Editorial 1 / Gift of a cheque
Editorial 2 / Wronged in rights
Madness and method
Fifth Column / A victory not quite famous
The reddening mountains
In touch and always in the know
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / GIFT OF A CHEQUE 
 
 
 
 
India’s oldest political party, the Indian National Congress, has once again taken on a pioneering role in a sphere that has always been under the shadow of notoriety. It has decided that henceforward, it will accept donations to the party fund only in the form of cheques. This decision was taken by the working committee of the Congress, but it is obvious from reports that the driving force was none other than the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi. Even if one were to accept for argument’s sake that Ms Gandhi will not make any mark in Indian politics, she will be remembered for initiating the change that could herald a major clean-up of Indian politics. Funding of political parties and election campaigns in India has always been furtive. It has commonly been associated with black money and with forms of armtwisting. A very thin line often marked the difference between the wealth of individual political leaders and funds collected for the party. Leading industrialists of the country, like Mr Ratan Tata, have often pleaded for greater transparency in the funding of political parties. The Congress, under Ms Gandhi, has been the first major political party to respond positively to such appeals. Ms Gandhi may not like to be reminded of this but by advocating cheque donations to the Congress she has broken radically with her mother-in-law whose name is ineradicably linked to the murkiness and skullduggery one associates with political fundraising.

Objective observers will note an appositeness in the fact that the Congress has taken the leadership in cleaning up the process of raising funds for political parties. The Congress, ten years ago, was the pacesetter in liberalizing the Indian economy. A crucial pillar of the project of liberalization has been transparency. A market economy working outside the aegis of the state is by definition open in terms of access, funding and in terms of information. For the project of liberalization to be complete, the notion of transparency has to go beyond the narrow confines of the economy. Transparency has to be pervasive in every arena of decision-making. This obviously includes the functioning of political parties and the ways in which they raise funds for their work and campaigns. It is an open secret that industrialists donate money to political parties. The Congress, when it was at the forefront of the national movement and the party of governance, received the bulk of those donations. But the names of the donors and the scale of their donations have always been a matter of speculation and grist to the rumour mills. Ms Gandhi’s proposals will put a stop to all this. She deserves kudos for this. In a quiet way and without saying as much she has been trying to change the culture of the Congress. With cheque donations in the pipeline, may be the removal of the culture of sycophancy is not far behind.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / WRONGED IN RIGHTS 
 
 
 
 
The concept of rights can go very wrong. The Madhya Pradesh human rights commission seems to have lost sight of both rights and humanness in its report, “Caste-Based Prostitution in Madhya Pradesh”. The report focusses on three backward tribes in which women traditionally earn through socially sanctioned sex work. The language and general attitude displayed in the report have incited several non-governmental organizations to activate a protest movement in cooperation with the affected tribes. It seems that the MPHRC has used anthropological and sociological data to construct a morally condemnatory statement. Maybe it forgot its job. A part of this task would have been to examine traditional tribal customs to show up the human rights violations implicit in them. The goal would be to bring in development through education and awareness-raising about both rights and alternative economic opportunities. The last could be a particularly challenging area. Discovering traditional skills related to everyday survival of the tribes, their unique use of local material, would be the first step towards suggesting that other, equally easy, ways of earning are already there. Members of the different tribes could be trained in marketing. A number of NGOs have had successful experiences in this sphere.

But all this is a slow and painstaking process. Certainly, a first report would need to lay out the realities. The tone of the MPHRC report suggests, however, that those who have put it together are more interested in branding the tribes instead of helping them. At one level, this is exactly what the British displayed in their labelling of “criminal tribes”. But that kind of branding had more to do with governing strategy than anything else, although the contempt was unmistakable. The MPHRC cannot possibly have the same goal. Its disdain of the tribes and its implicit moral condemnation of all sex workers are the most obvious and most repellent features. Such a report forecloses the possibility of development, reduces whole groups of people to something less than human — in other words, violates those very rights the institution is supposed to uphold. There is one more uncomfortable angle. The report was funded by the UNICEF, which subsequently dissociated itself from it. There have been other occasions in which overseas models have caused a distortion of perspective and orientation. The recent case of an NGO punished because of wrongheaded rhetoric in its report in spite of its good work in the Garwhal region exemplifies this confusion. It is astonishing that a state human rights commission can fall prey to similar folly. Members of NGOs are often held in suspicion as “outsiders” and their efforts to blend with the region where they work turn into salutary lessons. The state institution has no such problems. Evidently, this leaves it free to air its prejudices about caste, class and profession at the drop of a hat.

