Editorial 1 / Truce review
Editorial 2 / A riot of colours
Saddled with democracy
Fifth Column / Don’t rush in foolishly at Agra
How little girls are unmade
Bumpy road to small scale success
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / TRUCE REVIEW 
 
 
 
 
Last month’s deaths and violence in Manipur could have been avoided if the Centre had moved fast enough and did what it has now done — assure a delegation of politicians from the state that it would review the latest agreement on extension of ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah). The initiative that has now come from the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, could have been taken by the Union home minister, Mr L.K.Advani, or his ministry officials earlier to allay fears and misgivings about the agreement not only in Manipur but in other northeastern states as well. The Centre’s failure to anticipate the violent reactions to the truce in Manipur was yet another example of New Delhi’s insensitivity to issues and perceptions in the Northeast. Having realized, albeit belatedly, the need for a fresh look at the truce, the Centre cannot afford to give wrong signals to Manipur any more. The review must not therefore be used as a ploy to buy time and to drive a wedge among the politicians and the student agitators. The Centre’s promise to come up with the review within a month must have been aimed at reaching a solution before July 31, the deadline set by the agitating students for the legislators to resign if the agreement on extending the truce “without territorial limits” was not revoked by then. Any dilatory tactics on the part of the Centre may not only trigger another spell of violence, but also lengthen the political vacuum that now exists in the state.

Understandably, Mr K. Padmanabhaiah, the Centre’s interlocutor in the negotiations with the NSCN(I-M), will have to strike some hard bargains if he is to persuade the Naga outfit leaders to accept a revision of the truce. But that should not be an insurmountable problem. While announcing the agreement last month, the Union home secretary, Mr Kamal Pande, explained that the agreement would not affect the territorial integrity of any of the northeastern states. Even Mr Thuingaleng Muivah, the general secretary of NSCN(I-M), made a statement to this effect immediately after the Imphal flare-up. If this was really the case, it should be possible for the Centre to incorporate this assurance in the revised agreement and thereby allay Manipur’s fears about losing some of its territory to a “greater Nagalim”. The other thing the Centre may be obliged to do is to make a statement in the Lok Sabha when its next session begins at the end of the month to clarify the confusion about the agreement. Yet another step could also help. The chief minister of Assam, Mr Tarun Gogoi, and his erstwhile Manipur counterpart, Mr Radhabinod Koijam, contested the home ministry’s claim that they had been consulted before the signing of the truce. The Centre should now clear the air by taking Mr Gogoi and Mr Mukut Mithi of Arunachal Pradesh, apart from the Manipur leaders, into confidence about the truce rethink.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / A RIOT OF COLOURS 
 
 
 
 
Bradford has been burning again. Over the last weekend, a couple of hundred Asian young men have been fighting pitched battles with the police. The violence has led to the arrest of 23 white and 13 Asian people — one of the worst instances in Britain in twenty years. The latest riot in Bradford comes after a series of disturbances in northern cities since Easter — Oldham, Burnley, Leeds — all of which have a large Asian presence. In most of these episodes, narrowly localized confrontations have quickly gone out of control, against a larger backdrop of political anxieties. In Bradford this time, the immediate spark-off came from tensions between a few supporters of the white supremacist National Front and those of the Anti-Nazi League.

The government’s responses have been worrying. First, the home secretary, Mr David Blunkett, has deflected talks onto questions of policing. Should the British tradition of “light touch” policing be toughened up? Should water cannon and tear gas be used? This pragmatic approach actually shows up an evasive short-sightedness which refuses to go into the inherent causes, reducing a complex situation into simply a problem of anti-social behaviour. Second, Mr Blunkett has tied himself into rhetorical knots in order to establish that the trouble in Bradford has nothing to do with “institutionalized racism”. The most charitable explanation of such a statement would put it to the cluelessness that New Labour has often shown with regard to racial complexities in spite of its resolute cheeriness in matters multi-cultural. Racism is not always a visibly organized system, but operates in varied, disguised, often unintentional, but always adverse forms. Its sites of operation may be pubs, corner shops and pool rooms. It could be fed by such diverse phenomena as poverty and drunkenness. Yet more formal “institutions” of the state in Britain have also been implicated in a series of recent reports, in spite of the amendment of the Race Relations Act. The police, the national health service and the crown prosecution service have all been reviewed unfavourably — a process of vigilance which had been initiated by the now considerably curtailed commission for racial equality. Sometimes economic factors — like drastic cuts in regional subsidies, as in the Lancashire area — contribute more than political insecurity. Both the fascist parties have got less votes in some important racially sensitive areas like Leicester and London’s East End in this year’s election. In poorer urban areas, even such factors as the cultural apartness of the Mirpuri Pakistanis from the Hindus, Sikhs, Bangladeshis and other Pakistanis become crucial in determining relations and perceptions between and within races. Mr Blunkett will therefore have to learn to look more closely and discerningly before he celebrates Britain’s merry riot of colours.

