Editorial 1 / The first sin
Editorial 2 / Dirty singing
If push comes to shove
Fifth Column / State of the art in west bengal
All that is not in the game
And the business of education
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / THE FIRST SIN 
 
 
 
 
It is always difficult to climb up a moral downward slope. Moral slippage has a remarkable propensity to be recursive. The chief minister of West Bengal, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has perched himself precariously on such a slope. Very few chief ministers, including the redoubtable Mr Jyoti Basu, have begun their innings with the kind of goodwill and high moral standing as Mr Bhattacharjee, when he walked into Writers’ Buildings in May this year. There were no question marks on his integrity. His decision to stay in his small flat in south Calcutta seemed to reflect, in the popular mind, his rectitude and his refusal to be mixed up in the murkier sides of politics and power. Thus no incredulous eyebrows were raised when he promised a clean and efficient government. But the erosion of this image and goodwill has begun and if Mr Bhattacharjee is not careful, he will slip down the moral slope quickly and almost without his knowing. The process has begun with his handling of the cause celebre involving the minister of sports, Mr Subhas Chakraborty. The chief minister, in a statement presented to the state legislative assembly, admitted that four persons with arms and ammunitions were arrested from the hostel in Salt Lake stadium. He also confessed that he was “not satisfied with the progress of the investigation”. He has ordered a Crime Investigation Department inquiry. All this might appear above board but that would be to take a naive view of the matter.

Some anti-socials were arrested while illegally occupying a room in a government hostel which is directly under the charge of the sports minister: this much is beyond dispute and is not being denied by anybody. Common sense dictates an inference from this fact: there exists prima facie grounds for suspicions about Mr Chakraborty’s complicity in sheltering anti-socials and of his involvement with them. Mr Bhattacharjee, after his statement to the assembly, cannot dodge this inference and its implications. Yet, he refuses to take action against Mr Chakraborty. A very simple motto in running an honest administration is that a public servant must not only be honest but also be seen to be honest. Mr Bhattacharjee is not only ignoring this motto but also overlooking the public perception of Mr Chakraborty. Nobody is surprised that he has links with the underworld. Moreover, Mr Bhattacharjee holds no one accountable for the tardy progress of the investigation. He is willing to admit failures but unwilling to assign responsibility for them. Unfortunately, for Mr Bhattacharjee, honesty knows of no halfway houses.

Thanks to Mr Bhattacharjee’s decision to compromise with immorality, his personal image and that of his government have been touched with tar. There is no dearth of examples of ministers stepping down because they were under suspicion. In Great Britain, Mr Peter Mandelson recently, and Jack Profumo in the Sixties resigned as ministers because there were charges against them; in India, Mr Kalpanath Rai, a few years back, and Mr George Fernandes, after the Tehelka revelations, stepped down because of allegations of corruption. None of these claimed to walk the moral high ground that Mr Bhattacharjee always assumes for himself and for his chosen ideology. But they, in their own ways, behaved with greater honour and more moral courage than West Bengal’s highbrow chief minister. Mr Bhattacharjee perhaps hopes that time will help bury this scandal. Unnatural vices often follow unnatural compromises.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / DIRTY SINGING 
 
 
 
 
Petty fascism works through a continual battery of mindless prohibitions. The repetitions provoke a sense of outraged hilarity. The mindlessness makes any serious intellectual engagement with the issues quite impossible. This time the fascist fringe — or core — of the Bharatiya Janata Party has decided to purge certain states of the corrupting influence of popular song. In any such instance, Uttar Pradesh comes immediately to mind, and quite rightly so in this case. But following on its heels is another state hitherto known for its robust sense of humour, Punjab. The ideology behind the state’s opposition to certain kinds of popular singing is a familiar, but no less infuriating, mix of religious bigotry, sexual policing and a ridiculously misinformed cultural chauvinism. The two protagonists in this farce are the culture ministers of the two states, Messrs Sriram Sonkar and Swarna Ram. Mr Sonkar, in Uttar Pradesh, shudders at the vulgarity of what he calls, in his uncharming lumpenness, “cassette dances”, Hindi and English pop-songs used by dancers for their shows. In Punjab, Jasvinder Jassi has been threatened with incarceration by Mr Ram for celebrating in song a young girl’s budding sexuality. Mr Ram is being systematic in this, bringing satellite channels and stage shows under his jurisdiction, even suggesting the formation of a censor board for Punjabi songs.