   

 
 
MADNESS AND METHOD 
 
 
BY V.R. RAGHAVAN
 
 
The balance of nuclear deterrence in the years of the Cold War rested on mutually assured destruction, known by the curiously apt acronym, MAD. The United States and the Soviets each had the capacity to destroy the other and the rest of the world many times over with nuclear weapons. The apocalypse was perfectly feasible with tens of thousands of nuclear warheads amongst the two powers. There were some more owned by the pretenders to apocalyptic power, like Britain, France and the new boy on the block, China. The image of power from possessing nuclear weapons rubbed off on some others. Israel is known to have, and India and Pakistan have, these coins to jingle. They hardly pose a challenge to the two major nuclear powers who possess big denomination currency.

Russia is in economic trouble and the condition is so bad that the once proud country is reduced to accepting financial aid to keep its nuclear warheads safe. There are ghastly stories of Russian nuclear warheads gone missing and possibly in the hands of either rogue nations or diabolical individual leaders. The American leadership has convinced itself that such dangerous elements are bent on wreaking vengeance on their beloved country. They have convinced themselves — the Republican Party stalwarts particularly — that over 7,000 nuclear warheads are not enough to deter the diabolics around the world. They argue the illogic of guaranteed nuclear retaliation by deadly accurate missiles not being enough to deter the US-haters. They have also convinced themselves that an untested, unbelievably costly, but wholly uncertain missile defence shield over America would deter those mad enough to try such a gambit.

Why anyone would want to make an expensive, very long range missile which can reach the blessedly safe US mainland, defies the imagination. Even if such a thing was feasible, the inveterate US-hater, Saddam Hussein, with his petro-dollar riches, could not make it feasible. A missile fired can always be traced back to its origins. If it hurt the US mainland, retaliation would be swift, and if it carried a nuclear weapon the result would be too calamitous to bear. Why then the need for the pie-in-the-sky missile defence? Why this urgency to push ahead with the plan, even in the face of doubts and fears of the US allies? The answers lie in the future, as perceived by the hawks among the right wing of the US polity.

The US right wing, currently led by the main players in the administration, firmly believe that the destiny of their country is to lead. They believe — not without justification — that the 20th century was defined by America, and that this should continue to be so in the current century. America must lead the world, undoubtedly for freedom and personal liberty, but on American terms. The way to do so lies in dominating the next technology frontier of space, where the US already has a lead. Before the supremacy of the US is challenged in the next two decades, a new global order should be put into place. The new order would ensure that no nation or group of nations can threaten American interests. It would establish US supremacy in all dimensions of security. In other words, the US, with its partners, would be invincible.

The logic of invulnerability creates the compulsion of a response from the vulnerable. That is what led to the Chinese nuclear capability, followed by India which in turn was followed by Pakistan. West Asia is potentially nuclear as much because of the US as because of Israel’s nuclear weapons. That is the consequence of zero-sum security. It is also termed the security-insecurity paradox, where one nation’s security leads to another’s insecurity.

The US initiative in launching a missile defence program will create that paradox. The stability of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War was premised on both the US and the Soviets being equally vulnerable. Both could destroy each other and hence neither wanted to begin the process. There was assurance of mutual destruction and hence MAD made eminent sense. There was a method in the madness. Now the Bush administration wants to throw out the stable system and replace it with all the instability inherent in missile defence.

The Russians feel that they would be made hostage through their nuclear deterrence being eroded both by ageing warheads and by their economic inability to compete in space. The Chinese are angry that their nuclear deterrence would be negated with serious consequences in their quest for eminence in the Asia-Pacific. It would close the possibility of their uniting Taiwan with the mainland. In fact, the Chinese leadership feels that its country is being put into an enclosure with walls too high to climb over. As for the allies of the US, each is affected by its individual fears.

Japan will have to cope with a hostile China and with North Korea, both of whom have a record of nuclear proliferation. The Europeans are concerned about the fall-out from an isolated, vulnerable and angry Russia in possession of the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world. There are enough nations and national moods in west Asia which view the development as a menace, especially in the light of US inability or unwillingness to rein in the Israelis. As for the Israelis, they are fast running out of options on the Palestinian issue, which will unite the Arab world against it. It can then go overtly nuclear, and in its wake will come greater proliferation and instability.

