme Court has recently made a ruling that may help limit the number of PILs, but this is not necessarily a step towards its ultimate disappearance. The concept of a third party bringing in a petition on behalf of the “public good” is a little vague, and allows admission of a huge number of issues with which the court should not be engaging at all. For example, pollution in metropolitan cities or the dirtying of water bodies is really not a matter for the courts. That they are forced to rule on such subjects is because they cannot turn away from a PIL, and, because they cannot, people increasingly look to the courts whenever administration fails them. Besides, a PIL may disguise certain vested interests or less than benevolent intentions. By the time these are uncovered, both public money and the court’s valuable time have already been wasted. So far, no pre-hearing screening procedure has been introduced, and the penalty for petitioners discovered to have mala fide intentions is just a tenuous possibility. Screening and penalty as deterrents have been repeatedly recommended as measures to stem the tide of PILs. The legendary slowness with which any change takes place in India is only one reason for the recommendations remaining on paper. In the case of the PIL, there are others. Ideally, a PIL is a possible window to justice for the underprivileged or oppressed. No legislator would like to be seen trying to close it.

In its recent ruling, the Supreme Court has come as close to the ideal as possible. It has clearly laid down that PILs brought by third parties would be admitted only when it can be shown that the persons affected by the wrong could not approach the court because of poverty, helplessness, disability or some kind of social disadvantage. This gives the PIL a much sharper point, implying the presence of a specific cause of action behind its presentation, and accountability on the part of the third party. Even this, if seriously implemented, is likely to dramatically cut down on the number of PILs in courts. Such changes, of course, cannot take place in a day. But if there is genuine will, it cannot take very long either. The trimming exercise would come at a good time. A changing economic culture, alterations in trade and labour laws, the roller-coaster marriage of technology and the market, the percolation of the principles of intellectual rights will soon raise a new mountain of cases. The courts will do well to shed their backlog as soon as possible and limit petitions like the PIL for future efficiency.

   

 
 
DRIFT TOWARDS ANARCHY 
 
 
BY SHAM LAL
 
 
Mistaking a place in the government for a berth in a gravy train, bending the law to suit the convenience of those in power, turning the Central Bureau of Investigation into both prosecutor and defendant when the man in supreme authority wants to protect the impugned individual, disruption of Parliament as a matter of routine whenever the opposition parties feel like venting their spleen against the ruling establishment and making public discourse look more and more like a debate between conmen are all integral parts of the national political culture by now.

In this cynical game, whichever party may be the winner, the country is always the loser. Germs of corruption have by now vitiated not only public life beyond redemption but even infected the mentality of the public to a point where it has come to accept the dread malady as a fact of life and learnt to live with it. There can be no more distressing comment on this malign development than that J. Jayalalitha’s conviction in two cases of corruption, far from soiling her public image, has sent her popularity ratings spiralling up on the eve of the assembly elections in her state.

It is against this murky background that recent changes in the national scene acquire a much grimmer significance. The Congress may have good reason to feel that the government is going out of its way to protect Bangaru Laxman and Jaya Jaitly against prosecution, that it has not told the whole truth about the extent of corruption in the procurement wing of the defence establishment or given any convincing answer to the question why, even in the face of so many active insurgencies in the country and presence of terrorists in New Delhi, it is so easy for strangers to penetrate what should be a highly guarded area under any circumstances.

All the same, the earlier demand by the opposition parties for the Vajpayee government’s resignation in the wake of the Tehelka tape disclosures was misconceived for two reasons. First, the prime minister, sure of his majority, was willing to face a no-confidence motion in Parliament. Secondly, the opposition parties were in no position to provide an alternative and there was not one party which wanted to risk another mid-term election.

Where the government has put itself in the wrong is in rejecting outright the demand by the Congress for a probe into the Tehelka disclosures by a joint parliamentary committee. This rejection not only violates the spirit of the earlier assurances by its spokesmen that it is willing to consider any kind of inquiry, but also confirms the suspicion that it has something to hide, particularly in regard to the security aspects of the revelations.

