Editorial 1 / No trust
Editorial 2 / Crime and power
From Chennai to Delhi
Fifth Column / Two frontiers in the budget
A personal problem no more
A broader skill base and productive units
Letters to the editor

At the very least, the decision of the Unit Trust of India to suspend sales and repurchases of the Unit Scheme 1964 is anything but an attempt to protect small investors, contrary to what UTI proclaims. At worst, it is a violation of contractual obligations and is no different from a bank shutting out depositors — in this case, small investors who also looked to the scheme for liquidity. The UTI chairman’s statement that liquidity and exit remain through the national stock exchange wholesale debt market and the over the counter exchange of India is nonsense. The finance minister’s statement that UTI affairs will be scrutinized is also disingenuous and reflects no more than concern about slowing down of the gross domestic product growth and the impact of UTI’s action on stock and foreign exchange markets. It is impossible to believe that the finance ministry did not know about UTI’s gameplan. Much of the blame for the UTI rot can be squarely placed with North Block, which continued to persuade small investors that UTI represented safe and rewarding investments, thanks to mandated returns and high repurchase or sale prices. Hence the successive bailouts. It is small mercy that there is no bailout in the present case.

Conversely, questionable UTI investments, especially in public sector units, have resulted from government pressure. Rather remarkably, UTI’s role in the Ketan Parekh scam continues to be ignored by the finance ministry and the joint parliamentary committee. The Deepak Parekh committee’s recommendations fell short of forcing UTI to move to net asset value based pricing. The NAV is thus shrouded in mystery and if it is around Rs 9, as is believed to be the case, UTI has added to reserves through the difference between sale and repurchase price. This became difficult when non-individual or corporate investors pulled out in April/May, and following redemptions, such holdings dropped from 37 per cent to less than 30 per cent. Stated differently, this lot sold out when the going was good and 12 million small investors are left holding the lemon.

That the present UTI chairman retires in February is no doubt more than coincidence. He will not be around, when hell breaks loose, as it inevitably must. Rather perversely, the Deepak Parekh committee did not attempt to improve accountability and transparency in UTI’s top management, nor did it bring UTI under the security and exchange board of India’s purview. When the scheme turns NAV-based, contractual obligations suggest that small investors should be offered an exit option at the assured repurchase price. In that case, a simple calculation will show that cash reserves are not enough and UTI cannot handle redemptions without selling its stocks and assets. The resultant bloodbath can well be imagined. Small investors should therefore take Mr Yashwant Sinha’s statements about no need for panic and their interests being safeguarded with more than a pinch of salt. Risk-free high returns are nothing but a fairy tale.


The denunciation by the former Yugoslav president, Mr Slobodan Milosevic, of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, during his first appearance, was not surprising. Mr Milosevic is the first former head of state to face charges of committing “crimes against humanity” in an international court. And the tribunal is the first international body created for the prosecution of war crimes since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials held after World War II. Predictably, Mr Milosevic declared, in his opening statement, that he considered the “tribunal to be a false tribunal and the indictments as false indictment.” It may be recalled that the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as the judicial body is formally known, was set up in 1993, and it has been given jurisdiction over individuals responsible for war crimes committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. Indeed, the tribunal, while international in composition and set up through a UN security council resolution, is not without its share of critics. The tribunal challenges traditional conceptions of sovereignty that have remained virtually intact despite the trials after WWII, and makes individuals in positions of authority liable to face international courts for crimes that they have ostensibly committed within the borders of their countries while holding positions of power. The creation of special courts for specific situations, rather than opting for a more broad-based international criminal court, suggests a bias that is reflective more of great power politics rather than the altruistic concern for justice. Indeed, the intense pressure that the United States brought to bear on the Yugoslav government to “hand over” Mr Milosevic to the tribunal, even while rejecting plans to set up an international criminal court, is symptomatic of the hypocrisy that often masquerades as principled politics. There are few, outside his ultra Serb nationalist constituency, who will shed tears for Mr Milosevic. He is charged with having ultimate responsibility for the deportation of 740,000 Kosovo Albanians and for the murder of hundreds of individually named Albanians.