In this maze of views, two important issues are being highlighted by experienced analysts in the US. Opinions are seriously divided on the merits of missile defence. In a recent poll, a majority welcomed protection against nuclear threats from “rogue” elements. At the same time, the majority also preferred that existing deterrence stability should not be tampered with. One sane advice given to the Bush administration from the analysts is that the 21st century requires cooperation more than confrontation. It needs engagement more than containment. It needs non-proliferation more than more nuclear powers.

The other advice being given is that the economics of missile defence cannot be sustained by the US, without serious consequences in the long run. There is concern that George W. Bush, in his inexperience, is rushing headlong into uncharted territory, without a map or a clear destination. Everybody agrees, however, that even with a missile defence system, MAD will continue to be the basis of future security. Nuclear madness is not such a bad thing, after all!

The author is a fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies, Stanford University

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / A VICTORY NOT QUITE FAMOUS 
 
 
BY MOHIT SEN
 
 
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has reason to feel relieved about being able to retain West Bengal. It had reconciled itself to the loss of Kerala. With Mamata Banerjee around, who seemed to have united the entire Congress behind her, West Bengal had also become a difficult proposition. Yet, it wasn’t a united Congress the CPI(M) fought at the hustings. Which is what made its job easy in the state.

The CPI(M) also won because its formidable organization has remained undamaged. This let it hold on to the votebank consolidated through the work done for the rural poor in the past and the party’s ability to keep communal peace in the state. The victory however does not mean the party has convinced people that it believes in democracy and freedom of choice.

The party has tried to project the stepping down of Jyoti Basu as the likely cause of the victory. It is true that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has created a good impression on the people by projecting the party as being balanced and reasonable, especially with regard to industry. However, the victory can also be interpreted as the electorate’s last salute to Basu. His policies may have alienated some sections of the population, but they were also his claim to fame. Basu, above all, had come to represent Bengal’s pride in itself. The election results are his last hurrah.

Lack of an alternative

But the biggest factor behind the Left Front victory seems to have been the wrong strategy adopted by the Trinamool Congress leader. Yet, Banerjee had once emerged the leader of sections of the electorate who had wanted the CPI(M) to go. She was given credit for her courage, her simple style of living and her ability to mix with the masses. She had also come to enjoy the status Basu had once held vis a vis the redoubtable B.C. Roy.

Banerjee had the capability to become the leader of the Congress in the Nineties. It was an internal coup that prevented that from happening. It is ironic that the persons involved in this action later joined her in the coup which resulted in the Congress’s defeat in the Rajya Sabha elections. The same people demanded that the Congress join the mahajot proposed by Banerjee. And now the same leaders are trying their best to push her back into the National Democratic Alliance.

There could have been a close contest between the left and Banerjee’s alliance. The reason her alliance did not cohere was because of the factionalism within and between the parties and not for her whimsicality. It is also not true that Banerjee did not have the calibre of becoming the chief minister. As Union railway minister, she had done a commendable job. The failure of the two Congresses to come together shows an alternative to the left has not been forged.

Bad strategy

There are a number of questions regarding the past 25 years of its rule that the victorious CPI(M) needs to answer. Were the years spent preparing for the people’s democratic revolution which the party had aimed for when it broke with the Communist Party of India in 1964? Or were these years spent in confronting the Centre? Or is it that the theory and practices of Marxism has prevented it from using constitutional democracy for the benefit of the working classes and the socially deprived?

The CPI(M) may be able to go on winning in Bengal unless the Congress, that is the two formations together, is able to put up a formidable challenge. The CPI(M) however can only look forward to a more constricted role nationally. It will also find it difficult to reconcile its attack on the economic reforms to its more pro-active role regarding industry in West Bengal.

Even worse is its attempt to forge a third front. For now, the front has the specific purpose of defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party while keeping the Congress at bay in the Uttar Pradesh elections The front is relying on the muscle power and casteist politics of Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is expected to emerge the J. Jayalalitha of the state.

This, even if it does happen, will not solve the national crisis. The BJP’s defeat, of course, might benefit. But will any good be served by treating the Congress as an enemy? The trouble with the CPI(M) is that neither its defeat in Kerala nor its victory in West Bengal has taught it any lesson. Its old principles might have worked for Bengal, but did they help in Kerala?

   

 
 
THE REDDENING MOUNTAINS 
 
 
BY SUJAN DUTTA
 
 
A professor giving a lecture to students in his journalism class one day attempted to define what the perfect news story is. “It is,” he said, “a combination of religion, royalty, sex and mystery.” Given these parameters, he set the students a task: write the perfect news story.