   

 
 
SADDLED WITH DEMOCRACY 
 
 
BY BHASKAR GHOSE
 
 
Pity the unfortunate people of Tamil Nadu. They cast aside their reason when they voted recently in the elections to the state assembly and have succeeded in getting themselves a veritable monster as their ruler. Not, of course, without some totally witless assistance from the former governor, Fathima Beevi. J. Jayalalitha, a convicted criminal until she is declared not to be one by a court of appeal, is the chief minister of the state; not because she is an elected member of the assembly, but because she is the leader of a party of servile, gullible men and women, who are deliriously happy that she has given herself the title, puratchi thalaivi, the revolutionary leader, and then have gone on to vote for whoever she put up as a candidate from different seats.

The tragedy, the unspeakable tragedy, is that the other big party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, mismanaged its electoral strategy and had, in the last five years, behaved as if they were going to go on forever, foolishly oblivious to the fact that they had to stand up and explain what they’d done to voters. And the puratchi thalaivi bagged practically all the seats, getting a two-thirds majority in the state assembly.

This woman, who is a convicted criminal, was then appointed chief minister by the governor, on the basis of some incomprehensible reasoning by the latter. And that was when the puratchi thalaivi revealed her innately monstrous nature. If you thought that as chief minister she would start by worrying about the problems which the state is beset with you would have been naïve. She had just one obsession: her consuming hatred for M. Karunanidhi and her uncontrollable lust for revenge. Revenge for having been kept in prison, revenge for having been convicted as a criminal. And she lost no time in feeding fat her hatred.

The police — servants at all times to whoever is in power — prepared a first information report against the former chief minister, some leaders of the DMK, including Karunanidhi’s son and some senior civil servants, among them K.A. Nambiar, one of the finest IAS officers in the country — a strong, intelligent defence secretary who then retired after several years as chief secretary of Tamil Nadu. This FIR was not placed before a court, no charge sheet was prepared — no sooner had the FIR been prepared than that night, in the hours of darkness, they set out to arrest those whose names had been put in it.

The former chief minister, an old man of 78, not in very good health, was literally dragged kicking and screaming from his house. Sun TV — the channel owned by Kalanidhi Maran, whose father Murasoli Maran is the Union commerce minister — had a crew there and captured all this in gruesome detail. A man who had just a few weeks before been the chief minister, was manhandled, and taken, howling in distress, to prison. Murasoli Maran, understandably furious, tried to prevent this, and had his spectacles smashed as he was, from what one could see, physically restrained and forcibly pinned down on a bench of some sort. Murasoli Maran has a serious heart ailment, and is in very poor health; none of this seemed to bother the police. The fact that he was a Union cabinet minister was, of course, of no consequence. All that mattered is that the puratchi thalaivi approve and pat them on the head.

The police had, they later declared, their own television camera team, and they produced a crudely edited sequence where a smiling Karunanidhi sauntered into custody and suddenly there were scenes of commotion. I have not seen the footage, but this is what had been reported by several newspapers.

But let us for the moment leave this savagery aside, and consider the reports of what the principal sessions judge, S. Ashok Kumar, said when hearing the case. He recalled his earlier order of June 29th, when he had directed that Karunanidhi be taken to a hospital before being taken to prison. The order was not obeyed, and Karunanidhi was taken straight to prison. The puratchi thalaivi was obviously not going to be bothered by medical attention being given to a man for whom she has much more in store.