The circumstances under which Mr Milosevic was handed over to the UN were not without controversy. He was flown out of Belgrade the day before the start of international donor conference, critical to the economic revival of Yugoslavia. The US had made it clear that any aid was conditional on Mr Milosevic being brought before the war crimes tribunal. The Serbian government handed him over, ignoring opposition from the federal president and the junior coalition partner in the federal government. This has led to the collapse of the government, and to a new period of instability in Serbia.


The crackdown on the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam at the end of June 2001 has joined the realm of Indian political legend. As much as the issue of how to use or abuse police powers in a democracy, this promises to be a possible turning point in the relations between the Centre and the states.

In characteristic style, the former Union defence minister, George Fernandes, reduced the issue to one of the defence of democracy. For him as for many of those in the ruling coalition, the events in Chennai bring back memories of the Emergency. Even the composition of the team with a representative of the Akali Dal, another regional party that fought Indira Gandhi, was meant to reinforce the memory of another, now dimly remembered, struggle.

But Fernandes and his friends do not seem to realize that the similarities end there. Despite the excessive, indefensible and unjustified use of police force against leading political luminaries, the events in Tamil Nadu are not quite the departure from the past that it is being made out to be. In 1989, a group of then ruling party members of the legislative assembly, all from the DMK, manhandled the leader of the rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, J. Jayalalithaa. The chief minister, who was within earshot, did not admonish his party members, nor did he try to help her in any way.

Such behaviour among members of the political class was relatively rare in the state before the Eighties, but has become routine since then. There were signs of growing intolerance even earlier, as in the case of a press photographer who was bold enough to try and record a picture of M.G. Ramachandran sans his familiar dark glasses and cap, swimming in the river. Not only was the man roughed up, his film was confiscated and the camera smashed beyond repair.

In the first instance, the violence was directed against the media and rival party workers. Next, it extended to leaders of rival parties. Similarly, the armed cadres on the rampage gave way to loyalist police officers and their men being deployed for partisan ends. The process of politicization of the police and bureaucracy has continued apace.

The Indira Gandhi precedent is valid but not quite in the black and white manner that the National Democratic Alliance suggests. Every leader today aspires to the kind of absolute power she commanded for a brief period in a long career. And this includes those who spent a long innings fighting her in the name of democracy.

Nothing else explains the number of times the NDA has tried to draw on Article 356. Atal Bihari Vajpayee may be the first prime minister from outside the Congress tradition having never been a member of that party in his life. But he has absorbed and ingested all the notions of statecraft that reduced constitutional machinery to an instrument of party politics.

If the attempts have failed, it is not for want of trying. Twice in Bihar, a pliable governor has enabled the regime to try imposing president’s rule. It failed once due to the strict views of the president, a rare custodian of constitutional values in our troubled times. The second time, the Rajya Sabha was the stumbling block. But Bihar was not an exception: it was only an example.

Not many now recall how under the urging of Jayalalithaa, then ally and partner, the home minister L.K. Advani despatched a Central team to Tamil Nadu in 1998. The latter did not play the game, and reported that the state was peaceful. They were publicly upbraided for doing their duty and not heeding the master’s voice. They were expected to report a breakdown of law and order and the spread of violence.

Last year, Fernandes rushed in where angels fear to tread, West Bengal. Based on a brief visit during which he did not confer with state officials and ministers, he dubbed the law and order situation as “worse than Bihar”, an assessment even diehard critics of the Left Front had to take with a pinch of salt.

For now, the NDA has backed itself into a corner. The removal of the governor only shows a tendency to pick on soft targets. It cannot easily impose president’s rule and make it stick nor can it hope the challenge to its authority will simply go away. Either way, it will become a much-weakened formation; one that is unable to address deeper issues and is waylaid by immediate crises.

