Editorial 1 / Resigned to stay
Editorial 2 / Watch it go down
Cutting Corners / Idle thoughts on betrayal
Fifth Column / Plan it better the next time
Legends of the wronged women
Document / Why there is not a drop to drink
Letters to the editor

Symbolic gestures always convey ambivalent messages. Knowing Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s skills as a political tactician, it is difficult to imagine that his offer to resign came from a position of weakness. On the contrary, it was a deliberate ploy to make the members of parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party fall in line behind him and be unequivocal in his support. Not surprisingly, the ploy has succeeded. There was a chorus from the MPs asking him not to step down. Mr Vajpayee, in his speech, harped on the very things that his detractors say sotto voce: his age, his failing health and his inability to handle the National Democratic Alliance. In the unanimous support that he received, such criticisms, always muted, have now been completely silenced. By saying that he, as prime minister, was morally responsible for the various allegations that were being made against officers in the prime minister’s office, Mr Vajpayee has reasserted for himself the moral high ground. The offer to relinquish power thus has built into it important political dividends. It refurbishes the prime minister’s personal image and goodwill. It strengthens his position within the BJP parliamentary party. It is an ingenuous public relations move which successfully deflects attention from all the crucial issues raised by the scandal involving the Unit Trust of India and the subsequent revelations made by the Shiv Sena MP, Mr Sanjay Nirupam.

The allegations say that some officials from the PMO were speaking to members of the top echelon of the UTI management and thus influencing investment decisions. The response that such conversations had nothing to do with investments but had to do with other official business does not wash. The government has its own nominees on the UTI board; all official business between the UTI and the government should be conducted through them. The PMO should be at more than arm’s length from the UTI which should be left alone to conduct its own business. This is the crux of the matter which is as yet unaddressed by the government and by most of its critics.

If Mr Vajpayee is seriously concerned about the UTI affair and related allegations, he should order a full scale inquiry. There has been no such move. On the contrary, the offer to resign only obfuscates the issues involved. The offer, from a more cynical point of view, can be interpreted as an attempt to cover up. The offer to resign is patently insincere. If Mr Vajpayee is convinced that he is old, ill and incapable of captaining the ship of state, then he should go irrespective of allegations. The mention of his putative failings was merely a rhetorical flourish. The offer to resign was a symbolic gesture without any substance.


For much of the last year, the Bombay sensitive index has exhibited a great deal of volatility. It moves up several points one day, but then loses all the gains on the next trading day. However, the pattern over the last two weeks has been quite different. The sensex has been falling almost continuously. It has lost about ten per cent of its value during the last fortnight. The sensex is not always an accurate indicator of the state of the economy. In the past, the sensex has often dropped precipitously at any kind of political uncertainty However, there are reasons to believe that the current behaviour of the sensex has been influenced by economic factors. Software shares have again been mainly responsible for the decline in share values. NIIT’s first quarter profit figures have been pretty dismal. So, although the market leaders, Wipro and Infosys, have reported reasonably healthy profit figures for the quarter, the figures of NIIT and some of the smaller software companies have again raised doubts about the future of the Indian software industry. The news from abroad — the slowdown in the United States — has also supported this pessimism.

The sensex has also been affected by the dramatic developments in the public sector financial companies. The Unit Trust of India’s unilateral announcement freezing all trade in units dealt a body blow to investor confidence. Fearing severe political criticism, the Centre stepped in, forced the UTI chairman to resign, and also made it clear that the freeze would be at least partially lifted. The UTI has now come up with a partial redemption scheme. Unfortunately, the dramatic arrest of the former chairman and other senior functionaries on charges of fraudulent behaviour has naturally fuelled fears that a new financial scam is about to be exposed. Even if the Central Bureau of Investigation fails to come up with any evidence of financial irregularities undertaken with criminal intent, it is clear that the UTI’s financial edifice is extremely unsafe. A quick turnaround in its fortunes is rather unlikely. Other public sector financial behemoths seem to be in deep waters too. For instance, the Industrial Finance Corporation of India is finding it difficult to meet its interest payment obligations. The IFCI has reported a loss of over Rs 265 crore in the last year, and is saddled with a very high level of non-performing assets. It will be difficult for the government to bring in meaningful reform of the financial sector unless these public sector financial enterprises are restructured. The government does not seem to have any idea of how to go about this process. Everyone knew that the UTI was heading for trouble — its leaders simply refused to effect meaningful steps towards a transparent net asset value-based system, as recommended by the Deepak Parikh committee. The government did nothing to force the UTI to mend its ways. So, the economy moves from one crisis to another. And naturally, the sensex drops lower and lower.