The judge told the prosecuting officer, “The 78-year-old, suffering from several ailments, was sitting like a beggar in front of the prison. The whole world watched him on television. Who will take responsibility if anything happens to him? Is your heart made of muscle or mud?”

This is not all. Before the judge, the assistant commissioner of police, who is the “investigating” officer in this case, one P. Padmanabhan, admitted, according to media reports, that none of the four IAS officers arrested in this case had received any pecuniary benefits, that some contractors had received such benefits, and none of them was cited as accused in this case. He then also admitted that no documents had been seized so far, and that he had not read or verified any documents relating to this case, that he received the original complaint at 2 pm on June 29th, interrogated just one witness, the complainant himself, and that very night effected the barbaric arrests.

It is this sort of ghastly parody of the enforcement of law that makes one wonder about the whole business of democracy. We know that democracy is founded on laws, laws that protect individual freedoms and rights; but how effective have these laws been? Criminals rule states, not just in Tamil Nadu but in the cow belt as well; what sort of law justifies that? Must democracy mean that those who are elected are often people from the dregs of society, able to comprehend nothing except their desire to make money and use a compliant police force to get their enemies thrashed or jailed? And if it must, why do we have to look on it with reverence, pride ourselves on being a democratic country, “the largest democracy in the world”? Does the world know what we have done to democracy?

The sad fact is we are saddled with it, and cannot contemplate any other system. At least, here there is a possibility that things may change. But it is imperative that the ruling National Democratic Alliance give serious thought to where democracy is headed in this country. It will not do to sit on their hands. They must act. If laws are ineffective, then alternatives must be found to make them effective.

One immediate step is to ensure that the investigation of criminal charges against political creatures like Laloo Prasad Yadav and Jayalalitha are done by the Central Bureau of Investigation and not by the state police, and that the cases are brought before courts in states other than the one where these people have their base, and preferably not in neighbouring states. This should not be too difficult to do, but then, the Central leadership needs to have the political will to do it.

It is not just a question of tightening laws; what has to be ensured is that everybody, absolutely everybody, is subject to the law of the land, and the enforcement of that law cannot be left to those who want to subvert it. It is not only justice that we need to ensure and the rule of law; but beyond that, we need to ensure, in the fullest sense, that right is done.

The author is former secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / DON’T RUSH IN FOOLISHLY AT AGRA 
 
 
BY A.N. DAR
 
 
India and Pakistan are going to the summit at Agra with different ideological baggages. While public opinion in India seems to be in favour of the summit called by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in Pakistan there is wide disparity in the way the people and political groups have perceived the meet. In India, even the opposition has expressed optimism about Agra. But in Pakistan, some of the significant political groups called upon by Pervez Musharraf for counsel declined the invitation. Many doubt the legitimacy of any commitments made by Musharraf during his meeting with the Indian prime minister.

In the last few years, India has lost much in terms of property and human lives at the hands of pro-Pakistan militants. In Pakistan, similar damages have been considerably less. These have, nevertheless, been a drain on the Pakistani exchequer. This factor will definitely be at the back of the mind of both the leaders when they meet.

In the run-up to the talks, the leaders have both set out broad lines along which the talks are going to be held. President Musharraf has consistently been saying that Kashmir forms the core of the India-Pakistan dispute. Which means that if there is no progress in this area, the talks will be as good as a failure.

Contrary claims

India has set out the limits to which it can concede to Pakistan’s demands. The minister for external affairs, Jaswant Singh, has referred to the constitutional position and the Parliament resolution which will not allow India to cede its territory. Vajpayee has also made it known that he will talk about Pakistan occupied Kashmir at the summit.

Thus India will find it impossible to extend most of the concessions on Kashmir. At a news conference in Islamabad, Musharraf stated that Singh had merely expressed his personal view. The Indian foreign office, however, later reinforced Singh’s views.

There has also been a lot of difference of opinion about whether or not the All-Party Hurriyat Conference leaders should meet the Pakistani president. But it is time the Hurriyat got over its dream of having tripartite talks.