Fortunately, Indian federalism is not quite as shallow as it once was. The use of Article 356 is now subject to judicial review. With a one party-regime in New Delhi now passé, there is no easy consensus on when and where to invoke the clause. Except in rare cases, it has virtually become a dead letter, not due to major constitutional overhaul, but due to the new political situation. The strong Centre is still in place, but its clout is waning, its authority shrunken. It has to negotiate where it would once have bullied its way through.

This is where the events of the last week are a turning point. For, they point to a new, unforeseen situation. A strong state government may take on the Union and defy its will. This is why the arrest of two Union ministers is cause for concern. This is true whichever version of events one accepts: such an act was unthinkable even a decade ago.

The pendulum has swung from one side to the other. After nearly two decades of a strong Centre and weak state governments, from the end of the Sixties to the late Eighties, we are now in murky, uncharted waters. Since 1989, most state ministries outside the Hindi belt have completed their full term, and only one Union ministry has been in office for a full five years.

But there are no easy remedies to this. As P.V. Narasimha Rao perceptively observed in his novel, The Insider, the ground for democracy has been prepared in India; but the plant that has flourished here for centuries is a hardy monarchical one. He was writing of the tendency to build up personality cults, but his views are relevant on a wider plane as well. The smack of strong government sits ill at ease with a more consensual, accommodative kind of political behaviour.

Tamil Nadu is part of a more general drift towards the politics of intolerance. Due to the frequent switchover of roles of hunter and hunted, it should also draw attention to the need for deeper systemic changes in political culture. Those who are today’s victims may well be tomorrow’s villains.

State level leaders can be as authoritarian as their all-India counterparts. The post-Congress polity has not yet evolved ways of reining them in. Nor have Union leaders often showed the statesmanship to work towards a more genuinely federal arrangement. Yesterday’s tools are neither relevant nor can they be deployed easily. But the give and take that is part and parcel of democracy is missing in practice.

It is possible that a new equilibrium will emerge once the dust settles. But in the interim, more such crises will be on the road. Indian unity may not be in peril, but federalism is on trial.

The author is an independent researcher on ecology and political affairs and former fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum Library, New Delhi


This year’s West Bengal budget marks a break with the past by taking steps that can be termed bold and, at first glance, progressive. This budget is exceptional on two fronts, where it has actually tried to break new ground.

The first, on the fiscal front, is the 20 per cent luxury tax imposed on some imported consumer goods ranging from garments and confectioneries to cars and silk yarn. While such a tariff wall is a first for any state, the move is expected to net Rs 50 crore in revenue.

While the ostensible reason is to protect domestic industry from “uneven competition due to indiscriminate liberalization”, it is actually a thinly-disguised attempt to block Chinese goods from flooding the market.

Items like toys, garments and umbrellas from China definitely pose a threat to domestic producers both in terms of quality and price. But the luxury tax ignores the ground realities of smuggling and the grey market. Items like imported cycles and umbrellas are not luxuries and will simply be denied to the poor, who need them the most.

There can be other deleterious effects of the luxury tax. It will jeopardize the boom in retail sales of imported consumer goods which was just taking off. This may ultimately erode revenue earnings of the state government.

Careful with your goods

Of course, Chinese goods can be bought in other states and then brought to West Bengal for sale. It is here that the anti-evasion tax, proposed to be imposed on selected goods brought into the state for purposes of sale, assumes significance. It will garner Rs 50 crore at the same time. Though limited to selected goods, particularly plastic products, its coverage may be extended later on.

Another interesting aspect of the budget was the plan to introduce a bill to ban private tuition by teachers. Around four lakh permanent, wholetime teachers in government and semi-government institutions from the primary to university levels will not be able to give private tuitions if the bill is implemented. This has already drawn flak from both within and outside the Left Front. Anti-left unions fear the bill will be used to victimize teachers belonging to those unions.

