Editorial 1/ Defensible Logic
Editorial 2/ Uniform Disregard
Poverty and Calories
Fifth Column/ To be always right may be wrong
This above all/ Oblivious of the beauty around us
Letters to the editor

The visit to India of the United States deputy secretary of state, Mr Richard Armitage, is further evidence of the growing convergence between India and the US on key strategic issues. Mr Armitage was principally visiting New Delhi as part of a process of consultation with “friends and allies” on the National Missile Defence, plans of which were unveiled by the US president, George W. Bush, in a recent speech at the American National Defence University. Meanwhile, the remarks made by the Indian prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on National Technology Day confirmed that New Delhi’s initial warm response to Mr Bush’s speech was not knee-jerk, but a considered reaction to a policy initiative that could radically change the international security architecture. The Indian domestic debate on the NMD has followed a predictable path. While there is growing support within the strategic community, gut anti-Americanism together with outdated slogans seem to define the response of those critical of the government’s stance. It is critical that these forces, caught in a timewarp, are not allowed to hijack the realism in New Delhi’s relations with the US and in its response to the NMD. The critics would do well to consider the following.

The US is the only superpower in the international system and it has the ability to act unilaterally in practically any sphere of international relations. Technology permitting, the NMD system will be put in place sooner or later no matter how intense the international opposition. India’s rejection of the idea would not make Washington change its mind; it would only lead to an estrangement in bilateral relations. Constructive engagement, instead, could help create the possibility of India finding a modus vivendi with Washington so that the NMD could even more explicitly serve Indian interests.

The NMD, it is clear, is geared towards rogue states like North Korea, Iran, Iraq and potentially China and Pakistan. These are states that could directly or indirectly threaten India’s interests as well. It is in New Delhi’s interests to persuade Washington to construct an NMD that will not just protect the US, but be based on a cooperative structure that will intercept missiles that emerge from these countries right in their boost phase. Admittedly, the US is out to protect its own interests, and not to dole out charity. But it is evident that for scientific and strategic reasons, the US needs allies that can physically and politically support this new security architecture. What is baffling is that all those who had been for long arguing against the unethical and immoral foundations of nuclear deterrence are the ones that are most critical of these plans to move away from the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. Scepticism has been voiced at Mr Bush’s plans to make deep cuts in American nuclear forces. There is no evidence that he did not make these promises in “good faith”. But even if it is true that the US will be in a position to preemptively disarm its nuclear adversaries, it makes even more sense to stay on the side of the state that is capable of such decisive unilateral interventions. On the basis of past record, it is clear that both China and Russia — two critics of the NMD — will fall in line once the inevitability of American plans becomes clear. If India had maintained it ritual anti-Americanism, it would have remained the lone dissenter, and once again become “the nanny” of international relations. National interests cannot be compromised on the altar of a moral crusade; they need to be fashioned to ensure that India remains secure and is able to increase its influence in the international system.


The illusion of invincibility is always dangerous. In a madman it can lead to self-destruction, in policemen it leads to the destruction of others. That the latter revel in the illusion was made amply clear in a recent little episode in the lower court in Barasat. Three policemen, appearing as the accused in a case, walked into court fully dressed and armed, in defiant disregard of court etiquette. They had to be thrown into the lock-up on the judge’s orders after they refused to comply with his instructions as to outfit. In this case, the furious judge had his way, and the three policemen were let out when they changed into plain clothes after three hours of defiance. But their behaviour is a symptom of an illness that afflicts most policemen in West Bengal, the belief that they can get away with anything. It is not enough to blame politicians for this, society is to blame too for allowing them to nurture this illusion. It breeds in them a special form of criminality, best exemplified recently in the rape of a deaf-mute girl in custody and its aftermath.

The conspiracy of silence and silencing that surrounds the story is alarming in its implications. The alleged rapists, presumably the two constables in charge of her as she travelled in a van from court to police station, felt safe because not only was the girl charged with theft and would be disbelieved, but also because she was mute. Fear, which usually compels such victims of police abuse to remain silent, was here aided by incapacity. She was believed only after she was found pregnant but nothing so far has been done about the accused. No hue and cry, no media spotlight, no public pressure has worked. Now, after the victim has delivered the child, the conspiracy threatens to take a new turn. The girl’s lawyer has alleged a possible swapping of babies, made in order to confuse the DNA trail. The moral is twofold. The public and the media have not been active enough. And the government, old and new, has signally failed to bring even the basic accountability into the conduct of policemen.