It should be realistic enough to know its position in the situation — the only two parties that will really count in the summit are India and Pakistan. The APHC cannot call itself a singular representative of the Kashmiris. There are other representatives as well whose claims cannot be ignored. If the Hurriyat is called to the summit, surely, the rest cannot be left out.

One might argue that the APHC leaders should have been allowed to go to Pakistan earlier. This however does not mean that the Indian government has to make do now by allowing them to meet Musharraf in India. The summit should be allowed to run its course.

Lessons from history

The leaders of both the delegations should be careful in the commitments and pronouncements they make before or during the summit. At times, the process seems to be running on the lines of the Shimla summit.

Musharraf has made several observations that should bring about a conciliatory atmosphere in India. His advice to the mullahs not to spread rumours — like the one about Pakistanis being able to conquer the Red Fort some day — created a good impression in India.

There was a similar scenario in 1972 at Shimla. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who earlier spoke of a thousand year war with India, had assured Indians that he would make the line of control a permanent border between the countries.

It was a verbal promise that Bhutto made and this did not figure in any document. While Pakistani spokesmen now deny that such a promise had been made, Indian officials who were present at the talks along with Indira Gandhi assert that such a promise had been made.

This bitter episode should serve as a lesson for Agra. This time, no promises should be made. The agreements should be written down and there should be no verbal assurances.

The Lahore yatra also holds out its lessons for us. While Vajpayee was in Lahore, reaffirming India’s faith in Pakistan as an independent state, arrangements were being made to conquer Kargil. That is how history is made. Wise leaders see to it that history does not overtake them.

   

 
 
HOW LITTLE GIRLS ARE UNMADE 
 
 
BY SOMA MARIK
 
 
The convening of a national religious and political leaders’ convention for the abolition of female foeticide and infanticide by the national commission for women, the Indian Medical Association and the UNICEF was an utterly erroneous step, to give it the most charitable interpretation. It is a perfect example of how far right the political discourse has shifted in India, and how ill-conceived attempts to shore up women’s rights by appeals to so-called religious heads can become counter- productive.

The 2001 census clearly displays how the lives of women, girl-children, and even female embryos, continue to be severely imperilled in India. According to the census, although the sex ratio as a whole has improved marginally to 933 women per 1,000 men, the ratio of surviving girls up to the age of six per 1,000 boys of the same age has fallen from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001. In West Bengal, the ratio of children below six decreased from 955 girls per 1,000 boys in 1991 to 923 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001.

According to the Tamil Nadu police, techniques such as loosening the umbilical chord so the baby bleeds to death; asphyxiation by placing the baby beneath a pedestal fan at full blast, feeding the baby hot, spicy food and even tobacco juice, are used to kill girl children. It is obvious that a serious, sustained all-India campaign is required in order to first halt these atrocities and reverse the trend.

It is however impossible to fight this through the kind of convention as the NCW, IMA and UNICEF wished to do. Female foeticide is caused by a deep-rooted neglect and devaluation of women in our society, regardless of the religious denomination of the people concerned. Therefore, the idea that statements or orders by religious heads will lead to a reversal of social attitudes towards women and girls is based at best on despair for campaigns by secular forces, and at worst on an unstated agenda of those currently in power of legitimizing the entry of religious forces.

Any criticism of the Delhi meeting that is merely technical serves to hide deeper political implications. The IMA asserts that the invitation was extended to such people because they command a strong following. Evidently, the organizers believe that the prejudices and authoritarian, anti-women views fostered and preached by fundamentalists like Sadhvi Rithambara should be given political recognition instead of being reconsidered. That people who have knowledge of medical science can preach alliance with such obscurantists shows how deeply threatened all modern, scientific values and indeed the whole of civil society is.

The meeting led towards heavy saffronization. Sadhvi Rithambara argued, along with others, that when the shastras forbid the taking of life, abortion, as much as sterilization, constitutes a sin, and cannot be exculpated at all. Widow remarriage is also considered a sin, while widow immolation is a great deed. When people with such views are invited, that is precisely the kind of argument that can be expected. Although early reformers had used shastric arguments to pilot through their desired reforms, this model is clearly of doubtful value now. If we are to force our arguments into a shastric mould today, at best we will be dropping the existing discourse of rights and secular morality in favour of a pro-fundamentalist discourse. The more likely development will be a gross restriction of human rights under the pressure of the far right.

