Editorial 1 / Book of wrongs
Editorial 2 / Big is no bear
Mani talk / A Tamilian protests
Fifth Column / Long conflicts are so tiresome
Matters of structure and skill
Peace in Tibet and love to the Hindus
Letters to the editor

The issue of violating constitutional provisions is raised only when these provisions become crucially enmeshed in politics. But the politics of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader, Ms J. Jayalalitha, is at basis quite simple. Stay in power and get the enemies. Yet this pristine political principle can create a challenge for those who wish to distinguish between actual constitutional violations and the political game — which has two sides. There were grave violations of procedure during the arrests. It is a breach of privilege to arrest Union ministers or members of parliament without informing the parliamentary speaker. The charge that Mr Murasoli Maran and Mr T.R. Baalu were obstructing the police in their duty of arresting the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader, Mr M. Karunanidhi, is no excuse. Also, the posse which entered Mr Karunanidhi’s home was all-male. This is a serious lapse. Police cannot enter houses where women live without women in the posse. Arrests after five in the evening in such cases are usually delayed till daytime unless unavoidable. Mr Karunanidhi would not have run away. But the desire to humiliate was evidently too strong to heed the niceties of procedure.

The Centre’s statement regarding the recall of the governor, Ms Fathima Beevi, is put in quasi-procedural terms. The governor’s report was unacceptable because it did not give an independent account of the event but repeated the state government’s report. This is not unusual. But constitutional provisions have also become counters in a political game. The state government and the police, in an attempt to step back from the brink, were eager to let the Union ministers go. The police claimed their investigation was complete and the court released them. But Mr Maran and Mr Baalu initially demanded withdrawal of the cases and refused to leave till their custody period is complete. Neither they nor Mr Karunanidhi had asked for bail, a technique very different from Ms Jayalalitha’s. So the game goes on. Ms Jayalalitha is tempting the constituents at the Centre to think of Article 356. To give in is to invite disaster. The size of Ms Jayalalitha’s electoral mandate will brand the Centre as undemocratic. Interestingly, the law provided the loophole which allowed Ms Jayalalitha to gain chief ministership. And it is the dilatoriness of the law and its many byways that have allowed her to remain where she is, in spite of convictions and with more cases awaiting trial. Unchecked corruption among the powerful and weak-kneed implementation of the law lie at the root of the confusion today, though the oscillating preferences of the people of Tamil Nadu and the opportunism of major political parties are complicating factors.


It is easy to overreact to the largest merger in India’s corporate history. BPL Communications and Birla-Tata-AT&T have decided to merge and form a company worth Rs 9,990 crore. Admittedly, in the cellular market, this colossus will have a market share of 24 per cent and the share can increase further if bids for the fourth licence are successful in Delhi, Chennai and Karnataka. However, there are several reasons why such a jaundiced view of the merger is unwarranted. The national telecom policy artificially distinguished between basic and cellular providers and with the advent of limited mobility, is now coming round to the view that the dichotomy was dysfunctional. This trend will become stronger if voice over the internet is permitted. Thus, the argument that the company has too strong a presence in 10 out of 22 cellular circles fails to recognize competition from convergence. The information technology sector is generally characterized by increasing returns to scale and when economies of scale are exploited and costs per unit of service brought down, consumers benefit. Large is not necessarily bad for consumers. With increasing returns to scale, acquisitions, mergers and takeovers are inevitable in this sector and a shakeout is not only inevitable, but desirable. Unfortunately, the telecom policy has not always recognized this possibility in the bidding process. Consequently, since both BPL and Birla-AT&T are licensees in Maharashtra, one of the licences will have to be sold as a result of the merger.