When V.M. Dandekar and N. Rath agreed in 1971 to publish as a book their articles of a few years earlier in the Economic and Political Weekly, little must they have realized that they were the first to develop a poverty line for a developing country, and were the founders of the important specialization of poverty studies in India. Dandekar and Rath estimated the levels of poverty in India on the basis of minimum calorie intakes of food in urban and rural India. They used the household consumption expenditure data from the National Sample Survey.

Over the years, the NSS data began to show lower levels of expenditure than the data derived for the estimation of national income. Of course, national income data is at a macro level and not appropriate for poverty estimates. Further, the composition of diets in households began to change; but to enable comparisons over time, the changes in composition were not taken into account. This must also have introduced errors in the estimation of consumption in calorie terms, and hence in the estimates of poverty. However, some reported studies show that over a 25- to 30-year period, rural calorie intake has dropped by around 5 per cent.

The figures of the proportions of the population below the poverty line varied over the years. However, in years of agricultural recession, poverty levels, particularly in rural India, went up. The national income figures suggested that the poverty levels were declining, and the NSS figures, that they were not. With liberalization policies being introduced in the Nineties, this became a stick with which to beat liberalization. There were those that attributed the increase in poverty levels, or their not declining, to liberalization.

Meanwhile, governments in India had introduced policies towards agriculture and food distribution that were intended to support the farmer and enable the poor to have a minimum calorie intake of foodgrains. A policy of minimum support prices at which the government would buy all the grain on offer, and of procurement prices at which it would procure as much foodgrains as it thought necessary, were designed. Over time, however, the distinction between these two prices disappeared, and the government began to procure all the grain on offer, at prices that were raised each year, with little reference to actual costs and the need for foodgrain stocks.

The government also started offering inputs like fertilizers below costs, so as to stimulate their usage and production of foodgrains. These subsidized supplies, in due course, were seen to keep inefficient fertilizer manufacturers in production, rather than to offer cheap fertilizer to the farmer. Also, these supplies tended to go more to the rich farmers who produced a surplus, than to others. These expenditures on subsidies compelled the government to cut public investments to develop agriculture, like dams, rural roads and rural storage. Better-off farmers were able to sharply increase their investments, which were specific to themselves, in mechanization and so on. The availability of agricultural credit and crop insurance also remained inadequate.

As far as the poor were concerned, a scheme of targeting those below the poverty line, to give them foodgrains at cheaper prices, was introduced. On the whole, this has been unsatisfactory in reaching the rural poor, except recently in states like Andhra Pradesh. Distributing grains in physical form created other problems because of the procurement, handling, storage and distribution of vast quantities. Corruption affected the quality adversely. Ration cards were given to bogus consumers, with the cheap grains being diverted to the market.

The quality in ration supplies was inferior. Ration shops were not easily accessible. The shops were open in the daytime, making it difficult for daily wage-workers to access them. Being paid their wages on a daily or weekly basis, many of the poor could not collect enough money to be able to buy rations that were distributed on a fortnightly or weekly basis. They were left to the mercies of the market and, because their daily purchases were so small, ended up paying higher than even the open market prices. Rising prices to farmers meant rising ration prices for the poor.

In its anxiety to reduce the country’s dependence on imported edible oils, the government followed the policy of curbing imports through high import duties, thus raising the cost to the consumer. This also led to changes in cropping patterns, as land was diverted to more remunerative crops than the land could otherwise have supported. The absence of a national ground water policy and availability of electricity, cheap or free, also led to excessive use of ground water to produce more water-intensive crops.

Agriculture continues to be the primary source of livelihood for most of rural India. Hence any decline in agriculture would reduce livelihoods and lead to increase in poverty. In that respect, the Nineties have been bad for agriculture. This was because of some drought years and declining public investment. However, non-agricultural income has shown sharp increases in dairying, sericulture, horticulture, servicing of farm equipment, retail trade and so on. This has, to a great extent, kept rural purchasing power rising. The liberalization policies have also, for the first time, improved the rural-urban terms of trade. The quantity of urban goods that could be bought for the same quantity as before of rural goods, has increased sharply. It has led to a rural consumer market boom, which in the last two years has tapered down, because of poor agricultural production growth.