The argument against these songs is not purely moral. There is an attempt, by each minister, to restore his state’s musical culture to an original pristine state, and thereby protect its endangered indigenous traditions of song from extinction. It is heartening to see that the civil and secular realms in these states, the practising artists and their audiences, continue to defend their freedoms vigorously and vocally. An Akali minister has even invoked his culture’s native irreverence and mirthfulness in assuring people that such excesses “will die a natural death”. These are all welcome signs of health, but perhaps this genial man is underestimating the resilience and authority of benightedness.

   

 
 
IF PUSH COMES TO SHOVE 
 
 
BY ASHOK MITRA
 
 
Have a heart, the prime minister should not be too much admonished for his goof-up. Atal Bihari Vajpayee merely wanted to please the bosses in Washington. The piper calls the tune. Vajpayee had already agreed to a summit meet with the head of the Pakistan regime. He perhaps thought he might as well go the whole hog. How does it matter if a primrose chooses to call itself a rose, and, in this instance, the primrose is assumed to be the superpower’s favourite buttonhole. The logic, besides, was impeccable. We love Americans. Americans love military dictatorships. It therefore behoves us to love military dictatorships.

Our prime minister wanted to be clever by half and greet six hours in advance the neighbourly dictator by the new designation the latter had conferred upon himself. South Block could not but imagine that the switch had not been blessed by White House and Foggy Bottom. Since the prime minister’s advisers were otherwise engaged, they might have missed the nuances of the publicly expressed appreciation the previous week by the United States secretary of state of Pakistan’s excellent progress toward restoration of the democratic process. It was not in our prime minister’s mind to embarrass the superpower. Ignorance is forgivable when the intention is well-meaning.

The Sandhurst specimen across the border has his own rationale. King Porus was at least vanquished in battle by Alexander the Great; even so, the former had insisted, and won his point, that he be treated as an equal. On the other hand, the outcome of the Kargil war had been indeterminate. Therefore the general had all the greater reason to expect treatment on par from India. If, according to the Vienna convention, protocol would stand in the way since he was only a chief executive and not a president or prime minister, why, that deficiency needed to be made good post haste. That, by his swift manoeuvre, he would be compromising Foggy Bottom did not at all occur to the general. Again, ignorance has to be forgiven if exigency ordains hasty decisions.

Both the naughty boys will henceforth be in a chastened mood. Once beaten twice shy; Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf, it is a fair guess, will take care to have the agenda of the Agra discussions vetted in advance by the US state department as well as by the Pentagon. There will be enormous pressure on both to reach such decisions as will gladden the heart of Americans, who have apparently now taken the initiative to announce, ahead of New Delhi and Islamabad, the date of the summit.

A complication may intervene here. True, the superpower would not like its two most ardent friends in Asia to continue their bickerings over Kashmir. It creates a wrong impression around regarding the ambit and effectiveness of superpower surveillance. The Americans no doubt are also worried that in case the quarrel between India and Pakistan persists, others might like to start some fishing in troubled waters. Even so, be realistic, geopolitical factors cannot altogether override domestic considerations.

The government Vajpayee heads is an unstable equilibrium of two distinct pressures. American susceptibilities are certainly a key factor shaping New Delhi’s decision-making. But, it goes without saying, it would be madness to ignore totally the Hindutva crowd. Which is why the mantram has to be chanted now and again that Kashmir is an integral and inalienable part of India. A settlement which cuts athwart this myth of inalienability will not go down at all well inside the country, and not just on account of the Bajrang Dal and its cohorts either. A competitive democracy has its own constraints. The Indian prime minister can only hope that the sagacious Americans would not push him too hard in this matter.