The latter point out that the outdated syllabi need to be revamped, infrastructure in schools and colleges improved and classes held regularly. Pro-left unions are more circumspect, but claim that teachers are not responsible for the popularity of private tuition; students and guardians are.

Nothing private

Private tuition has indeed become part and parcel of education in West Bengal nowadays. What is not so obvious is that a kind of black market has steadily and insidiously grown in the garb of private tuition. Classrooms are overcrowded, syllabi are not completed on time, classes are held irregularly in most government-run institutions. Students are forced to take recourse to private tutors not just to get good marks but even to pass.

This year’s budget recognizes this sordid reality, albeit circumspectly, when Asim Dasgupta — himself a professor of economics — talks about the accountability of teachers.

He hopes academic standards will improve substantially in state-funded institutions if teachers are made accountable.

Even the state commerce and industry minister, Nirupam Sen, has gone on record saying that the Left Front may fail to form the government for the seventh time if it implements the proposed ban on private tuition.

By this, of course, he admitted that almost the lion’s share of government teachers are traditional left supporters. Sen also proposed that unemployed young people can fill the vacuum created by government teachers when they leave off private tuition.

Teachers’ fronts have pointed out that banning private tuition is easier said than done and a highly unrealistic proposal to implement.

It may even end up creating a genuine black market where education is sold surreptitiously to the highest bidders according to the preferences of teachers.

As long as syllabi are not completed on time and classes are held irregularly, there will always be a demand from students for private tuition not just to get that extra edge but merely to finish the course work on time. A sorry state, indeed, for a society to be in.


As someone who once claimed that there was nothing he could not accomplish except bringing a dead man back to life, Subhas Chakraborty must be privately dismissing all the fuss about some criminals being flushed out of the Salt Lake stadium, where his word is usually law. This is not the first time his name has been dragged into a controversy that has embarrassed his party and its government. This is not the first case to come to light of a nexus between criminals and politicians. Before the last assembly elections, the Trinamool Congress had demanded the arrest of Sushanta Ghosh, whom the party accused of harbouring criminals and storing weapons for use in the killing fields of Keshpur. So, what’s new, Chakraborty would argue, much in the manner in which he sought to stonewall the arrest of one of his close aides for harbouring the criminals.

There are several new — and politically significant — elements in this latest Subhas Chakraborty starrer. He has long tossed little challenges before the party leadership with his near-rebellious words and actions. This time around, some kind of nemesis seems to have caught up with this overreacher. Not just his rivals in the bitterly divided North 24 Parganas unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), but a majority of the top leaders, who were long baying for his blood, now want to use the stadium shame to permanently nail the maverick minister down.

More importantly, the stadium arrests have confronted the CPI(M) as well as the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, with issues that go beyond the party’s internal strifes. Chakraborty’s detractors may chuckle over his discomfiture and do all they can to put the heat on him. It has been suggested that some of them had known about the police raid before it actually happened or even did their bit to prompt it. But did not these party worthies anticipate the embarrassment the busting of the criminals’ shelter would cause, not merely to Chakraborty, but to the entire party and the government? Did they not realize that the exposure would rip the mask off the Marxists’ morality plays? No matter what the district mandarins thought or did, the issue involves public perceptions and interests much more than partisan skullduggery. It is no longer the same old story of the struggle for power between Chakraborty and Amitava Nandy or Amitava Bose in the party’s district unit. It is now a matter of grave public concern.

Only at a superficial level is it a law and order issue, which the probe by the Crime Investigation Department will address. Even if the inquiry confirms suspicions of Chakraborty or his men sheltering criminals — that too, on government premises — it will be yet another evidence of politicians’ involvement in a criminal conspiracy. Strangely, the minister has raised utterly irrelevant questions on why the police entered the stadium complex without informing him, as if the law of the land stopped outside its gate. His other reactions too have been fairly predictable of politicians in similar situations. He first disowned the arrested and then, when one of his trusted lieute-nants in the party’s Salt Lake local committee was picked up, tried to glorify “anti-social” elements as crusaders for justice. It is not merely facetious but dangerous, especially coming from a senior minister .