Employment appears to be increasingly casual, that is, available on a day-to-day basis and for a limited part of the year. This creates uncertainty. Allied to the poor delivery of health and education services, it traps the poor in a cycle of poverty. Therefore, we have a situation in which policies exist to support agriculture and the poor, but they are not well coordinated, nor delivered efficiently. Policies are highly compartmentalized in keeping with the fragmentation of ministries and departments of the Central and state governments. We cannot divorce policies on agriculture and other rural occupations from rural investment expenditures of governments, food procurement and distribution policies, policies on ground water, pricing of water and electricity, and other related policies.

We have to question the present price support and procurement policies which lead to stock accumulation and declining demand from ration shops. Alternatives to handling, storage and distribution of vast quantities of foodgrains must be found. Food stamps have been mentioned, but have never been tried. Micro-credit schemes for small farmers are an urgent necessity. Perennial employment must be assured. Substantial public investments in rural infrastructure like roads and storage, and paying wages partly in foodgrains, is a method that has worked well in Maharashtra. It leads to long-term improvement while providing livelihood.

Delivery of social services must improve in rural areas. Giving local authorities the responsibility for health, education and local development expenditure has worked well in some areas. A thrust to promoting non-agricultural occupations and establishing infrastructure for that purpose are urgently needed. Funds presently wasted in subsidies on fertilizers and in carrying large foodstocks could be diverted to these uses.

The information system on consumption must also be improved. There are, today, many agencies in the private sector that collect such information. We must ensure that all this information is used. The compulsions of politics have led to fragmented and uncoordinated decision-making. The country has paid a high price in the avoidable poverty of millions, under-nourishment and poor quality of human resources.

The author is former chairman, National Council for Applied Economic Research


Soon the United States gets voted out of the United Nation’s human rights commission and the international drug monitoring body. Is the world ganging up against the US?

The last fortnight has been difficult for the US. The global policeman and the defender of human rights lost its seat on the UNHRC for the first time since the drafting of the UN declaration on human rights in 1947. But it was not just the vote of the developing countries, like that of the arch-opponents, Libya and China, but that of France, Austria and Sweden too that shooed the US off.

That very week, the US got another rude shock. It was voted off its seat on the international drug monitoring body. The country had campaigned for a third term for the American representative, Herbert Okun, who has served as vice-president on the international narcotics control board. But he was voted off in the same secret-ballot procedure and by the same countries that cost the US its seat on the UNHRC, while India and six others were elected to the board.

When an official spokesperson was asked the cause of the US’s unpopularity, he attributed it to “something happening out there”. Conspiracy theory or not, there is no mistaking the US’s huge unpopularity, especially after the world became unipolar. In this case, it was not just Cuba, Iran and Iraq but at least 14 of the US’s usual allies who turned against it.

Not always privileged

For one, the US has constantly reneged on promises to pay its dues to the UN. Three years ago Washington had promised that arrears of some $1.5 billion would be paid. This has not been done. Predictably, the Republican right saw the US failure to win back its rights commission seat as yet another reason to renege on US’s debt to the UN, thus reinforcing the very attitude that helped lose even allies’ votes for the American rights commission candidacy.

There are other reasons why the US lost, quite apart from Chinese or Cuban malice and the payment problem. International disillusionment with American policy has been growing for years at the UN, among allies as well as enemies of the US. The Clinton administration — with its failure to support the treaty banning land mines, its insistence on the Iraqi sanctions and its defeat on ratification of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty — did not leave an ideal legacy.

But Bill Clinton’s aides worked hard to overcome congressional hostility to the UN and forge an agreement on back dues. In contrast, George W. Bush has made matters much worse with policies that aggravate tensions between the US and its allies. Given the opportunity to cast a secret ballot, more than a dozen friendly nations chose to punish the US for what Dubya has done over the past 100 days to undermine environmental protection and arms control.

Monopoly on arrogance

Defenders of human rights who think the US is being punished for its firm principles will have to explain why Cuba can do no right and Israel can do no wrong. European envoys are quite prepared to support investigations of human rights violations in Cuba, but not as part of a feud ultimately engineered by Cuban exile groups in Florida. Also, the US’s European allies find it difficult to give a blanket veto in support of Ariel Sharon, the man who is remembered as the architect of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and the facilitator of the massacres of Sabra and Shatila.