According to another speaker, Swami Ramanand of Delhi, shastras can be amended only by those who have attained the status of rishis. Consequently, if shastric injunction becomes the key weapon in a campaign to save the female foetus, then one will have to accept that these injunctions, as interpreted by self-proclaimed rishis, may begin to encroach on women’s rights in myriad ways. Those wishing to mobilize modern rishis should be suspected of harbouring other agendas under the garb of protecting women.

It was also asserted in the meeting, that women may become sati and must worship their husbands as parameshwars. In the end, the speeches of these “religious leaders” implied that all abortion laws should be scrapped, since it is the liberal abortion law that leads to female foeticide.

It is essential to make a distinction between the two issues of female foeticide and infanticide. Both occur due to a deep-rooted prejudice against women embedded in our society, which is reflected by religious leaders. To curb these crimes against humanity, it is necessary to pose the issue in clearly modern, non-religious terms. The old strategy of using religious texts to counter orthodox religious reactionary pressures has always been fraught with danger. Increasingly, the marginal benefits of this strategy have been outweighed by the communalizing trend.

Today, when for close to two decades, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has carried on a drive to bring together all Hindu “leaders” under a common banner, the approach to religious heads was certain to open the doors to far right religio-political forces. In the name of halting female foeticide, these “leaders” have advocated scrapping constitutional rights of women. Already, although adult women have the right to demand abortion without anybody’s consent, many hospitals and nursing homes, often those run by religious organizations, insist on the husband’s consent.

While this makes it difficult for single women to terminate unwanted pregnancies, it also places married women under the control of their husbands. Such cases might result in selective abortions (female foeticide).

To ensure a better society where women have equal substantive rights as men, and both have more rights and freedom, we need a struggle against female foeticide. Calling in religious heads will only result in providing the priests with government backing for churning out their diverse combinations of patriarchal and communal views.

The NCW’s move, and the IMA’s justifications for the meet should be condemned. It has been asserted that people like Rithambara, Ramanand and the Shankaracharya of Kanchi spoke convincingly against female foeticide. Since the calls for abrogation of legal rights went unchallenged, including from the sponsors of the meeting, it is highly doubtful that the NCW was bowled over by their speeches. As reported, only Swami Agnivesh had a critical attitude to the the whole situation.

What is most alarming are the opinions expressed by certain women’s rights activists, like Madhu Kishwar, to the effect that it is useful to invite religious leaders on the ground that unlike the bureaucracy, they will not be a money-guzzling lot. Kishwar asserts that these people come into daily contact with common people, and help in creating a moral and ethical consensus. One might as well ask the women’s rights movement to fold up in favour of religious leaders.

Finally, let us be clear about the issue of freedom of expression. Instead of building bridges with those who wish to uphold and bring back patriarchal injunctions of the worst sort, we need to convince their followers that they are pr- eaching harmful rituals and practices. Religious rituals strengthen preferences for sons. To expect those who advocate such rituals to be committed to a genuine campaign for female foeticide is laughable.

And it is here that the links become clear. Less than a couple of months back, Murli Manohar Joshi, the Union human resources development minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader, had advised parents to follow the nostrums of the Susruta-Samhita if they wanted sons to be born. The NCW, Joshi and the “rishis” share a common agenda — a sustained effort at getting rid of secularism and imposing a new culture. Gender equality, not for the first time in Indian history, is being used by such people as a rhetorical cover for their offensives.

   

 
 
BUMPY ROAD TO SMALL SCALE SUCCESS 
 
 
BY ABHIJIT BANERJEE (MIT), PRANAB BARDHAN (UC, BERKELEY), KAUSHIK BASU (CORNELL), MRINAL DATTA CHAUDHURI (D. SCHOOL), MAAITREESH GHATAK (UNIV OF CHICAGO), ASHOK SANJAY GUHA (JNU), MUKUL MAJUMDAR (CORNELL), DILIP MOOKHERJEE (BOSTON UNIV) AND DEBRAJ RAY (BOSTON UNIV)
 
 
One obvious bottleneck is the lack of quality roads. Even to go from Metiaburuj to Howrah hat, where garments are sold, a distance of less than 25 kilometres, is a day’s work for the entrepreneur. If roads were better he would only need to be away from his business for half a day.