One student walked away with the top prize. She wrote: “Oh, my God!,” said the Princess. “I’m pregnant. Whodunit?”

Like that two-liner, the events in Narayanhity Palace, Kathmandu, are too good a news story. At first dismissed for being too smooth or too simplistic, they were taken by journalists, as well as the public — in Nepal as also elsewhere — as the stuff of which potboilers are made.

It seems, in retrospect, that the strangeness of truth over fiction so took aback the subjects of Nepal’s royalty that they were baying, begging, and, in some cases, praying for a more credible explanation of the events. The idea of a raging crown prince, Dipendra, Israeli Uzi sub-machine-gun in hand, mowing down his family because of forbidden love, is so unbelievable that something more human and, therefore, more tangible is needed to cool tempers. A story, say, like a palace coup engineered by India or some other foreign power, would not only have served to make a convenient scapegoat of Delhi — Nepal’s politicians are forever complaining of its “hegemony” — but would have also directed public ire away from the palace and the Nepalese government.

But such is the way the wind blows that the Nepalese state is caught in paradoxes of its own making. To the social scientist, Nepal is among the strangest of experiments in the laboratory of politics. It has a constitutional monarchy and an elected parliament.

Yet, neither of the two institutions can claim to command respect across the length and breadth of the country. The jurisdiction of the royals does not extend beyond the spiked silver fence of Narayanhity Palace. That of the government barely does beyond Kathmandu and Lalitpur in the valley. Much of Nepal’s outbacks are held by the militant communists led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) which commands more influence than any other political formation in 50 of the country’s 75 districts.

There is a simple reason for this, and it has once again been reinforced by the response of the state to the peoples’ demand for an explanation of what happened in Narayanhity that Friday night.

For centuries, the Nepalese have been brought up on a culture of denial. A denial of economic, political and social rights; a denial of equal say and equal opportunities. Entwined with this is the denial of information. In the age of information technology, this must seem like something out of the medieval era.

Even if the late king, Birendra, had little de facto power, his accommodation of the aspirations that were expressed through the “spring revolution” of 1990 — that transformed Nepal into a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy — put him above the political bickering that has since seen 10 governments in as many years.

Having experimented with the Nepali Congress and also the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) frequently, Nepal’s people have all but given up hope in them. In the valley, the decrease in the credibility of the parliamentary parties has translated into an increase in the credibility of the royalty. Even tattered currency notes in Nepal are in use simply because they bear the picture of the monarch and a refusal to accept them would be tantamount to an insult to the palace. At least the king, Kathmandu’s denizens have exclaimed so often, is in his palace. He is perceived among vast sections as the incarnate of the god, Vishnu. When there is no one else to turn to, even atheists and agnostics are known to turn to god. And the Nepalese are great believers.

The palace now risks losing even that little shred of credibility that it had earned under the late king, Birendra, within such a short time — barely a decade after handing over effective power to the parliament — because he had placed himself above the tensions of electoral politics. Rex above lex — the king is above the law — cannot hold true when the world is moving towards greater and greater transparency, in politics as in business.

It is easy to construe any questioning of the monarchy in Nepal as a sign of disrespect for the institutions of that country. Even the Indian government, through its external publicity unit, has made it clear that it will frown on such attempts. Given the context in which the veracity of the accounts emanating from the palace are being doubted, there is no way that the monarchy can get away unquestioned. It is also a futile exercise to attempt to maintain the status quo when there is actually none — it is not everyday that a king and his family are getting killed. Rex above lex is therefore a principle that is not good enough today. The monarchy in Nepal itself accepted this 10 years ago when it surrendered all but the power to be subjected to an investigation by the common courts.

In the present context, there is only one way in which the royalty can make itself credible once again and that is by acting the way civilized societies would when there is murder — call in the police, carry out an investigation, bring the guilty to book through trial in the courts. In doing so, it will not only regain the halo that it claims but will also make the institutions of Nepalese government and state credible. That alone can ensure that Nepal retains a modern monarchy.

Such a suggestion will no doubt be dismissed as facetious in both Nepal and India and, maybe, even in the United Kingdom. True, the monarchy in the UK also practises its version of Rex above Lex but it is subjected day after day to a trial by the press and a trial by sensation. But even that institution — the press — is too weak in Nepal.