Of course, the US has no monopoly on hypocrisy, as a quick glance at France’s record on Iraq or Morocco and Western Sahara, would establish. But Washington does have a near-monopoly on arrogance regarding the views of other countries.

A little more of self-criticism and a lot less of self-righteousness would go a long way in making the greatest democracy more democratic when it comes to other people’s opinions. The incidents reveal the weaknesses not just in the American position, but also in the very mechanisms of American diplomacy. US envoys are seen as one-way emissaries, bearing ultimatums from the congress to the rest of the world, though often they come in the guise of UN envoys. Nor can the world forget the use the US made of the UN during the Kuwait war. Until the US takes a hard critical look at itself it will continue to delude itself that it alone is right, and the rest of the world wrong.


On April 4, while taking my afternoon stroll in Lodhi Gardens, I heard the papeeha calling from a distance. Koels had been doing so for a week or so. Not the low-pitched gurgle they have during the winter months, but the full-throated “koo-oo koo-oo” sound. Papeehas are more time-bound than koels; they are silent during the winter but come spring, they open up with great vigour. I recall being in Chandigarh’s Punjab Bhawan in mid-April some years ago. The entire countryside echoed to papeehas calling incessantly all through the evening and into the late hours of a moonlit night. Next to the koel, it is the favourite bird of Indian poets. What bulbuls (wrongly translated as nightingales) are in Persian and Urdu poetry, papeehas are in Sanskrit, Hindi and poetry of other Indian languages.

The bird’s call is interpreted as “pee kahaan?” — “where is my beloved?” Or, in Marathi, as “paos-ala” — “the summer is coming”. For some reason, the same call sounded like brain-fever in the ears of the Englishmen and they named it the brain-fever bird, or the hawk-cuckoo. There is nothing hawkish about the bird; it looks like a grey pigeon. Like other birds of the cuckoo family (koels, king crows and monsoon birds), it does not make its own nest, but leaves its eggs in other birds’ nests to be hatched. Its chicks are nurtured to maturity by their foster parents.

Back to Lodhi Park. I sat on my favourite spot beneath the Bara Gumbad mosque, listening to the papeeha calling and taking on the scene. Kachnar (bauhinia) flowers were fading, melitias were in full bloom strewing their tiny mauve flowers on the ground around their boles. Barbets called. A flock of grey hornbills flew past overhead screaming as they went. There were parakeets and mynahs.

Other people in the park seemed oblivious of flowers and birds about them. The regulars, most of whom I recognized, sped along the paved footpaths as if on urgent business. Oldies sat on benches mourning their lost youth and pronouncing on the evils of the world.

There were several parties of picnickers sitting on durries, downing parathas, pakodas, samosas and throwing their empty paper plates around while crows eagerly pecked at left-overs. There were at least a dozen cricket matches going on using the walls of ancient monuments as wickets and with fielders trampling over flower-beds to retrieve balls. Cricketers and picnickers have converted most of the lawns of this beautiful historic park into playgrounds and open-air eateries.

The Archaeological Survey of India, which looks after it must be more firm in dealing with these vandals. This park is replete with history; it has ancient monuments, trees and flower-beds. It is meant for peace and for quiet contemplation. Noisy hoodlums and litter-bags should not be allowed to desecrate it.

Paying for old sins

May came with a couple of dust storms, followed by a few drops of rain. The heat abated for a few hours; but then it returned with humidity which made it more oppressive. Evening strolls in Lodhi Gardens ceased to be a pleasure. To add to heat, gulmohars burst into fiery reds and golden yellows, jaruls (queen’s flower) also came into bloom but its mauve flowers could not offset the heat generated by the flamboyant gulmohars.

I was loath to walk; I tried the static bicycle and found it very boring. But exercise is a must, the doctor told me. “Your BP is dangerously high,” he said. “Pills may bring it down, but daily exercise is most important. You must bring down your weight, reduce your paunch, cut down on drink, salt and sugar or else you are in for serious trouble. At your age, a stroke will sound your death knell.”

Very reluctantly, I took out my swimming suit, bathing cap and towel. In the heat of the sun, I drove to the Golf Club which has a lovely open-air bathing pool with fresh water constantly running into it. I used to swim regularly till two years ago when I got an infection in the ear (an earache can be more painful than pain in any other part of the body). I had to quit. I decided to risk it once more.