Power supply is another. Small entrepreneurs typically do not have access to the schemes through which the government has tried to provide power to industry. This is a particular problem for them since they cannot afford the overhead cost of a captive generator.

Over-regulation is yet another problem. Small entrepreneurs are the typical victims of corrupt factory inspectors; given the narrow margins on which they operate, the bribes can significantly reduce their prospects of succeeding. The prospect that an inspector could come and shut them down soon after they spend their hard-earned money to buy a small machine, makes them reluctant to invest in the first place. One consequence of the fear of the regulator is that small firms do not register themselves, making them ineligible for formal loans and other publicly supplied inputs (such as power supply).

The solution here is not complete deregulation but very clear, realistic and simple guidelines in specific industries of the form — if you have invested in this type of machine and have taken these few other steps, the inspector has to leave you alone. This has to be backed up by a crackdown on corrupt inspectors, necessitating the establishment of grievance cells where complaints can be lodged and followed up on.

Infrastructure shortages and bribes are not the only problems. Others include the supply of skilled and semi-skilled workers, the availability of technical and marketing assistance, and of credit from the organized sector. The government can take an active role in relieving each of these constraints. Even low-tech industries need skills, in the form of primary and secondary schooling complemented with vocational training. The experience of vocational training in West Bengal in the past appears to be quite mixed, judging from newspaper reports. While there are some successful institutions, many others have foundered for the lack of adequate teaching staff and poorly designed syllabi. Efforts to improve primary schooling and vocational training programmes will be important here. One solution may be to provide subsidies for apprenticeship in existing firms, making use of the money from one of the Centrally funded yojanas for the young unemployed. Opportunities of providing technical and marketing assistance to small-scale units should also be provided by creating entrepreneur networks with easy access to information and extension services provided by the government. Getting a new business off the ground requires defining a suitable product with a market niche either in the state or outside, in which small town entrepreneurs need the assistance of well-informed and well-connected intermediaries. Industrial expositions and trade shows both in and out of the state can also provide the required exposure, as well as access to internet and e-commerce networks.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Blind alley

Sir — Is this the end of the road for Subhas Chakraborty? It would certainly seem so if one is to go by recent events alone. As if the humiliation in the stadium scandal were not enough, Chakraborty was recently denied a seat in the front row with other functionaries at a meeting held to remember Centre of Indian Trade Union president, Niren Ghosh (“Sidelined Subhas left without a seat”, July 8). His devil-may-care attitude has landed Chakraborty in trouble on more than one occasion and yet he seems to have learnt nothing from past mistakes. Even if Chakraborty is given a clean chit by the inquiry committee, the repercussions of this incident may well signal the end of his political career. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is unlikely to display the kind of patience and understanding demonstrated by his predecessor. Already, Chakraborty has embarrassed both the party and the chief minister by exposing the nexus between criminals and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Yours faithfully,
Rita Das, via email

Broken trust

Sir — The financial condition of the Unit Trust of India was a well known fact. By stopping the sale and purchase of US-64 units for the period between July to December 2001, the UTI has hit the investors below the belt. The lack of financial planning and political foresight is responsible for this critical situation.

I have always been of the opinion that mutual funds are risky because they are directly dependent on shares. There is an element of risk in dealing with shares. Not everyone who invests in the stock market becomes a billionaire like Harshad Mehta. But the government of India has always encouraged the growth of the stock market.

Though the government is making all the right noises about bailing out the UTI and has even asked it to come up with a plan that would liquidate some of its assets, which in turn would help its small investors, such a plan may or may not work. Investors should be given the opportunity to sell off their US-64 holdings to the UTI at Rs 13.50 per unit.

The government should also see to it that there is a guarantee on payments and minimum annual returns. Such a move would help reassure investors who have been let down by both the government and the UTI.