The systematic destruction of its own wings by the state in Nepal must inevitably lead to an erosion and possibly a usurping of its authority. That is where Prachanda — the “furious one” — and his Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) have so much to gain. Already, he has issued a statement doubting the veracity of the events that led to the killings. He has said, too, that the late Birendra’s political proclivities should not be discounted in order to arrive at a correct version of what really happened. Prachanda has not suddenly found faith in the monarchy — the abolition of which he demands — but is merely exploiting the bloody divisions in Nepal’s ruling elite to his advantage.

As a news story, Nepal, therefore, can only get sexier: murders in the palace by a lovelorn prince, a takeover by the erstwhile regent and his son with a reputation for notoriety, a failing democracy and, now, a Red Bandit.

   

 
 
IN TOUCH AND ALWAYS IN THE KNOW 
 
 
BY RAHUL GHOSH
 
 
At last e-governance has become a reality in West Bengal. Terminal connections from village panchayats to the state administrative headquarters, the Writers’ Buildings, have been established to help the government transact business faster. It has also enabled the general public to freely access official information and keep track of the policy decisions of the government.

E-governance, in the true sense of the term, is governance with the aid of the electronic medium. The Information Technology Act, 2000 has given statutory recognition to e-governance. It will facilitate electronic filing of documents with government agencies. Thus a first information report could be filed at a police station through email. In doing all this the IT Act sought modifications of the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, Bankers’ Books Evidence Act and the Reserve Bank of India Act.

Today the right to information is the most important legal issue. This right is subject to some restrictions in the interests of national security and the society. Information detrimental to the interest of the nation should not be freely accessible. Legislation should be enacted in this direction.

Private space

The right to free speech is another important issue that has to be dealt with caution in cyberspace. E-governance raises two conflicting issues: constitutionally protected right to free speech of the people on the one hand and protection of children and young persons from pornography and obscenity on the other. In the United States, the congress passed the communications decency act in 1996 to check growing obscenity in cyberspace. But the federal court in Philadelphia quashed the act as unconstitutional. The issue is tricky and needs greater attention than ever before.

Privacy is of utmost importance to all netizens: individuals, companies, as well as the governments. In India, in the absence of any specific privacy law, it is left to the judiciary to interpret and protect the right to privacy of the people.

Section 72 of the Information Technology Act provides for punishment for those persons who after having secured access to any electronic record, book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material without the consent of the person concerned, discloses such material to any person. The penalty may be imprisonment or a fine or both.

To catch up with technology

Critics feel that these provisions of the act are not going to be effective in protecting netizens’ privacy in cyberspace. The act has completely ignored the menace of spamming, the practice of sending unsolicited commercial emails. It is high time the government formulated a comprehensive policy on the right to privacy in cyberspace touching matters till now not covered by the IT Act.

E-governance raises the issue of security of transmission and transactions. Even the most advanced encryption system remains vulnerable to hacking. Who would hold the encryption keys — the private sector or the government — is another issue that is yet to be settled. A law relating to recognition of digital signatures is also very important to e-governance.

The issue of taxation of e-commerce transactions is yet another tricky issue. The IT Act is quiet on this front. The question is whether the government should tax online transactions and, if so, how? How will sales tax of online traders, or, corporate tax of transnational companies or income tax of individuals living in one country or state and working in another country or state through the internet, be taxed?

Then there is the issue of labour. Indian labour laws are not equipped to deal with this new trend of “transnational labour”. The future of a networked government lies in the efficient handling of these issues.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Inching towards change

Sir — The editorial, “Those old jalopies” (June 7), agreeably applauds the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, for his recent proposals to remove old, potentially lethal automobiles from the streets of Calcutta. The Left Front government has indeed done a lot already in terms of bringing a semblance of order in road traffic. We now have a fully functional traffic signal system that was both non-existent and believed to be unworkable here until a few years ago. Although there are aberrant policemen harassing people for the extra buck, penalizing drivers for violating imaginary traffic signal rules, the system works. And that is good enough for a start. As far as noise pollution is concerned, here too there has been an effective control over noise levels and the use of loudspeakers. Sadly, this has obstructed lovely open air concerts held in places like Max Mueller Bhavan. But a rule for one should be the rule for all. Bhattacharjee and his party both deserve congratulations.

Yours faithfully,
Samir Prasad, via email

Southern heat

Sir — The defeat of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu was highlighted in the media as a severe blow to the National Democratic Alliance government. Many had predicted that the poor showing by NDA partners in the assembly elections would eventually drag the Vajpayee government to its deathbed. But the NDA has not lost its strength. One should rather worry about what the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is doing in Tamil Nadu as soon as it has occupied the seat of power.