The English writer, Cyril Connolly, is credited with the epigram, “At any given moment I have hated myself; the sum of these moments is my life.” The following formulation apropos of the Unit Trust of India will have little epigrammatic flavour though: at any given moment, the UTI has betrayed the people’s trust; the sum of these moments has been its existence.

This is no hyperbole. Consider the scandal, now revealed, of the UTI’s dealings with Cyberspace Infosys. An offer was made last year by this company, for private placement with the UTI, of 3.45 lakh of its shares at Rs 935 per share. The offer was examined by the UTI’s equity research cell which noted its findings on June 20, 2000.

First, Cyberspace Infosys lacks a proper development strategy; second, it does not have a global marketing set-up; third, it is not, and is unlikely to be in future, “an employer of choice”; fourth, the company is proposing to acquire what is essentially “a body shopping outfit” with low net profit margins; fifth, the units Cyberspace Infosys is targeting to buy are not of a very high calibre; and, finally, the price offered for the shares is, in the circumstances, highly inflated. Taking into account the totality of things, the research cell had no hesitation in recommending that the offer be rejected. On the basis of this recommendation, the offer of private placement was turned down by two executive directors of the UTI on July 14, 2000. The rejection was vetted by the UTI chairman on July 17.

The fun really started that point onward. Some furious activities obviously took place behind the scene. Barely four days had elapsed before the file was revived by the UTI’s general manager. The date was July 21. The offer of private placement of 3.45 lakh Cyberspace Infosys shares at Rs 935 per share was approved at lightning speed on the same day by the same two executive directors as also by the chairman.

On July 27, the UTI issued a cheque for Rs 32.08 crores to Cyberspace Infosys sealing the deal. The cheque was deposited by the company in a bank account at Mumbai on the same day. The money then disappeared fast. How and in what direction the money disappeared is a mystery, the unravelling of which presents a major challenge of detection; sleuths might set to work round the clock to sort it out.

But Cyberspace Infosys is only the tip of an iceberg. Over the past decade, ever since the great economic reforms have been set in motion, the UTI, the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India, the Industrial Development Bank of India, the Industrial Finance Corporation of India, et al, have entered into transactions whereby they have purchased, on the basis of private placement, shares in favoured companies. The aggregate amount involved ran into several thousand crores of rupees. If the proceedings of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha during these years are pored into, opposition members of Parliament, it would be discovered, had raised times without number doubts and queries regarding the bona fides of such private placements. They also suspected insider trading. To no avail. It was the high tide of economic reforms.

The animal spirit of private companies, it was overwhelmingly asserted, had been unleashed, and the obligatory duty of the public financial institutions lay in urging on the demonic force. The process has continued. The colour of the government might have changed from white, green and orange to pure saffron, but the modalities of private placement and insider trading have remained invariant.

In the case of Cyberspace Infosys, without question influences were brought to bear between July 17 and July 21, 2000. One can only speculate on the nature of such influences. Instructions, however elliptical, could have also arrived from top political quarters; who knows, funds too might have changed hands between phantom intermediaries and the top brass of the mutual funds institution, so much so that the warning from the equity research cell immediately lost its relevance. The marvellous point to note is that the Cyberspace Infosys shares the UTI purchased as a private favour in July 2000 at Rs 935 per share plummeted to just one rupee by April 2001 at the Bombay stock exchange; that was some fall, countrymen. The downward slide in share prices must have occurred in the case of scores of similar deals entered into by the UTI, leading to financial losses of staggering proportions. Little wonder that the US-64 and other major scrips of the UTI are doing so poorly?

We can continually roll over our tongue the biblical lament: how shall the earth be salted if the salt itself has lost its flavour? The public had placed their trust on institutions which did not deserve such trust in the first place. All the while, the ministry of finance had watched the proceedings, inertness personified: it heard no evil, did no evil, spoke no evil. Instructions were instructions.

Then again, a holier-than-thou attitude on the part of anybody will be crassly dishonest. The middle class has been taken for a ride. But did not the middle class richly deserve this fate? It has spent endless time in the recent period tutoring itself that speculative profit is the be-all and end-all of good living; it is not necessary to work hard; it is not necessary to worry over the state of society, over the huge load of unemployment it bears, the low levels of literacy and nutrition-standards or shrinking capital formation in the economy.