All the same, a debate in Parliament can give members an opportunity to go into all the ramifications not only of the Tehelka disclosures but also of other worrying developments including the new securities scandal, the signs of an economic recession, the bursting of the information technologies bubble, the stalling of the privatization programme at its very start and the wrong signal sent out to prospective investors in the power sector by reports of a possible Enron withdrawal from the Dabhol project.

Perhaps the most disturbing parts of the Tehelka revelations were not the scenes of small sums handed out to party leaders or their subordinates intended as bribes for future favours but euphemistically described as donations to party funds — why should an arms dealer’s agent invest in political parties without expectation of any return? —but the porosity of the defence establishment. Is the suspension of the few officers seen accepting petty bribes an adequate response to this distressing disclosure?

The buck in so serious a matter does not stop at the desk of a major or even a major-general. It is the defence ministry and the national security council which are accountable to the public for the sorry state of affairs brought to light by the Tehelka tapes. Was not the Kargil war enough warning to leave nothing to chance and to improve the quality of both the vigilance and intelligence outfits? Or is the government trying to make the concept of political responsibility stand on its head so that the higher up one is in the hierarchy the less responsible he is for any grave lapse?

It is the same sordid tale in regard to the new securities scandal. The one presumably masterminded by Harshad Mehta some years ago in which banks lost sums running into thousands of crores was apparently not enough warning to policymakers to set up an effective regulatory authority to make doubly sure that no one in future would be able to gamble away public deposits in banks in wild speculation on the stock exchange. They did set up an authority of sorts which has turned out to be hopelessly ineffective. Are those who have lost crores as a result of the government’s carelessness supposed to grin and bear it?

And what has happened to the dream of making the country a software superpower, with a 50-billion-dollar target set for exports by the information technologies sector by 2005? With the crash in the prices of the bluest of the chips in this field, the dream seems to have busted within a year. This, together with a decline in the rate of economic growth, the immense sums that would be needed for rehabilitating the victims of the killer earthquake in Gujarat, the urgent calls for more generous relief in drought-stricken Telengana and the increasing resistance to the new phase of reforms from those who are in danger of losing their means of livelihood have all put a big question mark before Yashwant Sinha’s “dream” budget. The government may indeed soon have to prepare an action plan to prevent the dream from turning into a nightmare.

The ramifications of the new developments on both political and economic fronts go much farther and cut much deeper than the Vajpayee government seems to realize. It may find it politically convenient to make the Congress the main target of its attacks. The real headache for the prime minister is, however, the chorus of protests, getting louder every day, from members of his own ideological family. The trade union wing of the sangh parivar is up in arms against almost the entire package of new reforms. Nothing said by Manmohan Singh so far has sent such a shudder down the finance minister’s spine as the sense of outrage expressed by some of his former activist colleagues in the Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

It is not surprising in this situation if many are left wondering whether the Centre will hold and the present establishment will have the grit to prevent things from falling apart. When the Mahatma told the British on the eve of their departure from this country that they should leave it to “God or anarchy”, he chose his words with great care. He sensed the danger of its drifting too far from the path of righteousness. Yet, even in his moments of deep despair, he did not imagine that within a few decades the country would have deviated so far as to mutilate beyond recognition the very idea of integrity of public life.

It is no use blaming any particular party for having brought matters to this pass. All of them have contributed their bit to this distressing outcome. Increasing population pressure, chaotic and reckless urban growth, spread of corruption to every tissue of the body politic, continued splintering of political life and the growth of vested interests in a weak Centre and a slipshod work ethic have all contributed to the multiple crises. The result is a continuing subversion of all institutions of both the state and the civil society.

This systemic crisis by no means peculiar to this country. What is specific to it is that the very politicization process which, on the one hand, continues to add to the overload of demands on the state, and, on the other, goes on reducing the capacity of successive governments to process these demands in a manner which minimizes the incidence of group conflicts.