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cannot afford to countenance such caricatures if he has to retrieve the image of his new government that lies shattered at the stadium. It is not enough for him to ask the minister for an explanation. The incident has come as the biggest blow so far to his new government — and to his new image as Mr Do It. The way the new chief minister handles it will go a long way in telling us what is to be expected of him in future. He must rise above partisan politics and give the public what it deserves — an assurance from the chief minister that even a cabinet colleague cannot get away with a criminal conspiracy. If this means rattling Chakraborty acolytes in the party, who include some more ministers, Bhattacharjee can shirk his responsibility only at his own — and the government’s — peril.

Bhattacharjee’s first reactions seem to have been guided by a strategy to take the steam out of the opposition charge against Chakraborty and its demand for his ouster from the government. There have been several instances of the CPI(M) leadership demanding resignation of Union ministers in similar situations. The party will only expose its double standards if Chakraborty is allowed to stay on in the cabinet. If that were to happen, the credibility of Bhattacharjee’s regime would be greatly eroded, even if the Trinamool Congress diverts its attention to some other issue.

Bhattacharjee won the last assembly elections promising a new course for the old Left Front. Implicit in the promise was a departure from the Jyoti Basu era in many areas. L’affaire Subhas has come as a test on that score too. In his rantings against the party leadership, Chakraborty often swore by Basu. Ever since the party debate in June, 1996 on allowing Basu to head the United Front and become prime minister, he remained an unflinching loyalist of the Bengal patriarch. Basu himself is known to have mediated at Chak- raborty’s behest over endless bickerings at the North 24 Parganas party unit. Can Bhattacharjee, also a Basu protegé, be his own man and take action against Chakraborty? Can his government stand up against his party?

The state CPI(M) secretary, Anil Biswas, has said that the party would stand by the government in its attempts to get to the bottom of the stadium scandal. Biswas himself has often been the target of many of Chakraborty’s attacks on the leadership. It is possible that the apparatchiki would seize the opportunity with both hands and push the minister to the brink. Biswas can go even farther — he may try to spite Basu, with whom he had no love lost — by cutting Chakraborty to size.

All that would, of course, further expose the rot within the CPI(M) that the stadium affair symbolizes. In the ultimate analysis, it is the party, rather than Chakraborty, that stands exposed in its ugly form and face at Salt Lake. It is no coincidence that the arrested Chakra-borty aide, who allegedly used to run the stadium’s other shows on his behalf, was also a land-dealer. Deals and other skills, particularly those of the criminal kind, seem to oil the party machine into fighting fitness, even as power struggles are passed off as dialectical fights. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may still play party games rather than act as chief minister in dealing with the stadium shock. But both he and his party could well be overtaken by events that the Salt Lake episode may have unleashed.


The best way to deal with problems in the education sector is to provide substantially greater autonomy to existing educational institutions by restoring the role of merit and productivity in such institutions, and encourage the development of an entirely new set of institutions from the private sector. Centres of excellence need to be free of political interference, be guided by norms of productivity (as evaluated by students and academic peers) and have maximum flexibility with respect to tuitions, hiring, salaries, evaluations and working conditions. The government needs to woo investment from the private sector and from leading educational institutions elsewhere in the country and abroad, and provide setup and facilitating assistance (in the form of land clearances, electricity and water connections and so on, and matching grants). Most important it needs to credibly commit to letting these institutions operate autonomously, and foster competition for students and teachers between new and existing institutions. If existing institutions lose their best faculty and students to the newly emerging ones, so be it — nothing else will shake up the system better. The entry of new institutions could be encouraged at all levels, all the way from primary schools to high schools to colleges and research institutes. If schools with currently high reputation and in high demand want to open additional branches throughout Calcutta or the state — as Delhi Public School or Springdales has done in Delhi — there is no reason to prevent the same here. Indeed, if Delhi schools want to open branches in Calcutta, that should be actively encouraged as well. The role of the state should be limited to providing scholarships to needy students, and to filling in the gaps left by private initiative with respect to establishment of new schools.