These things, the middle class has told itself, do not matter, all one has to do is to rush to the stock exchanges, invest in shares and wait for the bonanza to accrue automatically; once the gain was there, the residual task was to splurge money and buy foreign goodies. The general public was conditioned not to raise questions; it was however their social duty to ensure that questions were raised. They failed in their duty; they must therefore suffer.

There is nonetheless a thin ray of hope visible on the horizon. Once beaten, several times shy. The UTI debacle should teach the middle class that for once the foreign advisers were right, there is no free lunch, the nation will not prosper on the wings of soaring equity shares, nor is there any purchase in reposing faith on the chimera of a gushing, unending inflow of direct foreign investment which will save it from the bother of higher domestic savings.

Instead of investing in shares, the middle class should invest in prudence and hard work, and apply pressure so that public capital formation is enlarged and the pace is accelerated, not of stock exchange turnovers, but of productive activities. Pressure too has to be applied in order to impress upon the government the harsh reality that in case it wants to survive, it must banish crooks from within its portals and also the charlatans who sell the notion that development involves no pains. Growth calls for pains, it calls for sacrifice, and the sacrifice has to be shifted away from those who are least able to bear it to those who are better placed.

A further thought occurs. If only the thousand of crores of rupees that the UTI has frittered away to serve the cause of a handful of shady people were made available for the revival of sick and closed industrial units and for new investments, there would have been a considerable abatement of the crisis we are currently facing.

Thoughts, idle thoughts.


Both the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers have said that the Agra talks have not failed. Such a statement is surprising given that the talks did not even end in a joint statement or a declaration, much less a joint press conference. Even though the media were criticized for generating hype before the summit, it is now up to them to say what can and should be done to ensure that the next summit is more successful.

India succumbed to the Pakistani assertion that the two heads of state should go straight into the talks without framing an agenda for them. According to the Indian foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, India had been pleading with Pakistan to let it send a delegation of officials to Pakistan to draft an agenda or at least decide on what would be discussed at the summit. Media persons should have asked Jaswant Singh why India allowed Pakistan to dictate terms to it. Why be led by Pakistan in the first place? This was the first point of surrender.

Pakistan obviously knew what it was doing. It wanted to throw the centrality of the Kashmir issue at Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s face, take him by surprise and thus get his affirmation. While India was requesting Pakistan to receive a delegation of officials, the script to fox India was being prepared in Islamabad. India’s surrender proved to be disastrous as was evident when Musharraf emphasized the centrality of the Kashmir issue in his discussions with the Indian prime minister as well as in his many interactions with the Indian media.

Surprise for breakfast

In fact, Musharraf’s breakfast meeting proved to be the finest performance of the summit with the president emerging as a performer of the highest order. His audience(the media), used only to criticizing Indian officials and politicians, was astounded. The only time he looked visibly uncomfortable was when he was asked by an Indian journalist how he could advocate a plebiscite for Kashmir when he had abolished democracy in his own country.

While drawing up Musharraf’s agenda for the summit it was just as important for India to know how he was going to use the breakfast meeting as it was for Indian authorities to make the necessary security arrangements. India should have tried to find out the details of Musharraf’s breakfast plans. Would the Pakistanis have a briefing after the meeting? Would they televise it? These were important questions that should have been asked when the programme was being drawn up. This is what the official delegation, had it gone to Pakistan, would have tried to find out.

After being surprised by the breakfast news conference, India did not know how to counter it. Apparently, the Indian officials looked into their files and came across the opening statement made by Vajpayee at the summit a day earlier. However, the statement lost its relevance as Musharraf had already blown off what Vajpayee had said in his opening statement. The Pakistanis however, did not make an issue of it the way they had of the statements made by Sushma Swaraj, the minister for information and culture.

Not to yield

India also made the mistake of not clearing its stand regarding the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. Instead, India allowed Pakistan to seize the initiative, with the official response being India could not have said no to Musharraf, especially since he was our guest. Musharraf, on his part, refused to yield to the Indian viewpoint. Instead of respecting India’s wishes, Pakistan continued to play a game of oneupmanship. By giving importance to the Hurriyat in the talks between the two neighbours, Pakistan told India what to do.