Large market shares mean very little in the presence of competition, since such large shares cannot be sustained. In the entire sector, there is plenty of competition from Bharti, Hutchison and the public sector Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, not to speak of Reliance extending its basic reach to cellular. Both in Delhi and in Mumbai, competition from the public sector has succeeded in bringing down tariffs and rentals. In fact, the big giants are likely to be Reliance and Bharti and not the newly formed company. Large shares can artificially be sustained if entry barriers are created through unfair and restrictive business practices. Not only does the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India exist to take care of such eventualities, the Competition Commission of India has also been mooted. The telecom market in India is still in nascent stage and penetration ratios are extremely low. But rather paradoxically, telecom has also been one of the success stories of infrastructure reforms, subject to flip-flops on government policy. Much of this success and recent improvements in tele-density are due to private sector involvement, rather than increase in the number of land-lines provided by MTNL and VSNL. Thus, in consumer perception, if there is one sector where infrastructure reforms are perceived to have led to better service and elimination of shortages, that is in the area of telecom. It will be a mistake to mess up this success story because of the fear of the big.


In April 1999, Jayaram Jayalalithaa humbled, humiliated and hurt Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But for General Pervez Musharraf’s misadventure in Kargil, that would have been the end of the road for Vajpayee. Our grateful prime minister, therefore, readies to thank the Pakistani chief by demonstrating how well he has learned from his guest how to subvert the Constitution. For nothing explains the establishment’s hysteria over Jayalalithaa more than Vajpayee’s vicious vendetta against the Lady who showed him up as a man of straw.

I am a Tamilian — and proud of it. The only reason I am an Indian is that I believe — or, at least till the last week-end, believed — that being an Indian did not stand in the way of my being a Tamilian. I am no longer so sure. I am outraged that when I and the people I belong to decide by 196 seats of the 234 at stake that we prefer Jayalalithaa to Muthuvel Karunanidhi, we Tamilians, as a people, should be repeatedly portrayed in Aryavarta as crazy kooks, a monkey brigade, a lesser breed that knows no law.

After assaulting states’ rights in the Northeast over the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), the government of Aryavarta (for this is no government of Bharatvarsha) has now turned its perfidious attention to the other end of the periphery of India, the deep South.

The law minister of India publicly pronounces the state government guilty of unconstitutional and illegal action without even waiting for the report from the chief secretary which the prime minister has ordered the chief secretary to send. Of course, what business the prime minister has to order around someone else’s chief secretary is still to be explained. Why did he not call the chief minister? Or is he such an impotent premier that he has no way of reaching her in her own home? Or does he think a spot of Aryan arrogance is what the lower orders deserve?

As for the convenor of the National Democratic Alliance, does one need a moral leper to explain morality to the nation? Or a traitor to preach patriotism? Or a terrorist to teach the Constitution? Long before he and his gang left for Chennai, this expert in constitutional subversion had announced to the media that the Constitution had been subverted. It had been subverted the day this most discredited detritus of Indian politics made his mark on constitutional history by becoming the first civilian to engineer a coup against an armed forces chief of staff. Jayalalithaa had then been the first and loudest to protest. George Fernandes is now bent on venal vengeance. He goes all the way to Chennai to meet none but his own kind. Not one representative of officialdom. Not one representative of the state government. And then, with becoming objectivity, repeats in Chennai the conclusions he had already announced before embarking for Chennai. This is “fact-finding”?

The Aryans are kicking up a huge hoo-ha over the arrest of two Union ministers. What ministerial function were they performing, pray, when they fetched up at the residence of a most wanted criminal in the middle of the night to play out a drama before their family-owned TV channel? As a believer in the tattered remains of our Constitution, I leave it to the courts to determine whether these two “gentlemen” were or were not obstructing public servants in the discharge of their duties. If they were, they should be sent to the clink for a full three years as provided for in the law. And if the police used force beyond the limits prescribed, there is remedy enough in our law and Constitution for such excesses.

But to suggest that the proper thing to do was for the director-general of the Tamil Nadu police to ring up the hon’ble speaker in the dead of the night to say, “Please, Sir, two Union ministers are assaulting my men. May I have permission, Sir, to stop them?” is the kind of legalistic nonsense that only our law minister is capable of dreaming up. The truth cannot be obfuscated. They have not been arrested for corruption — although that day too is not far off. They have been incarcerated for punching up the police. We should enter Murasoli Maran in the world boxing championship for the physically challenged.