The result is a growing disparity between resources at the state’s disposal and the demands made on it. No change in the structure of the ruling coalition can conjure away this contradiction which is making the country increasingly ungovernable. The only remedy lies in rapid progress towards consensual politics which is ruled out by the very character of the prevailing culture.

Things being what they are, it is not surprising if the exposure of a scandal, far from causing consternation, turns into a matter of wry jokes among the people who know that for one sleazy affair that comes to light, a thousand remain inaccessible. The public has grown too cynical indeed to worry too much even about the continued disruption of Parliament’s session. They know that if the worst comes to the worst, the speaker can suspend all Congress members from the Lok Sabha for a day or even a week and the budget can be passed by a snap vote after no more than a cursory debate. In the end, it will all add up to one more kick in the groin of an already faltering system.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / NO ONE TO PICK BOLSHOI’S BRAINS 
 
 
BY VICTOR BANERJEE
 
 
More than thirty years ago, it was my sense of fun that made me grab the daily Evening News of India in Bombay and turn swiftly to the last page to read Busybee’s column. He had a pet boxer called Bolshoi. It was in conversations with his wide-eyed companion, Bolshoi, that he discussed mundane and important issues that either irked or peeved or humoured Bombay society. Bolshoi was the eternal philosopher caught in a 20th century time warp with egalitarian views that astonished everyone, including his owner. Busybee’s was undoubtedly the widest read column in all newspapers of the time.

When I first met Behram “Busybee” Contractor, I was shocked. I had expected a gregarious, witty Don Juan with a razor-sharp brain and beady eyes that flicked from one corner to the other so as not to miss a trick while still absorbing the inanity of the conversation around him as he held a leash on a slobbery boxer that could look up from his weathered heels and examine the underpants of social wellbeing. Instead, I saw a diminutive, hunched, shy, bespectacled individual without any flamboyance, tucked quietly in one corner of the room with not a word to say for himself.

Next to him was a hideous porcelain cockatoo, painted like a macaw, or perhaps it was the other way around. Given half a choice, I would have picked the gaudy bird and dumped the non-entity in white drill trousers and a cotton bush shirt.

Good companion

Years later, when Busybee had moved on to become one of the most successful and important newspapermen in India, his nature as a shy and humble human being remained just the same.

Busybee died in Mumbai last week. I must have missed his obituary in our local papers and only read a short piece in the city gossip column of the Asian Age on Sunday, preceded by news about Tina Ambani at an auction where Shekhar Suman ditched at the last minute and was replaced by Dolly Thakore.

Whenever I sit down to write a cryptic piece that drips with my social frustrations and economic backwardness, I often wonder if life as a writer would be easier if I too had an indulgent and erudite Bolshoi to bounce my nonsense off. But, truthfully, Busy- bee was a guru who was easily understood, but impossible to emulate.

A busybody I am. Eccentric, exasperating, fun-loving and bohemian. While I dwell physically in the streets of Calcutta, my soul travels constantly through the mists and valleys of the Garhwal Himalaya. I smell pine needles in Tangra and watch the Alaknanda at Babu Ghat. I look at the Maidan like the uninhabited and carpeted bugiyals at 13,000 feet in Bedni and convert the grazing white flannels of cricketers into herds of Thar and Bharral that stroll across miles of billowing dales.

Gut reactions

I get a kick out of writing; besides, it pays. My experiences at hacking at one time changed the topography of golf courses and the cosmetic repairs undertaken after every 18 holes I enjoyed, encouraged committees to give me a typewriter to compose their club’s newsletters instead. With the commitment of Mahitabel (for those of you who remember that American classic), and the ribaldry of a whore, I took on anyone and everyone and was able to laugh off the experience the morning after.

I have, almost never, trod upon sensitive toes, but my gut reaction to anything from politics to the preservation of churches has ruffled enough feathers and inspired latent philanthropists to a point where I can sit back and chuckle and thank god for the opportunity I am given to air my joys and woes in print.