Ever since J. Jayalalitha’s appointment, her political adversaries have not been allowed a good night’s sleep. Arrest warrants are hanging over the heads of many important DMK leaders. The jails have been made ready for their arrival.

Even the rebel AIADMK leaders have not been spared. The Congress and the left parties are not opposing Jayalalitha. Instead, they are still willing to continue as the AIADMK’s junior allies. The governor of the state, while allowing Jayalalitha to take charge of the administration, should have advised her not to be hasty in taking revenge on her political opponents.

Is this the kind of government the voters of Tamil Nadu like?

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir — It is seen after every election in our country that the chief ministers or prime ministers reshuffle administrative officers in order to select their own people. A recent media report on Tamil Nadu stated that the new chief minister, J. Jayalalitha, guided by the instinct to rule the state better than her predecessor, has kept many Indian administrative officers awaiting their posting. It was also mentioned that such officers draw their salary from the exchequer without any work for months on end. This can only be an unnecessary burden on the economy. In this connection it is worth mentioning that these officers are all well-educated, qualified and have passed competitive examinations.

Yours faithfully
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore

Sir — First the prime minister sends a congratulatory message to J. Jayalalitha upon her becoming the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Then one sees the picture in The Telegraph (“No hidden agenda under shawl”, June 6) of the lady draping the prime minister personally with an expensive shawl. Doesn’t this sequence remind one of a well known cigarette advertisement slogan, “Made for each other”?

Yours faithfully,
H.P. Mitra, Calcutta

Will she, won’t she?

Sir — Mamata Banerjee’s statement that there is a possibility of her returning to the NDA is so utterly shameless that it is almost funny (“Mamata keeps NDA pot boiling”, June 11). First, prior to the assembly elections she claims that she does not want to have anything to do with the BJP, some of whose members are tainted by the Tehelka scandal. Then, as soon as she realizes that she will no longer have a significant role to play in the politics of West Bengal in the near future, she says that the Trinamool working committee will decide whether or not her party will go back to the NDA. This whole thing is absurd.

Yours faithfully,
Saurav Singh, via email

Sir — Mamata Banerjee’s debacle in the assembly elections in West Bengal has once again shown that emotional rhetoric, charisma or popularity alone can never be effective as weapons to win an election. A party like the Communist Party of India (Marxist) with its superior organizational base needs a more competent adversary than this.

Yours faithfully,
Arunava Bose Chowdhury, Barrackpore

Hang up

Sir — The caller index facility in telephones is meant to enable users to identify the telephone numbers of callers and prevent undesirable people from calling up. The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited deserves the gratitude of customers for providing this service. But the charges, which are Rs 50 for activation and a similar amount for deactivation, are too high.

Telephones have become a part of everyday life and each honest tax-payer should be protected from indecent callers. But if this protection comes for a prohibitive price, it serves no purpose at all.

Yours faithfully,
A.N. Ghoshal, Howrah

Sir — It has recently been reported that the government of India is contemplating the inclusion of a section in the proposed convergence bill that requires everyone wanting to create a website on the internet to take a licence. This will be a completely senseless move.

For the first time in the history of mankind, an opportunity is available for every educated, enterprising individual or organization to access and disseminate information in a relatively inexpensive and trouble-free manner. This is the reason why, in the span of a short time since its inception, the internet now has millions of websites. Making it mandatory for people to acquire a licence to host websites in this situation is an infringement of this basic freedom and makes no sense at all. By its lopsided policies, the government will be spelling doom for India’s information technology industry.

Yours faithfully,
T.H. Chowdary, Hyderabad

Double joys

Sir — It is lovely to see that Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are back in the reckoning with their latest grand slam triumph at the Roland Garros (“French Crown For Paes and Bhupathi”, June 10). Their performance in the last few months had already given us an indication that they will win a big tournament soon. They made it to the world doubles meet final, they were the semi–finalists at the Gold Flake Open, they also won two back-to-back ATP titles.

Obviously, their much-publicized separation last year has not taken as much of a toll as one had feared it would. Coming into the French Open as an unseeded team, and being on the brink of defeat in the final, they have come up with a spectacular victory. This win will give them immense confidence for future championships.

Moreover, this win has given Indian fans hope that Paes and Bhupathi will, sooner or later, break the records set by the likes of the Woodies from Australia. This victory has given Indian tennis lovers a chance to be cheerful after a long time.

Yours faithfully
Rajarshi Ghosh, 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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G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007
   
 

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