As for the principal, former chief minister Karunanidhi, only those who are yet to forgive the Dravidians for reversing the Ramayana in the last year of the last millennium to bring down the Raja of Aryavarta can entertain any sympathy for Karunanidhi’s latest flouting of the law. There is nothing in the criminal procedure code which says that he is entitled to his full quota of idli-saambaar in the full glare of sunlight before he is whisked away to a magistrate for judicial remand. It was public knowledge by the evening of the previous day that the state government was going to move against Karunanidhi. (Why, I, in print, had predicted weeks before the state assembly elections that Jaya would get not less than 200 seats — I was off by four, sorry! — and soon thereafter, Karu-nanidhi, his son Stalin and his nephew Maran would be complaining of the mosquitoes in the Chennai Central Jail).

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam still has enough of its agents in the Tamil Nadu civil service and police to have been forewarned. Any half-reasonable police officer would have apprehended destruction of evidence. Any half-reasonable police officer would have also apprehended severe problems of law and order if the criminal procedure were brought into play when the DMK’s rowdies and goondas (they have the largest stable of them of all political parties in the country) could have been unleashed on the streets in the broad daylight hours.

To have acted less than swiftly would have been dereliction of duty. True, there was a midnight knock. But a state governor cannot be dismissed for this. Nor does the Constitution stand raped because the police chose the witching hours to do their duty.

In any case, nothing testifies better to the long vigil of the police outside the door of the ex-chief minister than the immaculate white of Karunanidhi’s veshti and his well-pressed shirt at four in the morning. That is not sleep-wear. We Tamilians have long been entertained to the spectacle of our erstwhile chief minister stretched on his sinful bed in banian and checked lungi. Nor is it the usual practice for family TV stations to keep their eyelids open in the drawing room of their owner at an hour when all good little girls and boys should be abed. Karunanidhi started his life as a script-writer for the movies. Evidently, he has lost none of his genius for drama.

The NDA government came to office pledged to fostering the federal features of our Constitution, implementing the Sarkaria commission proposals on Centre-state relations, and rectitude in taking recourse to Article 356 of the Constitution. In a single fortnight, it has set the sensitive Northeast on fire by extending to the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Manipur the Centre’s protective embrace of insurgents and terrorists without even consulting these state governments.

Earlier, over the Balco disinvestment, it had acted in an equally cavalier manner with the non-Aryan jan-jaati of the Dandakaranya forests. Now it has dismissed a most distinguished jurist, a Supreme Court justice who has more of the law at the tip of her little finger than the entire bunch of subversives at the Centre who can find no lawyer better than Arun Jaitley.

That the governor is a woman and a Muslim is no coincidence. The fascists who run the NDA government are cast in the mould of their hero, Guru Golwalkar, whose proud role model, as he so often asserted, was that Icon of Aryan dominance, Schicklegruber, known to history as the Fuehrer Adolf Hitler. The racist nonsense which animated Hitler flows in the blood-stream of Vajpayee and his cohorts. It is what explains their racist attacks on the Congress president. It is what explains their racist attack on the non-Aryans of Tamil Nadu.


Given the irreconcilable positions of the Indian and Pakistani governments on Jammu and Kashmir, and the rejection by both New Delhi and Islamabad of the third option, independence, the difficulty of putting in place a peace process which would include the diverse forces active in the dispute over Kashmir cannot be underestimated.

After nearly 12 years of severe conflict, however, it cannot be doubted that most, if not all, of the many protagonists in the conflict are exhausted and wish to see an end to the violence. Foremost among them are the people of Jammu and Kashmir. When the Hizbul Mujahedin announced their unilateral but shortlived ceasefire last July, a wave of euphoria swept through Kashmir. But it did not last long. Hizbul Mujahedin leaders, based in Pakistan, called off the ceasefire soon enough. They insisted that Pakistan be included in tripartite talks. This position is still held by all the All Party Hurriyat Conference. New Delhi, however, will not budge from its stand that negotiations between the Indian government and its citizens cannot include a foreign state. The Ramadan ceasefire has also been undermined by the APHC leaders, who have not yet accepted New Delhi’s invitation for talks but wish to travel to Pakistan to consult its government and the heads of those extremist organizations which are waging jihad against India.