Could India have done anything to counter Musharraf’s breakfast move? The Americans have a novel way out of such situations. Whenever the president wants to say something but is not scheduled to do so, he drops in at an aide’s room where the foreign delegate is having a talk and either joins him or takes him to his room. Vajpayee could easily have had an impromtu chat with the media on his way to the summit. Had the tables turned and Pakistan found itself in India’s position, it would have found a way to save face. This does not mean that India should follow in Pakistan’s footsteps in the next summit. It is imperative though that Pakistan knows that we are capable of it.


To the civilized world, Phoolan Devi’s death may have been an act of national outrage, but to the badlands of Chambal it is just another cog in the wheel of anarchy. To describe the bandits of the ravine, the locals use the term, baagi (rebel). Looking at Karsena village in the ravines of Bhind — where five villagers, including two women, were abducted allegedly by a ruthless dacoit, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, two days before Phoolan Devi was killed in New Delhi — it is easy to see why.

While their men were locked up for the next 48 hours, the two women were subjected to an identical physical torture that Phoolan often referred to as “treatment that one does not think of meting out even to an animal”. These backward Garia- caste women were returned after a week. The tell-tale signs of torture — their bloodstained and torn clothes — provoked outrage in the entire village. Four young men, not more than 16 years old, stood up in a village meet and vowed revenge. Next morning, in a small ritual, the women of the village heaped garlands of marigold on the shoulders of the men, while the elders handed them four licenced rifles. A new gang of baagis was born in Karsena village.

In Pahargunge of Morena district, five Dhanuk-caste women, one of them 14 years old, were allegedly raped two years back by a group of Thakur dacoits who were working for two families of Thakur landlords. These dacoits were also called baagis. After the rape, fourteen backward caste families vacated the land one night. These five acres of land had been allotted to them during Vinobha Bhave’s bhoodan movement.

In the innumerable hamlets dotting the landscape of the ravines, social coexistence is a misnomer. The balance between the two sets of villages is determined by the presence of powerful gangs of dacoits. The social fabric justifies and sanctions brutalities to achieve the aims of these gangs. The drinking of the water of the Chambal river is believed to increase the machismo required to take revenge on the rival castes.

“Over two decades ago, caste acrimony, vitiating even banditry in the ravines, produced Phoolan Devi, brutalizing her before she was provoked to take revenge in Behmai”, remarks Ransigh Parmer, a Gandhian who works for the rehabilitation of surrendered dacoits in Bhind and Morena. Parmer believes Phoolan could be reborn any day from about half a dozen women dacoits already active in the Chambal valley unless the cycle of social discrimination which feudalism sustains is broken. The caste polarization of the bandits is total. There are upper-caste bandits, like Raju Kushwaha and Janak Singh Thakur, operating in Bhind and Etawah; there are also backward caste Bhura Gujjar and Bhura Kachchi bandits on the other side of the spectrum who are terror to the Thakurs.

The menace of the big dacoit gangs reached a peak in the early Eighties. After the surrender of Phoolan and her associates, this crop withdrew from the scene. But by the mid-Nineties, the dacoits were back again. Every year between 1996 and 1998, the police felled 20-22 dacoits; but by 1999, a new generation of dacoits emerged.

According to a survey of 30-odd gangs now operating along the border between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, divided by the Chambal river, at least five are run by women. Some of these leaders are identified as Seema Parihar, Meera Solanki and Suman Yadav. “The Phoolan legend inspired them to be baagis. All of them are victims of some form of social exploitation. Four of them were driven to take up arms after being raped or tortured by their tormentors in the family and the community they lived in”, says Lakhsmi Tomar, professor of sociology in a Gwalior college.

Tomar fears that the killing of Phoolan might be a setback for efforts by social activists to rehabilitate the women dacoits. The voices of women against attempted rape in police custody, against the frequent abductions of women to settle caste scores had been first united by Phoolan. She is therefore worshipped among some backward castes. Tomar was surprised to see Sheela Dhobi, who turned bandit in 1997, mouthing the choicest Phoolan slangs against the police when she was being dragged through the Bhind court.