General Musharraf has an analogous problem. The country he rules with an iron hand seethes with discontent. An empty mind is the devil’s workshop; the unemployed politicians are a major risk factor, and if one general suffers from vaulting ambition, so too can others. Any weakness such as on the issue of formally freezing the frontier along the line of control could provide grist to the mills operated by mischief-makers. Pakistan cannot survive without American aid, or aid from institutions lorded over by the US administration. The country is also riven by internecine warfare which threatens to tear it asunder. If one wrong step is taken on Kashmir, or if a step taken is adjudged to be wrong by rampaging crowds drawn out on the streets, hell could indeed break loose.

New Delhi too cannot feign disinterestedness in Pakistan’s domestic problems, because any internal combustion there will have an impact on developments in Kashmir. In any case, Vajpayee is fighting on several fronts. The economic performance of his government is awful, notwithstanding the $43 billion worth of speculative money that has come in. As east Asia illustrated a few years ago, such money can disappear in the course of a night’s turmoil and then the government would be left with the legacy of a near-stagnant agriculture, a steeply falling rate of growth in industry and a mounting load of unemployment.

On top of all that, alienation in the Northeast appears to have reached a state of permanency. The results of the already concluded elections for five state assemblies have been disastrous enough, even worse misfortunes might actually lurk round the corner. The temptation in these circumstances to hang on to American apron strings is great. There is enough indication that forces are working overtime to ensure the New Delhi regime’s succumbing to the temptation.

The speed with which New Delhi accorded welcome to the nuclear defence missile proposal is breath-taking. Diego Garcia is a long-obliterated memory; our defence-cum-external affairs minister has talked approvingly of according hospitality to American military bases along Indian shores, as well as inland, such as in the Mizoram jungle. Indian public opinion, whichever way it is defined, will conceivably be prepared to take all this in its stride. A major climbdown on Kashmir is a different proposition. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad fraternity could go berserk should the decisions at Agra be comprehensively unpalatable.

Are we not witnessing a contest between two marionettes both of whom are possibly being manipulated by the same pair of hands? The stakes involved are however inordinately high. It will be legitimate to speculate on the nature of the trade-off, on what the superpower has offered, or is about to offer, toward appeasement of the Hindutva lobby. Americans love dictators. If push comes to shove, that does not exclude their loving a Hindu dictatorship as well.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / STATE OF THE ART IN WEST BENGAL 
 
 
BY DEBAKI NANDAN MANDAL
 
 
When Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee assumed office in November 2000, he was widely perceived as an agent of change and good governance. He sought to project himself as the people’s chief minister by rushing to the side of the distressed and promising to take “necessary action”, while television cameras remained focused on him.

Contrary to the popular belief that the change of guard and Bhattacharjee’s bhadralok image helped the Left Front win the assembly elections, it was the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s organizational strength, coupled with the help from the state machinery, that propelled it to power for a record sixth time. To Bhattacharjee’s credit is his assertion that he wishes to have a “working relationship” with the Centre. With the opposition vanquished and a tottering coalition at the Centre, this would give him an edge in the Centre-state relations in future.

But the emergence of collective leadership and the stranglehold of three parties have tended to weaken his position and authority. This is evident from the size of the cabinet and the allocation of portfolios. However efficient Nirupam Sen may be, even he cannot simultaneously do justice to three important departments, besides playing headmaster to his party’s ministers. It is revealing that Sen does not have a minister of state to assist him.