Maturing control

The Hurriyat’s attitude reflects that of the Pakistani establishment. Unless Pakistan’s locus standi in Kashmir is accepted by New Delhi, talks are meaningless. A calibrated reduction in the level of violence is possible, but the violence will only end with the last stage of negotiations. Meanwhile, it is in the interest of Pakistan to continue the low intensity conflict.

Kashmiris must understand that a final settlement of the Kashmiri problem is unlikely. Sheikh Abdullah understood this when he reached an understanding based on mutual accommodation with Indira Gandhi in 1975. As they mature, the young leaders of the azaadi movement are beginning to understand the wisdom that Sheikh Abdullah displayed when he authorized Mirza Afzal Beg to begin negotiations with the Indian prime minister’s plenipotentiary, G. Parthasarthy, in 1975.

A mutual attempt at accommodation by both New Delhi and the new forces which have emerged in Jammu and Kashmir will have to be followed, sooner or later, by negotiations with those who are shooting Indian soldiers. A practical way will have to be found to involve Pakistan in the peace process, since its government is in the best position to curb the activities of the jihadi tanzeems. In order that a Pakistan-India engagement resumes, it is vital that the cessation of firing along the line of control is sustained and the Pakistani authorities use all the means they have to stop the movement of armed men across the LoC.

Signs of crisis

The government in Pakistan has made it clear that it is not yet prepared to confront the various jihadi tanzeems with force. However, there are some positive signs that Pakistan is in crisis. Many thinking Pakistanis, including most retired army officers, understand that Pakistan cannot flourish if it continues on the path of perpetual hostility with India.

But, much more important is the position of the Kashmiri people on the question of foreign support to their struggle for azaadi. If the Kashmiris do not decisively reject the mehmaan mujahedin and their sponsors in their own society, they will always remain prey to those who wish to return to a medieval way of life, like the one in the taliban-ruled part of Afghanistan.

We have to look for peace which is relevant to the situation. A settlement of the Kashmir problem which does not take account of India’s vital interests cannot be a realistic option. Equally, if a settlement is reached it should not be seen as a victory for the jihadi forces. New Delhi cannot accept the proposition that the Hurriyat is the sole representative of public opinion in Jammu and Kashmir. However, India too must make itself ready to begin parallel talks on Kashmir — one stream with Pakistan and the other with the various groups in Kashmir, including the Hurriyat. All the processes through which the Kashmir conflict can be resolved will take time to come to fruition.


The effects of poor infrastructure are much more palpable. A recent study (Buddhadeb Ghosh, Anandabazar Patrika, May 10, 2001) puts West Bengal 14th among Indian states in 1997-98 in terms of an index of infrastructure, as compared with 4th position in 1971-72. The index comprises (a) roads, railways, ports (b) irrigation (c) electricity (d) telephone (e) loan-deposit rations of banks and (d) tax collection of the state government. In terms of each of these individual items, West Bengal has fallen below the national average whereas in 1964-65 it either came first or second. These facts therefore suggest infrastructure to be a key factor explaining the decline of West Bengal’s industrial performance relative to the rest of the country.

Poor roads delay shipments and raise shipping costs — in some extreme cases, such as flowers and fish, delays in getting to the market can make production entirely worthless. A case study of a failed mini-steel plant in Purulia in the Report on Industrial Sickness in Eastern India by Sudip Choudhury and Anindya Sen reports that each year the plant paid Rs 25-30 lakh extra for transportation (compared to the liquidation value of the plant, Rs 81.5 lakh). In terms of road density per capita, West Bengal happens to be far below the all-India average.