Sheela Dhobi, 22, a housewife of Marwar village in the Jalore district of Uttar Pradesh, turned to banditry when she vowed to take revenge on a Thakur ganglord who had raped her for two days after abducting her. In the ravines, one caste from a particular village encourages members of the same caste to shift to that village for protection. According to Tomar, the villagers publicly pool money for raising a gang for they believe that without a gang of dacoits standing up for the village, the latter does not enjoy any status. Villagers are enamoured of dacoits for they increase the social status of a village. The number of people who throng the courts every time a dacoit is arrested is an indication. Over 10 lakh had gathered during the 1983 surrenders.

That is how Ratangarh had shot into infamy when Hari Baba, the dreaded Brahmin of the village, ruled the valley for over half a decade. Seventy-year-old Mohar Singh, once a terror, lives his retired life at Mehgaon. The most notorious of the living women dacoits, Kusuma Nayar, who ruled over 16 villages on the Uttar Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh border provided these villages with a strange status as the villagers used to introduce themselves as hailing from “Kusuma village”.

The entrenched arms-trafficking through a police-dacoit-middlemen circuit is another feature of this society. A casual visit to Bhind, Morena, Etawah will take one through more gun stores than tea stalls in these district towns. According to the police, there are over 40,000 licenced guns only in Bhind and as the former superintendent of police, Bhind, D.K. Pawar, would admit, this is higher than the total number of guns in all of Maharastra.

In 1997, a director general of police in Madhya Pradesh depended on a middleman for yet another surrender drama of some dacoits. It came to light later that “tiger”, the middleman, was himself an arms supplier.

“There used to be frequent fake encounters and fake claimants for the reward money announced on the dacoits, cleverly arranged with police complicity. A part of the money used to go towards buying arms”, recalls Mohar Singh. Singh’s name used to spell terror. Today, this surrendered dacoit is a municipal head.

Mohar Singh, whom this writer met in 1998, was not exaggerating. In Bhind and Gwalior, the police had to order a probe into the swindling of fake reward money. Even the least powerful dacoits carry Rs 10,000 on their head. Mohar Singh himself used to carry Rs 50,000 on his head in the late Seventies. Malkhan Singh, who surrendered with Phoolan Devi with AK-47 rifles in 1983, had a similar amount announced on his head.

W hen caste hatred and the easy availability of arms were corroding the social edifice of the valley, the politicians were the quickest to take advantage of the situation.Their flirtations with banditry began with the surrenders staged since 1972, when at Jora in the Morena district, more than 400 dacoits, including Madho Singh and Malkhan Singh, had surrendered before Jayaprakash Narayan and P.C. Sethi, the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. This was followed up by Arjun Singh in 1982, when Phoolan Devi and Malkhan Singh surrendered along with their associates. In the midst of all this hype, the key issues of economic and social development were lost sight of. Many of the surrendered dacoits today are a disillusioned lot for they found life outside the saga of banditry equally inhospitable. Many have joined politics.

Mohar Singh, for example, is a Congress campaigner. Phoolan became an icon of the Samajwadi Party campaign in the ravines . The Bahujan Samaj Party deploys about half a dozen gangs of backward caste dacoits for poll campaign before any election. Malkhan Singh moved from Arjun Singh to Mulayam Singh Yadav before realizing that in the “use and discard” game of unscrupulous politics, the politicians use the gangs when they need them and then forget about them.

The governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh made half-hearted efforts to whip up the hope of a green revolution. The Chambal eco-development project was supposed to level some of the uneven landscape of the ravines, normally the hiding ground of the dacoits, and introduce terrace-farming with help from Israel.The greening of the Chambal began with much fanfare. But this did not bring about any drastic change in the agricultural pattern of the area.

Geologists say that the constant erosion of land in the area because of the wind direction was almost irreversible. Digvijay Singh’s dream of industrializing the Chambal did not go beyond Gwalior. The literacy programme failed to reach deep into the region despite brave efforts by Malkhan Singh’s wife in her education campaign. The social empowerment of the backwards, who could not be brought forward because of the failure of land reforms, remained just on paper in spite of the panchayati raj and village-level governance. Despite important transitions in the rest of Madhya Pradesh, the ravines remained caught in backwardness.

In this grim scenerio, Phoolan’s female successors — Seema Parihar, Meera Solanki, Suman Yadav, Kusuma Nayar and probably Sheela Dhobi too — would wait for another surrender drama in the future, after which they would be picked up by the socialist brigade, maybe the Samajwadi Party, to be given the necessary lift through politics.