Areas of priority

The selection of Dinesh Bajpai as the director-general of police has stirred up a hornet’s nest. Bajpai’s proximity to the chief minister is well known. On top of that, the order allegedly violates a Supreme Court ruling in the Karnataka director general of police case. The most senior among the superseded officers has challenged the order in the Calcutta branch of the Central administrative tribunal. But it is evident from the government decision that there will be no departure from the past practices to fill up the top slots in the bureaucracy with the incumbents who have pronounced leftist leanings

The areas of priority for the government are industry, health and education. Parleys in Alimuddin Street with industrialists and representatives from the Confederation of Indian Industry are unlikely to translate to investment. The imbroglio over Great Eastern Hotel is sending wrong signals to the potential investors. The new health minister, Surya Kanta Mishra, seems to be trying to clear the Augean stables, already having given some recalcitrant bureaucrats marching orders. But the technocrat-bureaucrat rivalry in the health department continues.

Unwelcome homilies

The Left Front has at last admitted its mistake by declaring its intentions to reintroduce English from class I. But lecturing school teachers about their duties will not improve matters, if the Left Front banks on them at the time of elections. Similarly, hikes in tuition fees and proliferation of technical colleges and institutes will not ensure quality education. Warning signals can be taken from the Indian Institute of Information Technology, opened hastily last year, without the approval of the All India Council of Technical Education, New Delhi, and the higher education department of the West Bengal government. The institute has run into trouble.

The tales of woe are not over yet. Having lost out to Jadavpur University in the race for “university with potential for excellence”, the University of Calcutta has been granted five-star status for the next five years, by the national assessment accreditation committee. But for students who are forced to bunk classes for lack of proper sitting arrangements in a section of 110, this means nothing. Is there any chance that the appointments, transfers and postings of teachers will be free from political influence exercised through the school and college service commissions?

Much has already been said about the work culture, or the lack of it, in the state. In spite of the right noises made by the chief minister, it is not certain who will oversee the performance of the government employees, while the coordination committee is there to protect their interests. The anxiety about development is best reflected by the recent discussions on sectoral allocations in the state. The state budget, as usual, has been full of dry statistics and promises. The morning of the new Left Front rule seems to be misty at best.

   

 
 
ALL THAT IS NOT IN THE GAME 
 
 
BY SATRUJIT BANERJEE
 
 
Four recent incidents on the pristine grounds of England have left cricket lovers wondering if, in the land of its birth, cricket can maintain its reputation of being a sport for gentlemen. Hooliganism, which we all knew was soccer’s prerogative in the land of Grace, has reared its ugly head in the cricket field.

The first of these occurred at Edgbaston in the opening match of the recently concluded tri-series when Pakistan supporters ran onto the ground with England tottering at 159 for 9 in the 44th over, chasing 273. In the melee, the pitch was trampled upon, the stumps disappeared and Nick Knight, the Warwick- shire captain who was holding fort with Alan Mullally, took a hard blow on his head as he was sprinting towards the pavilion.

Supporters of Pakistan in their hundreds charged towards the pitch at Headingly at the conclusion of the one day international against England. As a result, Stephen Speight, a steward, had his head “kicked around like a soccer ball”, suffered a broken nose and severe bruises to his ribs and stomach.

Fire crackers went off continually in the stands at Trent Bridge, scattering spectators in the Australia-Pakistan one day international. This remained a minor irritation until there was a deafening blast three or four feet away from Brett Lee. Understandably, Steve Waugh staged a walk-off with his team and return- ed only when repeated pleas from the organizers in Urdu and Punjabi calmed the crowd and the Australian think tank was convinced there would not be a recurrence.

During the awards-giving ceremony at the conclusion of the final match at Lords between Australia and Pakistan, a missile in the form of an unopened can of beer thrown by a spectator hit Michael Bevan’s right jaw. As a result, the ceremony had to be conducted indoors, away from the most photographed balcony in the world of sports, for the first time ever.

All four incidents occurred in matches involving Pakistan. Predictably, British newspapers went to town demanding an immediate end to the “hooliganism by Pakistanis”. Even Ted Corbett, writing in The Hindu, described the unruly crowd as Pakistani spectators. But are they? Pakistani supporters for sure, but not Pakistanis. Nearly all of them are British born and the epithet “English hooligans” would be apt. Once this fact is acknowledged, the authorities can then tackle the problem at its roots.