Yet another set of reforms pertain to bringing educational institutions and industry closer to one another. There are promising beginnings in this direction, with increasing emphasis on vocational and computer training in curricular reforms, and establishment of placement services in some existing colleges and universities. There is even greater scope for the encouragement and establishment of apprenticeship and adult education programmes that help small entrepreneurs at one end, and encouraging research joint ventures between research laboratories and high-tech industry at the other. Indeed, commercially viable research laboratories are potential spin-offs from higher education. Given that there is still some demand for careers in research among Bengali families, there could be a future for privately funded research institutes that teach advanced students and do research on contractual basis, in bio-technology for instance.

Having stressed the role of new initiatives in infrastructure and education, we turn now to the third and perhaps most important part of a new industrial policy — small scale units at the lower end of the technology spectrum. There are many reasons to accord primacy to this part of the industrial sector. First, it is difficult to predict whether or to what extent the high-tech sector will indeed take off in West Bengal. As we have mentioned earlier, this is subject to a number of uncertainties — the state is a latecomer to the stage, with strong competition from rival hubs in the country. Where high-tech clusters form and thrive is inherently difficult to predict in advance, owing to the interdependence of location decisions of numerous investors and skilled professionals. A slowdown in the information technology industry has set in worldwide since last year. It would be unwise for West Bengal to place all its chips on this sector alone.



Killing us softly with burgers

Sir — If the fast-food giant, McDonald’s, is not having its outlets in Mumbai vandalized by the Bharatiya Janata Party, it’s having a lawsuit smacked on it in the United States (“Boy files suit against McDonald’s”, July 4). Whether the lawsuit is a ludicrous one from a lawyer claiming to represent the entire Hindu community in the US against the use of beef in McDonald’s products or from an 11 year old boy from Detroit raising hell because he wasn’t prepared for the maggot garnishing on his cheeseburger, McDonald’s is definitely maintaining its place in the media spotlight. While the first lawsuit seems to be just another way to make a few bucks — the lawyer wants $ 100 million as damages — the second one is entirely justified and is going to be a difficult one to settle. Both situations, however laughable, indicate that it’s high time that McDonald’s started pulling up its socks and claiming responsiblity for its actions. After all, press releases and out-of-court settlements can’t hide the truth from the public forever.

Yours faithfully,
Bhanu Verma, Calcutta

Each in its place

Sir — Ashok Mitra’s “Dangerous questions” (June 20) is an eyeopener with regard to Cuba’s fabulous achievements in education and healthcare, which form the basis of the infrastructure for any progressive society. Cuba’s existence as a practising communist country amid the hegemony of the United States and its cohorts, is itself an outstanding achievement. This only shows that socialism and communism are not as bad as the pretenders to economic reform would have us believe.

And now the praise for Cuba comes from no other person than the president of the World Bank himself. He probably realized that such information could not be withheld from the world for long. Yet our independent press chose to ignore this news to give the royal killings in Nepal top coverage. Perhaps, disinformation or misinformation or a complete blackout of some news also forms part of the so-called “economic reforms” in our country.

Fidel Castro should be congratulated for his achievements, which will endure even if he is not around. But one must also add that if communism has failed in West Bengal, it is because of our communist leaders, who, despite preaching communism to the masses, having themselves followed a capitalist lifestyle. How else does one explain the dismal performance of the state in education and healthcare, although the left has been in power for the last 24 years? Is Mitra listening? For once, let him not shift the onus to the Centre.