Electricity is another key input to production. The Choudhury-Sen report mentions many cases of firms that became non-viable simply because they got less than the promised amount of electricity from the West Bengal state electricity board. There is some claim that now the power situation in West Bengal is less dire, but one wonders how much of this is a result of de-industrialization. Moreover the power situation is reportedly much worse outside the metropolitan district. It is also worth emphasizing that predictability of the power supply is very important for someone who is running a business. The Report on Sickness comes back time and again to the fact that investments were made on the basis of expectations of power supply that turned out to be over-optimistic. To avoid this, the government should draw up a comprehensive and credible power plan for the foreseeable future, that is then made available to investors. Indeed it may be worth announcing very specific power supply targets by district and then setting up a system of compensations that the government must pay registered investors in the district in the event of failing to meet those targets.

The third piece of infrastructure is communication. While in the past this has been a major bottleneck, there is some reason to believe that this will not be the case any more. For one, the government of West Bengal clearly sees the link between investment in data transmission technology and the hi-tech industries that it dearly wants, and is trying to very hard to measure up in this dimension, with numerous recent initiatives to upgrade communication infrastructure in the state. Moreover, in the new liberalized environment, private sector suppliers may be expected to step in to fill in the remaining gaps and alleviate any bottlenecks that might emerge.

This brings us to the last of the factors emphasized in the World Bank-Confederation of Indian Industry study—-the supply of skills. West Bengal has fallen behind a number of other states in terms of educating the young. In terms of primary enrolment rates for children aged 5-9, in 1993-94 West Bengal at 51.7 per cent was below the national average of 52.1 per cent and its rank was 10th among the 15 major states. A recent Central government report puts West Bengal third, after Sikkim and Bihar among all states in terms of percentage of students who drop out before the secondary level (Anandabazar Patrika, June 12, 2001). However, it still compares well with most other states in terms of the education of the current workforce. So a skill gap, measured by average years of schooling completed by currently working adults cannot be the reason why West Bengal currently has low productivity. Of course, given that current achievements in schooling will have an impact on the workforce in future decades, it is quite possible that West Bengal will fall behind other states in this respect in the future.

However, there are many different relevant measures of labour skill. It is possible that there may be a particular deficit in West Bengal within the category of the highly skilled. By this we do not just mean those with advanced degrees, but also the best carpenters, welders and commercial artists. Exact statistics on this point are hard to arrive at, though it is clear that now a very large fraction of Calcutta middle-class families have one or more children living outside West Bengal. Some suggestive evidence can be gleaned from the placement statistics of the better engineering and management institutes, which suggests that an abnormally large fraction of graduating students tend to find employment outside the state. Another way is to look at the data on migration. A striking fact about the last two decades is that migration into Calcutta has slowed very considerably, at a time when migration in to Delhi and other cities has exploded. There was a time when young men of ambition from the south of India came to Calcutta to seek their fortunes — now that trend has been entirely reversed. Even the Marwaris, the oldest and most well-established community of migrants into West Bengal, are no longer looking for gold on the pavements of Calcutta.

This is of course what one might have predicted. The explanation goes back to the very essence of big cities. Big cities exist as a matrix, where different types of talent can be brought together. The best welder knows that his true value will only be appreciated by the engineer who aims to produce the highest quality. The best engineer, in turn, wants to work for the entrepreneur who aims to sell in the most discriminating markets and can only function if the materials manager knows to buy the best quality materials. All these people congregate in the city where they are most likely to find each other. Moreover, the ambitious measure themselves against other people of similar ambition — it is no fun being the biggest fish in a very small pond. Therefore they all head for the city where the others are going. This is why big cities keep growing despite the crowding and the cost of living —this is why people are still moving to Mumbai and Delhi despite the fact that their commutes are interminable and their flats are minuscule. This is also why when the river of ambition changes course, it changes course so very rapidly. Once Calcutta stopped being a magnet for new young talent, the next generation of young talent decided to try their luck elsewhere and eventually even their older brothers, now short of young talent to work with, also decided that it was time to move.