Several prompt deterring measures may be taken. The England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive, Tim Lamb, is confident that if legislation to stop trespassing on the cricket field takes effect, the problem of hooliganism can be dealt with effectively as judges will be inclined to mete out harsh punishments to serious offenders. The Football Offenses Act 1991, which severely penalizes throwing of missiles and fireworks as well as invasions may be extend- ed to cricket. However, this cannot meaningfully carry the severest of punish- ment against the home team, which would lose the right to host a replay of the home game in case the first is aban- doned due to crowd trouble. Though this is not applicable to cricket, there is no doubt the act’s application will be beneficial.

Also, since the number needed to be monitored is likely to remain a modest hundred or two, cloistered in two or three stands , judicious placement of video cameras coupled with a significant increase in the number of stewards deployed will reduce hooliganism substantially. Even stewards with leashed dogs, a la South Africa, may be considered. But cricket lovers and lovers of the history of cricket will hope that barbed wires do not mar the idyllic settings of these historic venues.

The hooliganism issue has brought to light the fundamental issue of supportership in England. Why is it, Nasser Hussain the captain asks, that the second generation Pakistanis do not support England, their country of birth ? Many of these people have not travelled to Pakistan and have no substantial roots there in any case, he argues.

The most likely reason for this coincides with the one which caused the recent riots in the northern English cities of Bradford and Leeds — alienation. Alienation from the mainstream society, predominantly white, economically advantaged and whose number has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. Drastic cuts in social services, deeper cuts in unemployment benefits, ghetto-like living conditions and a high rate of unemployment contribute to these people remaining close to boiling point.

The fact that the old school manufacturing sector, which was the only one to employ them in large numbers, have practically ceased to exist in Britain does not help their cause. Indeed, as with all developed economies, the manufacturing sector per se contribute a lesser percentage to the gross national product with each passing year, obliterating whatever chances this section might have had for employment. To make matters worse, due to the lack of adequate education, many of these people are unemployable in the expanding services sector.

It is a tough decision for the national or local government to make. Neither of them seem to have the resources or, more importantly, the inclination to train a large and sometimes not-so-young section of the “immigrant population” from scratch to make them employable in the new economy sector.

Half-hearted efforts have been made periodically since the Thatcher years, when the dismantling of the British welfare society was initiated, but with limited success. Yet, to redress cricket hooliganism one needs to address it in the con- text of the larger social canvas. Maybe John Major would have fallen for this line. But Tony Blair ? Have you ever seen him near a cricket ground expect when campaigning?

   

 
 
AND THE BUSINESS OF EDUCATION 
 
 
BY ABHIJIT BANERJEE (MIT), PRANAB BARDHAN(UC, BERKELEY), KAUSHIK BASU (CORNELL), MRINAL DATTA CHAUDHURI (D. SCHOOL), MAITRESH GHATAK (UNIV OF CHICAGO), ASHOK SANJAY GUHA (JNU), MUKUL MAJUMDAR (CORNELL), DILIP MOOKHERJEE (BOSTON UNIV) AND DEBRAJ RAY (BOSTON UNIV)
 
 
One key aspect of the comparative advantage of West Bengal in this connection is in higher education. The state turns out a large number of well qualified students in engineering, services, besides the general arts and sciences, that could form the reservoir of skilled workers in hi-tech sectors. West Bengal leads other Indian states in the number of graduating students successfully passing the NET qualifications for college teachers. Yet many of them seem to leave subsequently for other states and countries looking for suitable employment. And from all appearances, the demand for quality higher education continues to outstrip supply of seats in colleges and universities in the state. One hears of special trains to Bangalore run by the South-Eastern Railways largely for students going there for entrance examinations for technical courses. The high demand for education in the state is mirrored also in the fact that West Bengal leads India in the fraction of students who get tutored (according to Anjini Kochar), and the high status traditionally accorded to education in Bengali culture.