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh Kapasi, via email

Sir — It is time to realize that the finance minister has failed to deliver on the promises that were made in March this year. Bad policy decisions and the lack of governmental supervision have been responsible for this pathetic state of affairs. It is difficult to understand why the government failed to take action in September 1998 when the UTI had first announced that its reserves were turning negative. The government’s wait-and-watch policy has backfired, much to the distress of small investors who have to rely heavily on the UTI. The resignation of the UTI chairman, P.S. Subramanyam, is a careful attempt to shift blame.

Poor management and a succession of bad decisions are responsible for the UTI’s present situation. The government should ensure that investors get back as soon as possible the money that they invested.

Yours faithfully,
Shanta Kumar, Calcutta

Sir — The editorial, “No trust” (July 5), may have hit the nail on the head by pointing out that the government of India should have warned investors about the financial position of the UTI instead of continuing to represent it as a haven for small investors. That trade pundits have been blaming the UTI for corruption and mismanagement is understandable given the fact that it is guilty of both, but it is also true that the opening up of the Indian markets was responsible for the UTI’s present downfall. The UTI has made many bad investments in the past, many of which were forced on it by the government which would from time to time bail it out. However, when things turned ugly in April and May 2001, corporate investors pulled out, which resulted in huge losses.

The failure to implement the recommendations of the Deepak Parekh committee calling for greater transparency and accountability led to a further deterioration in the UTI’s position. The government may have promised to bail out the UTI but it is unlikely to do much at present. So those who had over the last few years invested in it, stand to lose their lives’ savings.

Yours faithfully,
Nina Singh, via email

Sir — Instead of assuring investors that the government will do whatever is necessary to protect their interests, the finance minister, Yashwant Sinha, was slow to respond to the current mess. It is ironic that the UTI chairman had to pay the price for the government’s incompetence. It is high time that the government admitted that financial institutions like the UTI have not been able to make the necessary adjustments in the post-liberalization era. The government has also made matters worse by bailing out the UTI every time it was in trouble. In the absence of the monopoly raj, the UTI has failed to turn things to its advantage. The government should to do away with it in its present form.

Yours faithfully,
Aditya P. Chatterjee, Calcutta

Judging the play

Sir — Sunil Gavaskar is absolutely right in saying “The more Board and players talk, the better” (July 6). During the matchfixing scandal, there were persistent rumours about members of the Board of Control for Cricket in India being involved in the deals. Central Bureau of Investigation raids on the erstwhile president of the International Cricket Council and its interim report on matchfixing lend credence to the allegations. The BCCI has also been accused of adopting a lackadaisical approach to the development of the sports in the country.

If India wants to compete with the highly professional teams like Australia, South Africa and others, and perform well on foreign trips, it has to organize it’s cricket administration in a professional manner. We seem to suffer from an illusion that India can “perform” on foreign soil with just a few months’ “camp” training. Unfortunately, the BCCI does not realize that considerable preparation is required, both on the field and off it, to succeed overseas.

One last question. If a player can be sacked for poor performance, why can’t the cricket mandarins at BCCI be treated in the same way? Maybe we would do well importing foreign cricket administrators, just as we have done with our team instructors.

Yours faithfully,
Shamik Chakraborty, via email

Sir — It is interesting to find Sachin Tendulkar being criticized, probably for the first time, by an Indian cricket expert, and no less than Sunil Gavaskar (“Steve better than Sachin” June 24). One look at the statistics will prove Gavaskar right. Steve Waugh plays a more vital role to an Australia in trouble than Tendulkar. Take the world cup final for example in which he almost single-handedly won the match for his team. Again,while playing against India in the 1999-2000 series, he rescued his team, which had merely scored 50 runs for 4 wickets, with his century. On the other hand, Tendulkar in many cases throws his wicket soon after settling down.

Yours faithfully
Rajarshi Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — The Indian cricket team seems to have made a habit of losing crunch games. Their loss to the West Indies in the Coca Cola Cup final was the fourth instance when the players seemed to give up when it mattered the most. This can be attributed to the lack of temperament for the big occasion. Unless India acquires the fighting spirit, the team will continue to lose.

Yours faithfully,
Ambar Mallick, Calcutta

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