Not much had changed except the pool water looked cleaner, diving boards had been renewed and a metal banister installed to help aged people like me to go down the steps into the water without stumbling into it.

The staff were surprised to see me return. I could see it written on their faces that they were assured I had gone to my heavenly abode; they were over-solicitous. The same ailanthus (maharukh) and neem trees were in their summer foliage. But their tenants had changed. The vultures, which used to nest on the ailanthus, were gone. Kites had taken their place. Instead of green bee-eaters which used to fly out of the neem tree and plunge into the pool to slake their thirst, there were rock pigeons in pairs. They sat by the rim of the pool, took a couple of beakfuls of water and flew away.

The first evening, I was a few minutes before the official opening time and had the pool all to myself. I did two lengths and rested at the shallow end for a breather. Bathers started trooping in. I could not recognize any of them and yet they looked familiar: little children between three and ten years of age, running ahead, screaming with excitement, their ayahs and mothers following behind gently reprimanding them: “itna shor mat machao” — “don’t make so much noise.” This is the crème de la crème of Delhi society. You can see that from their fancy sandals, bathing suits, bath caps and towels — all French or American. The ayahs are better attired than common ayahs; their lady bosses have diamonds sparkling in their ears and noserings. Their ample buttocks bear signs of good living, of bottle parties and little exercise. Their children come to the pool to have fun, try out their new, inflated rubber ducks and horses, goggles, scuba-diving equipment.

Their mothers hope to shed some fat and catch up on the latest gossip about who is seen going out with whom. The children are out of the dressing rooms in a jiffy and hurl themselves into the pool with whoops of delight. Their mothers take their time to fit themselves into their bathing costumes and come out with towels wrapped around their waists to hide their large bottoms till they enter the water.

A few attempts to swim to the other end of the pool were frustrated by boys and girls playing a pool version of blind man’s bluff called Marco Polo. There was a half-hour interval to replenish what they had lost. Bearers were summoned.

Every table around the pool was supplied with cartons of chilled Coke and plates of sandwiches, samosas, and fried potato chips. They were liberally sprinkled with tomato ketchup squeezed out of plastic bottles.

After everything had been gobbled up, they were back in the pool for the second and third rounds. Surely, no doctors had ordered them as they had ordered me to stretch my limbs on a daily basis! They were enjoying themselves; I was punishing myself for my past sins. I was inclined to agree with Mark Twain who never took any exercise and described it as loathsome.

Free calls to England

An elderly acquaintance of mine told me that he made a daily call to his son living in London without spending a single paisa. How the father-son duo achieved this was quite a revelation.

The father would dial his son’s telephone number exactly at 3 pm. The son would not pick up the receiver. He would take it as an “all okay” signal from India. When the call was disconnected, the son would dial his father’s telephone number. The father would not pick up the receiver but would take it as an “all okay” signal from his son. Both of them in turn ensured that there was somebody to receive the call and also that the telephone was not kept busy at that time.



Familial complaint

Sir — A political system can be called democratic only if it does not pay any heed to hereditary privileges. Is the Indian political system democratic? Since independence, India has had 14 prime ministers. Of these, three have come from a single family. The succession of members from this family began with the grandfather, who ruled for 18 years. He was followed by his daughter, who governed for 17 years. After her assassination, her son took over the reins and governed for six years. In totality, this family has administered the Indian polity for 43 years out of a possible 54. Moreover, the family has an excellent chance to improve its record given Sonia Gandhi’s desires. The other 11 prime ministers have governed India for about 12 years. Somehow, given the statistics, one would not imagine India to be a democracy if one is to accept the definition given above. Perhaps the leader of the opposition refers to the 12 years when her family did not rule India, when she uses the term, “democracy”.
Yours faithfully,
Venkat, Canada

High turn over

Sir — It was expected that the Left Front will come to power in West Bengal, but this huge margin of victory was not expected (“1977, 82, 87, 91, 96, 2001…”, May 14). But some credit for this is also due to Mamata Banerjee. She has been shouting at the Left Front for years. Unfortunately, she could not clearly state what kind of changes she would bring. Again, she left the National Democratic Alliance and allied with the Congress just before the elections. This was not acceptable to most people. Earlier, she had come out of the Congress. There seems to be no consistency in her thoughts and moves. She has made bad decisions several times in the past. For some time now it has been clear to everybody that her brand of politics is based on sentimental rhetoric. There is simply no rationality. The people of West Bengal have demonstrated that they will not put up with this.