To make matters worse, the initial period of industrial decline in West Bengal (which is what stopped the inflow of talent), was followed by a long period (essentially till about 1990) when the state government had decided to focus all its political energies on the rural areas. This may have been the right choice in many ways, but a combination of worsening roads, persistent power shortages and a general feeling of decay did little to make Calcutta an attractive venue for the young and upwardly mobile. On top of it, there was an explosion of upper middle class amenities (posh housing estates, clubs, discos, restaurants, amusement parks) in all the other major cities around this time, while in West Bengal, government ministers were telling them that Western music was “apasanskriti”. No wonder they chose to leave.

Since then Calcutta has indeed become a much more middle-class oriented city. However the experience of the United States is that old industrial cities (Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore) continue to decline even after quality of life improves substantially (these days Pittsburgh often gets rated as the most livable city in the US). This is indeed what one might expect — after all for young ambitious people deciding where to go, quality of life matters less than being with other people like themselves.

How does the fact Calcutta has been de-skilled and is not expected to recover any time soon, affect the way we think about industrial policy for the coming decade? The one clear implication seems to be that we should not pin excessive hope on knowledge-intensive industries (or what is more popularly known as the hi-tech sector) that will make Calcutta a Bangalore or Hyderabad overnight. These are exactly the industries where a high level of skill matters the most, and the benefits from clustering are the largest. (What is Silicon Valley if not the world’s largest industrial cluster?) One way out seems to be to attract one mega-firm, which provides a hub for the industry, as Microsoft has done for Seattle. There are encouraging signs of late, with the recent interest shown by Wipro and Purnendu Chatterjee’s group in investing in Calcutta’s information technology sector, and the CII for expanding opportunities for IT training. But whether or not the cluster takes off remains to be seen. After all West Bengal is a late entrant among Indian states in this area, and the competition is stiff.


The Chinese appear to be afflicted with an almost neurotic anxiety regarding their “friendship” with India. They exhibit a two-pronged strategy: degrading the status and presence in India of the dalai lama and his Tibetan clique, and playing to the Hindu gallery.

Without Indian political support, the dalai lama is hardly a meaningful threat to China. That support has never been fully forthcoming; rather he has been used as a card for playing with the Chinese. However, as a Buddhist and cultural kinsman, he is given full respect in this country.

He seems to have repudiated any desire for independence and surrendered all his demands for the re-constitution of a gerrymandered Tibet. But each of these surrenders has only further stiffened the Chinese back. Their latest demand is that he echo the line of the Chinese revisionist historians and endorse the lie that Tibet and Taiwan were always a part of China.

Yet despite having the upper hand, Beijing exhibits an extraordinary nervousness regarding this very unthreatening dalai lama. Recently the Chinese ambassador was present at an event in New Delhi to launch a book which wanted the dalai lama to be thrown out of the country. This was followed by a full-page advertisement in a daily newspaper, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the “Peaceful Liberation of China’s Tibet” and lauding China’s achievements in creating a Brave New Country on the roof of the world.

Far from being a peaceful liberation, the People’s Liberation Army forcibly occupied the Tibetan plateau in 1949, killed thousands of monks and citizens, gutted and bombed monasteries. The final toll mounted to about a million dead, with most monasteries reduced to rubble.

The excuse for the recent blast of propaganda was the 50th anniversary of the 17-point agreement signed in Beijing on May 23, 1951. After two years of attrition by the PLA, a cowed Tibetan government reluctantly sent a delegation to Beijing to negotiate terms with the Chinese. The negotiations turned out to be purely academic. The delegation was presented with and forced to sign the text of the 17-point agreement. Their last defence was that it had to be approved and ratified by the Tibetan government. But this was brushed aside and the document ratified by Tibetan government-seals forged in Beijing.

The agreement itself is steeped in doublespeak. The local Tibetan government will “assist” the PLA to enter Tibet (they had already forced their way in two years back) and consolidate national defence (that is, assist the Chinese imperialists in subduing Tibet).

The Beijing government “shall not alter the existing political system in Tibet, nor alter the established status, functions and powers of the dalai lama.” Moreover, the Beijing government agrees to ensure respect for the religious beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people and to protect their monasteries. Most had already been destroyed and the battering continued after the agreement.