It was at Pearl Padamsee’s place that I last saw Behram almost a decade ago. He has been a quiet inspiration for writers like me. His inimitable wit and casual innuendos that stirred up debates at the Sea Lounge of the Taj and around the thelas of pau bhaji after most of Bombay was fast asleep, are memories that will never fade. He was a quiet patron of all the arts and loved theatre — he came to every show I was ever in, in Bombay.

With the passing of Pearl and Behram, two colours have been robbed off the rainbow that splashed its radiance on the everyday life of Bombay.

   

 
 
ASSURING THE BIRTHRIGHT OF A FEW 
 
 
BY SANDHYA SRINIVASAN
 
 
April 7, 2001 was World Health Day. The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a national network of health activist organizations, had declared it as the “Right to Health Day.” This is an ideal time to reflect on whether current trends in healthcare actually promote people’s right to health, and whose interests are served by demands for certain health services.

One right that we have heard about, particularly in Mumbai, the birthplace of the “infertility industry”, is the right to infertility treatment as part of an inalienable right to have children. This sentiment has earlier found expression in international statements. Backed by a flourishing infertility industry, support groups of childless couples are lobbying to get insurance coverage for assisted reproductive technologies. More recently, a proposal to provide assisted reproductive technologies through a kind of private-public sector collaboration gives reason to discuss this subject.

There is no doubt that in a society which places a premium on biological child-bearing, the childless couple — particularly the woman — is under immense social pressure to conceive. The woman without children is disadvantaged within her marital family, harassed and even abandoned by her husband, though the source of the problem can be attributed evenly to both man and woman.

However, it is not known how much this social outlook is influenced by the existence of a massive and highly media-conscious private sector industry. This industry promotes all varieties of infertility treatment — from relatively elementary ovulation stimulating drugs to assisted reproductive technologies which rival Western clinics in their technological sophistication. Irrational, dangerous and ineffective treatments abound, by licenced as well as unlicenced practitioners.

In this context, an article on the “Need and feasibility of providing assisted technologies for infertility management in resource-poor settings”, published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research by the Indian Council of Medical Research looks intriguing. The paper, written by a senior ICMR scientist, together with two private infertility specialists, proposes a public-private collaboration to provide assisted reproductive technologies such as invitro-fertilization to those who can’t afford them.

This collaboration would include waiving duties for expensive IVF equipment and drugs, public-private pooling of some supplies, government support for some facilities, introducing specialized teaching programmes in assisted reproductive technologies in government hospitals, and insurance cover for infertility treatment. The article estimates a “need” for 400,000 cycles of IVF in India, costing Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 per cycle (separate from obstetric costs for any consequent pregnancy, which is termed high risk), with a 30 per cent “take home baby” rate.

The authors start off by asking an important question: “In India where a large number of infants and children die each year primarily due to the non-availability of safe drinking water, sanitary facilities and immunization against infectious diseases, how far is it ethical and practical to invest in expensive technologies to treat a condition which is not life-threatening and would be required for a limited number of people?”

Interestingly, this article asserts that 95 per cent of infertility is preventable, that 30 per cent of infertility is due to infection, and that the underlying causes of infertility in countries like India are a reflection of socio-economic conditions. It is indeed an irony that tubal infertility of the kind that IVF treats is often the result of untreated reproductive infections and unhygienic abortion and childbirth practices. But this scenario does not deter the writers.

How common is infertility? Though the article refers to estimates that eight to 10 per cent of couples seek treatment for infertility, the latest Indian national family health survey (1998-99) finds that only two to four per cent of women over the age of 40 have never had children, and notes that “primary infertility (the proportion of couples who are unable to have any children) is very low in India.”

The fact is that according to the World Health Organization estimates, three million children die every year from treatable respiratory infections, diarrhoea and other illnesses either preventable through clean water, nutritious food and cheap vaccines, or treatable with basic drugs. At the same time, social pressure for early childbearing, combined with a range of circumstances which can reduce a woman’s chances of getting pregnant (ill health as well as absentee spouses) and aggressive advertising by practitioners of all types, claiming to treat infertility — all this has surely contributed to a socially-motivated need to seek treatment. Among the clients of such practitioners are women with secondary infertility from untreated infections.