It is ridiculous that after losing the elections, Mamata Banerjee started behaving like a child (“Mamata shows up to spit venom”, May 15). This was not expected from her. She must cope with the reality that people across the state have wholeheartedly voted for the Left Front. It is not possible to win the elections with such a huge margin relying solely on rigging — as she alleges. She must understand that shouting insanely is not politics. If she wants to restore the people’s faith in her she will have to do something positive. Everybody is bored of hearing the same things against the Left Front. It was also surprising when she said that the chief election commissioner, M.S. Gill, has helped the Left Front, so that the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance could be defeated.

Yours faithfully
Rajarshi Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — The editorial, “Stoops to folly” (May 16) makes valid points. Banerjee was determined to become the chief minister of West Bengal and she wanted to do it at any cost. She could not imagine such a humiliating defeat. Of course, an efficient organizational machinery can make things happen. But, can one really believe that the people who wanted to vote for her could not vote? If a party has lost in the elections, it can mean only two things. Either the people were prevented from voting or the people did not want to vote for her.

If we consider the first reason, it can be assumed that this indeed happened in a number of booths; but that would not change the overall trend of the results so significantly. If we consider the second reason, it can be concluded that people of West Bengal really did not want to change the existing government. This cannot be construed as the result of a lack of organizational power in the Trinamool Congress.

Yours faithfully,
Sudip Bhattacharjee, Bangalore

Sir — The article, “Tale of two campaigns” (May 17) is timely. It is disturbing that a part of the Calcutta-based print and electronic media predicted Mamata Banerjee’s win and supported her gimmicks throughout her campaign. On the the other hand, the well-planned campaign of the Left Front did not get the requisite publicity at all.

Yours faithfully,
Debesh Choudhury, via email

Sir — Mamata Banerjee’s outburst against the Election Commission does not say anything positive about her. She might have felt terribly disappointed with the results of her sincere efforts, but her reaction has been unbecoming. West Bengal deserves a more mature leader. It is time she understood that sheer popularity, devoid of organizational strength, cannot win her the coveted seat in the Writers’ Buildings.

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti Ray, Mankundu

Sir — The former Trinamool Congress chief is being criticized by leaders of all other political parties. This is because, in their heart of hearts,they consider her as an asset they would cherish within their folds. The Bharatiya Janata Party feels that it lost a golden opportunity to make political inroads in West Bengal because Mamata Banerjee deserted them. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) criticized her earlier for having allowed the BJP to make forays into West Bengal. Now they are criticizing her for having severed links with the party.

That the recent elections in West Bengal were not quite free and fair is palpable from the booth-wise record of votes polled in the Keshpur and Garbeta East constituencies. The performance of the EC, therefore, leaves much to be desired. Perhaps the equipment the EC has for conducting free and fair polls was inadequate to detect and stop the intrigues of the errant players.

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Chanda, via email

Sir — Mamata Banerjee has been looking for a complete change with her utterance: “badley deen, paltey deen”. But does she have the capacity to run the state administration? Besides, a state like West Bengal cannot be run by one autocratic leader, however charismatic he or she might be. Economists all over the region were heaving sighs of relief as the results of the assembly elections were announced. They were fearing that had she come to power she would immediately adopt all sorts of populist measures and thus ruin the economy which is already in shambles owing to the long and ineffective rule by the Left Front. Indeed, it is very difficult to vote for anybody in this part of the country.

Yours faithfully,
Rajeev Bagra, Calcutta

Sir — Ashis Chakrabarti’s article, “The brash shall inherit” (May 8) is right. It is extremely unfortunate that the assembly election campaigns have witnessed an overdose of mudslinging and personal attacks by politicians of all possible hues. There is no longer a sense of decorum. Politics has been overtaken by the zeal to ensure a victory using means fair or foul.

Bengalis have lost considerable ground in the sphere of culture. Now it seems that the epithet, bhadralok, is also at stake.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — The election results in West Bengal have delivered an apt message to the likes of Mamata Banerjee. Those who fly too high end up in the dumps.

Yours faithfully,
Vikram Surana, via email

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