For many years under Chinese occupation, the Tibetans were not allowed to learn their own language, and were subjected to a harsh regime except in a few enclaves open to tourists. But, as in communist Poland under Soviet overlordship, underground or non-official religion became a symbol of identity and resistance to atheistic imperialism.

The second part of the friendship war is directed at the naivety of the Hindu public. The invitation to Jayendra Saraswati, current mathadhish of Kamakoti, is trumpeted as a special favour since requests by the Pope to visit have been consistently refused. To prove that China is religion-friendly, particularly Hindu-friendly, the shankara-charya’s itinerary is to follow that of Richard Nixon’s in 1972. He is to meet Li Peng and the premier, Zhu Rongji. The shankaracharya will not focus on politics or high finance, and neither of the two Chinese will imbibe any dharmic values of tolerance or religious pluralism from their august visitor.

However, the Hindu devotees will be especially privileged to enter the gates of the Forbidden City and it has been stressed that Hinduism is not a threat to China. It is Buddhism and Christianity which give the government nightmares.

One can only guess at what lies behind this increasingly desperate propaganda. Perhaps this is because of India’s growing international standing, as a result of the success of the non-resident Indians, information or nuclear technology, or whatever. The discontent in Tibet never disappears despite the growing ferocity with which it is met. The escape of the karmapa to India gives the lie to Chinese claims of protecting Tibetan culture and Buddhism.

China internally faces as many problems. Despite the enclaves of prosperity, a million-strong army of rural unemployed roams the countryside in search of food and work. Police stations are under attack by bands of discontented farmers. Economic prosperity is bound to create contradictions within the totalitarian political system. Given its pre-revolutionary history, its nagging fear is of a disintegration like that of the Soviet Union.

Rather than persist with policies which cannot forestall the inevitable, it would be much better for genuine friendship between India and China to cut the Gordian knot of claim and counter-claim in the Himalayas with the sword of Tibetan independence, with neutrality guaranteed by its neighbouring powers. The plateau could then be denuclearized, and any territorial disputes negotiated diplomatically, without implicit or explicit threat of force majeure. Thereafter all three nations — India, China and Tibet — could rest in peace.



After the violence

Sir — The return of Jagjit Singh Chauhan, the self-declared president of the “republic of Khalistan”, to India after a hiatus of nearly 21 years has grabbed a great deal of attention in the media (“Chauhan ends exile, vows to keep up fight”, June 28). Agreed, the movement initiated by Chauhan was disruptive and politically foolhardy. In spite of his statement that he believes nothing can be achieved through violence, the Khalistan movement unleashed violence and terror in Punjab and made a wreck of the state. But Indian politicians are the last persons to be baying for his blood. This is clearly a case of “the pot calling the kettle black”. The law should take its own course in handling Chauhan’s case and Indian politicians should not try to ride a moral high horse since they mastermind numerous heinous crimes that are committed everyday in the name of caste, religion and such others. That Chauhan has decided to end his exile should be a lesson to them.

Yours faithfully,
Harmeet Singh Chawla, Haldia

Budget above the line

Sir — The West Bengal budget for 2001-02, announced by the finance minister, Asim Dasgupta, is nothing but old wine in a new bottle (“Great wall of Bengal to check cheap goods flood”, June 23). Tax relief has not been increased. In fact, a luxury tax has been imposed on cheap imported products on which the state’s middle class could indulge itself. There has been no clear declaration of policy for creating employment opportunities for the educated unemployed in the state. While an additional dearness allowance has been announced for government employees starting from July, the payment of pension arrears due to retired primary and secondary level teachers after the revision in pension scales in January 2000, is yet to be made. No fund has been allocated towards the payment of these outstanding arrears in this year’s budget. Above all, there is nothing in this budget for those below the poverty line whose interest the people’s government of the state claims to be committed to protect.