When even in the new age of reproductive health, people cannot be guaranteed simple treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive tract infections, safe abortion and childbirth; when diseases like tuberculosis (which kills 500,000 Indians annually because they just don’t get treatment) still kill; when more than half the married Indian women are anaemic, 45 per cent of children are severely and chronically malnourished, are we not insulting people’s intelligence by talking about providing “affordable assisted reproductive technologies”? Such proposals make a mockery of the right to health.

To now look at collaboration in the context of present trends. What does it mean to talk of providing sophisticated infertility services through a collaboration between public and private sectors when the existing system doesn’t guarantee the basic right to survival, when in fact the public sector is consciously curbing access to basic services? Municipal hospitals charge for everything from case papers to diagnostic tests to life-saving treatments like heart surgery. Health organizations all over India have long been criticizing the government’s withdrawal from its responsibility to provide essential health services. The private sector has been encouraged to grow uncontrolled, creating a doctor-driven demand for treatments based on its profitability rather than on people’s needs.

Perhaps the ideas discussed in the IJMR article will come to nought, in which case, this comment is much ado about nothing. However, in 1984, the same publication carried an article arguing that IVF would benefit the family welfare programme; tubal sterilization is the most widely used “contraceptive”; women who lose their children to a high infant mortality rate look for reversal of the method, but this surgical technique has limited success rates. However, the authors argue, “IVF/ET requires comparatively less surgical intervention than tubal recanalization. If a couple is convinced that pregnancy could be achieved with certainty (the article was written when international success rates in IVF were even lower than they are at present) by the IVF/ET technique, in the event of their losing the existing children, they might readily accept tubal sterilization as a method of family planning. Thus invitro fertilization could be of great relevance to our national family welfare programme.”

Given the obsession with family planning, such statements could have helped legitimize the public sector IVF research programme in Mumbai. The IVF project was shut down shortly after the technique was established in India, but it enabled the launch of a number of private IVF specialists.

One does not wish to devalue a person’s right to infertility treatment. The social pressure to have biologically related children, and the psychological, social and economic consequences of childlessness, make it the state’s obligation to help in appropriate ways. Such help should come in the form of prompt treatment of conditions that induce infertility, public education on the causes of infertility and other appropriate treatments within the context of all health needs. This critique also has nothing to do with the population control lobby’s perspective that the poor have no right to reproduce.

The proposal to have a private-public collaboration on assisted reproductive technologies effectively puts infertility treatment above the right to basic care. Further, if implemented, it will not provide such care to the poor who need it, who anyway do not get access to other care. All it will do is enable private infertility specialists to find opportunities to benefit from the public sector’s support. In a way, that’s how the whole game started in the first place.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

The public face of care

Sir — The article, “Small difference” (April 7), feels that the so-called “gap” between suffering people and social workers has decreased, the reason being that a handful of celebrities have taken up the cause of the less privileged. There cannot be a more ignorant reading of the matter than the bringing together of Mahasweta Devi, Shamlu Dudeja, Aishwarya Rai, Manisha Koirala and Hrithik Roshan under the same umbrella. While Mahasweta Devi, Shamlu Dudeja, Steve Waugh are genuinely involved in and concerned about the causes they have embraced, for the “social workers” from tinseltown, the association with a cause ends with a promotional video or charity shows once in a few months. As Koirala, Rai and the rest already command a good deal of media attention, even their smallest contributions get huge coverage. Contrary to what the author thinks, the gap has only widened, and will keep widening till there are more genuine social workers, who would rather have the gratitude of the needy than publicity.
Yours faithfully,
Arta Mishra, Cuttack

Star subjects

Sir — Sukanta Chaudhuri’s article on the neglect of the humanities reflects the plight of our education system (“Whither humanities?”, April 8 ). The evaluation of a subject on the basis of its economic utility defies the very purpose of education, making it merely a means to materialistic ends.