Indeed, the rich educational traditions of the state suggest going one step further by treating higher education itself as a profitable industry where investment can be encouraged. West Bengal is surrounded by states where the education system is in complete disarray and where well-to-do parents send their children to schools in Delhi. If West Bengal could provide good schools and colleges at competitive prices, it could easily attract a part of that demand, as it used to some decades ago when the brightest and the best from eastern India would come to study in Calcutta’s schools and colleges.

To transform this into a reality, however, there has to be a sea change in the government’s policy concerning institutions of learning. There has to be a determined effort to create centres of excellence which seek to attract and retain the best talent among teachers and researchers. This will require a sharp reversal of the trend in the last two decades towards excessive egalitarianism and politicization in education. To begin with, the process of hiring of teachers is hopelessly politicized. After that, unconditional job security, use of criteria unrelated to merit such as political connections and seniority in promotions and transfers imply that teachers have no accountability. The government owns or funds most institutions of higher education and so it can get away with whatever it wants — just look at the sorry state of Presidency College and Calcutta University. There are few competitive pressures within the system to alter this situation. On top of all this, policies such as abolishing English as a language of instruction in public schools at the primary level have disastrous implications for essential skill formation in a globalized economy (although, as we write, the newly elected chief minister has announced the policy of reintroducing English from class I). Even countries poorer than India, such as Ghana, have been able to attract a lot of data transcription and operator services from the United States on a subcontracting basis just by virtue of having low-wage workers who know English and have basic computer skills. In Ghana, a country where the average income is about $380 a year, the best data processors make $300 a month.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Too big for labour’s good

Sir — Gwynne Dyer’s article, “Work shorter hours, get more jobs” (July 2), is a revelation. Of course, this experiment would not have been possible without a coalition government at Paris. That the president, Jacques Chirac, does not have a rightwing parliamentary majority has been the saving grace for France in recent years. Martine Aubry’s stubbornness has also held the people of the country in good stead. Unfortunately, scholars and policy-makers offer the excuse that such experiments with labour standards can only be conducted in small countries which are easier to administer than, say, India. And, what has also become a trite retort to this argument is the example of China, invoking economists like Amartya Sen who has worked on a comparative study of India and China. But what we need instead of all this talk is a few leaders in the Union cabinet, who are going to be steadfast in their determination to improve labour standards across the nation. Numbers, then, will cease to be a problem.

Yours faithfully,
Ashok K. Sharma, via email

Vengeance is mine

Sir — The inhuman manner in which the erstwhile chief minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Karunanidhi, was manhandled and brutalized is shameful (“Avenger Amma’s revenge raj”, July 1). Apart from being a mature politician and a decent person, Karunanidhi has dedicated himself to nation-building for over 60 years. The impetuous chief minister, J. Jayalalitha, could not wait to pounce on her political enemies.

M. Karunanidhi has brought about far-reaching positive changes in Tamil Nadu — the construction of fly-overs, good roads, bridges, housing colonies, health centres and so on. This has been for the good of both the privileged and the downtrodden. Even his old political rival, M.G. Ramachandran, took care to see that Karunanidhi’s career and physical security was in no way jeopardized during his rule.

People like Jayalalitha should be thrown out of office to rescue Tamil Nadu from peril.

Yours faithfully,
T.V. Ramnarayan, via email

Sir — The Congress and the left parties have criticized the National Democratic Alliance government for recalling the Tamil Nadu governor, Fathima Beevi. Beevi, after accepting the offer of the governor’s post, was seldom in the news. M. Karunanidhi had no problems with her. She came into the limelight only with the issue of the appointment of the present chief minister, J. Jayalalitha. The Congress has alleged that the NDA is motivated by its desire to replace her with a person loyal to it.