Yours faithfully,
Dhaneswar Banerjee, Bolpur

Sir — The imposition of a five per cent service tax on the photography business, irrespective of the income of individual photographers, shows just how unimaginative and ill-informed West Bengal’s finance minister is. Is Asim Dasgupta aware that most of those engaged in this trade are otherwise unemployed with their income from photography not exceeding Rs 2,000 per month? There would have been nothing to complain about had such a tax been imposed on traders with monthly incomes above, say, Rs 20,000.

In a small town like my own, every other unemployed person tries to earn through photography and videography, though he may not have a shop with a signboard to flaunt. Such people often end up earning more than those with their own studios. How does the government propose to bring these freelance photographers within the budget’s ambit?

Yours faithfully,
Provat Kumar Chatterjee, Amlapara, Purulia

Sir — Asim Dasgupta has indeed ensured that there is a “Great wall of Bengal to check cheap goods flood”. Dasgupta must be congratulated for taking the right step at the right time to protect the native industry, while ensuring good revenue. Stringent regulations are required at a time when waves of the so-called free trade are threatening to sweep away the fledgeling domestic industries.

The budget is also a reply of sorts to those who are used to saying that the communists of the state are merely agents of the former Soviet Union and China. Their alleged loyalty to communist China did not come in the way of their imposing cess on the import of Chinese goods. On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party, with their swadeshi rhetoric are the first to bow to the demands of the Western multinationals trying to get their hands on the Indian market. Does it take too much intelligence to see who the real patriots are?

Yours faithfully,
T. Syam Shaw, Howrah

Sir — It was heartening to note that at a recent meeting hosted by industry associations to felicitate the incumbent chief minister of West Bengal, one of the industrialists suggested that each of the chambers should make efforts to get established at least one new entrepreneur each month for the next five years.

The question that arises is whether he had in mind existing medium and large-scale industries enabling themselves to set up small captive units in their own supply chains. In that case, such efforts would only lead to splintering of the existing production capacities into multiple small units, without really adding to the gross domestic product of the state. Such an initiative would lead to de-scaling in the operations of existing medium and large-scale units. Economies of scale would be lost. Of course, the existing industries would stand to benefit otherwise from that model since they would be able to out-source their component requirements from such captive units without the trouble of having to tackle a large labour force and the associated statutory compliances. Labour costs would come down and contribution to the state exchequer would be reduced consequent upon the new units being entitled to various forms of exemptions and subsidies. Far from creating employment opportunities, that model would create breeds of small nuclear units which would be nothing but captive feeder units to medium and large central units.

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Chanda, Calcutta

People’s cricket

Sir — Scenes of stampede on the English cricket grounds were some of the most unfortunate in the recent history of sports. The security arrangement on the grounds certainly call for closer scrutiny. The players are the worst sufferers, since their lives are at risk. Why isn’t there proper fencing on the boundaries? Ian Botham was right when he said, “These idiots should be thrown out of the ground, irrespective of their status.”

Steve Waugh’s walk-out was an exemplary gesture. Since the sponsors do not compromise on the returns they get from organizing such tournaments, why should the players compromise on their security?

Yours faithfully,
S. Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — The spectator violence at the cricket grounds in England, including Lords, during the triangular one-day tournament featuring England, Pakistan and South Africa, proves that this is not a phenomenon unique to the Indian subcontinent. It is equally useless to say that the Pakistani supporters are to be blamed for the unruly scenes and the interruptions in play. When such incidents happen in India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, then there is no dearth of people to accuse the police and the organizers. The same should be done in the case of England. The social composition of the viewers’ stands in England has changed radically. The security arrangements need to be changed to suit the changing character of spectatorship.

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Panigrahi, Rourkela

Sir — The solution suggested by the editorial, “Soccer rules cricket”, (June 23) is perhaps the best in view of the rising unruliness threatening the very character of a genteel game like cricket. Since subcontinental supporters are mostly the troublemakers, the only way to penalize them seems to be by penalizing the team they support. There is just one fear. These hooligans cannot possibly be true lovers of the game of cricket. Given this,can penalizing a team actually deter the hooligans?

Yours faithfully,
Samarpita Hazra, Calcutta

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