Chaudhuri’s argument that the production of humanities graduates merely increases the unemployment levels in the country is perhaps not entirely true. Statistical data show that the humanities students still bag the major chunk of the Central and state civil services jobs. The recent proposal made by the Union human resources development minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, to introduce Sanskrit in the school curriculum and to promote it as a major subject of higher education may be mentioned in this context.

If humanities students are indeed a burden to the state, producing more of these “unproductive drones” certainly defies logic. Either the attitude towards the students of humanities must be radically changed, or the government should avoid hypocrisy by halting the promotion of humanities subjects.

Yours faithfully,
Sankha Roy, Calcutta

Sir — Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s proposal to promote the study of Sanskrit is a laudable move (“Shades of Sanskrit”, April 7). Not only would this open up a treasure trove of ancient wisdom for the students, but a serious policy on Sanskrit would also solve the linguistic problems of the country in a big way.

Multi-ethnic Israel could have easily nominated the language spoken by one of the races of the country as the national language. But in order to maintain linguistic democracy, it took great pains to revive a dead language, Hebrew, which subsequently emerged as a living and vibrant language linking the multi-lingual Israeli populace.

Sincere teaching of Sanskrit in schools and its promotion through the media would help Indians to be acquainted with it. It would be the ideal national language as it is not associated with any particular caste, class, religion or province. Unlike Hindi, which lends a sense of superiority to the residents of the cowbelt, Sanskrit would place all Indians on an equal footing.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — Any attempt to impose Sanskrit on the people of India is likely to prove as disastrous as the bid to make Hindi acceptable to all. Sanskrit has never been the parent language of the states south of the Vindhyas. Asking them to embrace Sanskrit would be as unfair as imposing Hindi on them.

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Panigrahi, Cuttack

Sir — The editorial, “Know the future” (April 3), criticizing the proposed introduction of astrology at undergraduate, postgraduate and research levels has not done justice to many who believe in it as a science. Is it fair to undermine something that is acceptable to many, though it be a faith? The editorial has attempted to devalue the traditional schools of learning. If the study of astrology is one’s choice of higher education, how can it be construed as harmful?

Yours faithfully,
C. Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

Sir — The stand The Telegraph has adopted with regard to the proposed introduction of astrology as an academic discipline is curious. It relegates the University Grants Commission to the “junkyard of history” for advocating the introduction of astrology, but it boosts its own circulation by unfailingly publishing weekly horoscopes. Isn’t this a little strange?

Yours faithfully,
Ramen Bhattacharya, Calcutta

Bathed in blood

Sir — It is time Indian politicians and bureaucrats got serious about Bihar. At least Bhaskar Ghose, a former bureaucrat, has come out strongly on the anarchy in Bihar, a subject discussed otherwise amidst general merrymaking in parties (“That dreadful state”, April 13). Bihar is showing all the signs of a “rogue state”. The people of Bihar can hardly abdicate responsibility. In caste-based rivalries, they fight till the last drop of their blood. But they are silent spectators when politicians flout all norms of democracy and capture polling booths or make off with public money.

There are still villages otherwise unapproachable than on foot, where people do not have access to electricity, minimum wages or literacy. Theft of electricity is common. While genuine consumers suffer from long power cuts, the power sector incurs losses to the tune of several hundred crores of rupees.

Bandhs are everyday occurrences, inevitably accompanied by violence. The private as well as the public sectors flout all industrial norms, productivity languishes and the mafia rules. All government and semi-government contracts go to them, while other bidders are warned to stay away. The police is helpless in the face of such anarchy. The state is now beyond redemption. President’s rule is the only option.

Yours faithfully,
Deepak Poddar, via email

Sir — Bhaskar Ghose’s article provides glimpses of the veritable jungle that is Bihar. While reading it, I was reminded of an incident narrated to me by a neighbour brought up in Bihar. He was witness to a blood feud in Dhanbad in which the arm of a person was chopped off by some men in retaliation against the murder of their kin. Such killing and baying for blood are of daily occurrence in Bihar.

Yours faithfully,
Debasish Dey, Calcutta

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
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Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
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