The situation in Tamil Nadu warrants Central intervention. The Central government has decided to recall her because her report was found to be almost a copy of the chief secretary’s. The television clippings of the arrest angered the people. The Jaya TV and Aaj Tak channels tried their best to pacify this anger by telecasting contrary video clippings. These were perhaps provided by the police department under the chief minister’s orders. But, unfortunately for Jayalalitha, the earlier Sun TV clippings have left such an imprint on the minds of the people that this little trick of hers will not work.

In Tamil Nadu, there is a chief minister, but for all intents and purposes, there is no government. Jayalalitha is the government. She can pick anyone as minister and can also get rid of him at will. Her wishes are her party’s agenda. Her chosen manner of implementing these wishes constitutes the law of the land. All her allies, if they want to keep their records clean, should pull out of the coalition at once.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir — The avenger amma should be shown the door since her criminal mindset has once again provoked her to misuse the power of public office. This lady has the courage and remorselessness to defy any law or custom that might exist in a civilized society.

Opportunism and vendetta are the hallmarks of her behaviour. Ironically, the NDA government survives on these “principles” as well. Sheer hostility to and victimization of an individual or party without any substantive charges form the point of convergence for these two ideologically opposed coalitions. The spectacular electoral victory of Jayalalitha made her a prospective ally of the Vajpayee government and the removal of M. Karunanidhi from the political spectrum could have been the brainchild of Vajpayee’s strategists. The NDA is known for such a victimization of Sonia Gandhi and the Congress.

Naturally, most of the offences committed during the goings-on in Tamil Nadu will not come under the purview of the Constitution review panel. But any sensible person will agree that the vindictiveness of public office-holders must be treated as the defiance of the Constitution.

Yours faithfully
Sagarika Dasgupta, Calcutta

Sir — In politics, nobody is clean. Power, money and influence corrupt. At the moment, Amma has all these three things. And she has ensured the most dramatic revenge by ensuring Karunanidhi’s arrest along with the arrest of his son, M. Stalin, the Union ministers, Murasoli Maran and T.R. Baalu. All those ministers who played significant roles in attempting to convict Amma are now being charged and arrested. What a turnaround this has been!

Jayalalitha, despite being charged and convicted for so many cases, has never been put through such a situation. She refused to respond even after the prime minister called her after Karunanidhi’s arrest. Meanwhile, the Congress, after condemning the incident, is still friends with Jayalalitha. This is, after all, realpolitik.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, via email

Sir — I do not understand why the media are raising such a hullabaloo about the inhuman behaviour of the Tamil Nadu police in arresting M. Karunanidhi.What the Tamil Nadu police have done is nothing new. Human rights are violated much more brutally all the time in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Custody deaths are common all over the country. Perhaps, for the first time in this case, a politician has had to see the “real” face of the Indian police. Now they will know what the common man has to face everyday.

Yours faithfully,
M. Akhtar, via email

Sir — M. Karunanidhi deserves the treatment he got because he not only resisted arrest, he is also involved in the flyover scandal. But, if Jayalalitha cannot prove these charges, she will lose the next elections. As a former chief minister, he is also responsible for the high-handedness of the police force. People have not forgotten the fact that members of his party once attacked the present chief minister. Neither can they forget his boycott of the Indian peace-keeping force and his notorious liaison with anti-Indian organizations.

His family wealth is hugely disproportionate to his official income. Jayalalitha is no better a person or politician. One is ashamed to have the likes of Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi as rulers of Tamil Nadu.

Yours faithfully,
Kannan, via email

Ticket to a free ride

Sir — Our domestic help recently served us with an ultimatum that her wages had to be increased forthwith to enable her to buy a railway ticket (despite the fact that she has a monthly income of Rs 1,200). However, this was less shocking than what she had to add. She told us that that after being a free-tripper for almost a decade, the railways had had the audacity to stop her and her group at the exit recently. Yet the railway authorities proudly announce every other day of earning lakhs of rupees from random raids on passengers plying without tickets. This passenger would not have been able to travel without tickets for so long had it not been for the conniving railway staff.

Yours faithfully,
A.R.B. Subramanian, via email

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