Yours faithfully,
R.K. Mukherjee, Calcutta

Sir — Instead of sermonizing to the Indian media, Ashok Mitra should direct his bile at the netas in his home state, West Bengal. Compare two situations with respect to both education and healthcare. If one falls sick here, one goes to the decrepit, undermanned hospitals in the state. If the neta falls ill, he goes abroad for treatment, that is, to capitalist countries, his sworn enemies. Again, many of the teachers in West Bengal are party members, whose main task over the last 24 years has been how not to teach or educate students, particularly in English. Our netas’ children invariably attend English medium schools and then go abroad for higher studies. The ambience in the state would have been better appreciated by Groucho Marx than Karl Marx.

Yours faithfully,
Jayanta Dutt, Calcutta

Sir — There might be reasons to feel ecstatic about the achievements of Cuba. But why does Ashok Mitra and his Marxist brothers still feel that a system a la Castro would succeed in a country like India? Communism has failed in the former Soviet Union and the eastern European countries. In China, much like in Cuba, a strict, invisible curtain separates the rest of the world from the individual peoples, who might be having a very different idea about the respective regimes. Probably that is why the press in both Cuba and China are captive agents of the government.

Yours faithfully,
Jaishankar Sinha, Calcutta

Troubled channels

Sir — My five year old son informs me that from July onwards, Cartoon Network is going to be shown after 9 pm as the “Cartoon Network night shift”. Like most children, my son watches only Cartoon Network whenever he gets the time. We allow him to do this because he continues to be good in his studies and we believe that it is better for a child to watch this channel rather than others which depict a lot of violence. Earlier, Cartoon Network used to go off the air at 9 pm, which meant there was some respite and children could go to sleep.

By beaming its network even after 9 pm, Cartoon Network would literally snatch the children of sleep. The network may deny this and produce research and statistics to prove the parents wrong. The minister for information and broadcasting, Sushma Swaraj, should look into the matter.

Yours faithfully,
Dipankar Mukherji, via email

Sir — The article, “Viewing blues” (June 17), draws attention to the stranglehold that local cable operators may exert in days to come. Whether clubbing together the best channels is possible technically or not, the public should be given the choice of all channels at a reasonable standard rate to be charged by all cable operators throughout the city and suburbs without any deviation. People should also be informed about the latest channel-wise rates charged by the “whole-salers” like RPG and Siti cable for the sake of transparency.

About 99 per cent Tamils in Calcutta and West Bengal watch Sun TV because of its news and entertainment programmes. The switching over of this channel to hyperband by RPG days back has created a minor stir within the community. Has this anything to do with the fall of the party owning Sun TV in Tamil Nadu? If politics is ruled out, then why should the non-hyperband television sets run dry?

Yours faithfully,
Arun Kumar, Calcutta

In line for correction

Sir — The railway board has reportedly decided to use automatically operated doors on coaches on the Satabdi Express. Coaches seemingly have also been imported from Germany for the purpose. But as the recent incident on the Metro Railways in Calcutta shows, such coaches are more for the benefit of those who gain from imports than for the commuters for whom they are meant.

In two separate incidents in Calcutta, the automated doors proved to be a serious risk for the travellers. It is to be hoped that common sense will prevail upon the members of the railway board and the decision to use automated doors on Indian trains will be put on hold.

Yours faithfully,
H.C. Johari, Calcutta

Sir — A disquieting fact is that although inquiries are ordered to examine the causes of the successive rail accidents, the reports of these investigations are hardly ever made public. They are treated as confidential reports as though rail property was the personal acquisition of the railway board. No information is available in the normal course about whether the causes of serious accidents have been detected or whether the persons responsible for them have been penalized by the department. Cases involving the railways or railway personnel are also hardly ever brought to court. The number of accidents have been on the rise for the past few years. It is clear that lack of maintenance is a major cause of accidents, as Kadalundi shows, yet that is seldom discussed.

Yours faithfully,
Sanjoy Mukherji, Calcutta

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