Every ocean and sea, from the tropics to the polar regions, contains toxic man-made chemicals, produced on land. Even at extraordinarily low doses, some can have long-term damaging impacts on the immune and reproductive systems of wildlife and humans alike.

Thousands of tonnes of synthetic chemicals... are produced annually... The oceans are the final “sink” for many of these chemicals. They are discharged in industrial and domestic waste and occur in agricultural pesticide run-off; they enter the sea via rivers, coastal run-off, and waste outfalls; or are deposited through the air by incineration plants, vehicle emissions and evaporation from everyday products.

Because the currents and circulation patterns of the oceans know no boundaries, once deposited, many toxic chemicals are transported over long distances...

Toxic chemicals adhere to sediments and can then be re-released or leached out when the sea floor is disturbed through dredging or storms, or by burrowing or filter-feeding animals which often remain a source of contamination for years. Because many of the chemicals dissolve readily in fats and oils, they are passed up the food chain...

The oceans provide both food and recreation but their growing toxicity is of increasing concern. Two groups of chemicals are of particular concern: persistent organic pollutants...and a family of over 120 compounds, including some POPs, known as endocrine disruptors, which interfere with hormones, altering sexual development, impairing reproduction, and undermining the immune system.

Many of the world’s marine species are at risk from toxics, especially marine mammals. A large percentage of their body is fatty tissue where endocrine disruptors accumulate, and these are also transferred by mothers suckling their young.

Toxic chemicals have passed up the food chain to the seals, polar bears and narwhals that are eaten by the Arctic’s Inuit people. The breast milk of Inuit women in Canada has been discovered to contain five times the amount of polychlorinated biphenyls found in women in the industrial parts of the country, leading to their children having chronic infections caused by the depression of their immune systems.

Toxics also pose economic threats to fisheries, tourism, and the restaurant trade. Fisheries have been affected, and in some cases closed...

The most harmful chemicals are herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides: including those most commonly used in agriculture (e.g. atrazine) and by private homeowners (e.g. 2,4-D), insecticides (e.g. aldrin, toxaphene, dieldrin, and DDT which is still used to control malaria), and some inert pesticide ingredients (e.g. pipe-ronyl butoxide and chlorine dioxide). Industrial chemicals used in electrical transformers, plastics, and paints: e.g. polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tributyltin (TBT), brominated flame retardants, alkylphenols, and phthalates.

By-products of industrial and technological processes, including waste-incineration, car emissions, metal smelting and refining, and cement kilns: e.g. dioxins. Heavy metals from vehicle emissions and industrial waste: e.g. cadmium, lead, and mercury.

Pollution prevention is central to the sustainable management of marine resources and to the protection of the oceans’ biodiversity... Priority activities are to: adopt the precautionary approach, including eliminating pollution at source or banning production/use of toxic chemicals... This requires preventive measures when an activity presents significant threats to wildlife or humans...

Negotiate a global POPs treaty setting a clear, unequivocal goal of POPs elimination while recognizing the special circumstances of developing countries in need of assistance. It must incorporate strong action to phase out and eliminate POPs production, stockpiles, trade, and use.

< p>Strengthen regional agreements to address toxic chemicals and land-based sources of pollution. Some have already taken important steps to phase out harmful pollutants, for example OSPAR and Helsinki, but others, including the Cartagena Convention for the Protection of the Wider Caribbean Region, require real targets and timetables.

Ensure clean or cleaner production, a preventive approach that reduces risks to the environment and human health, becomes standard practice...

Promote extended producer responsibility for products that release toxic chemicals. Manufacturers must bear responsibility for products’ full life cycles, including impacts in selecting materials, from the production process to product use and disposal.

Improve systems for tracking the use, transfer, and release of toxic chemicals. Pollutant release and transfer registers spur the development of cleaner production and promote greater accountability. Likewise, the prior informed consent global treaty, which controls trade in dangerous pesticides and other substances, can be used to develop better information and training to assess health and environmental risks, and stop unwanted imports.

Promote complementary actions through other global agreements. For example, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) should encourage national action to prevent toxic wastes entering wetland systems and subsequently reaching the marine environment, and the International Whaling Commission should step up its work on toxic threats to cetaceans.



Look who’s talking

Sir — Although President George W. Bush is usually the one with his foot in the mouth, India and its media seem to have taken over from him with their latest fiasco (“Great Kashmir trick ties India up in knots”, July 29). In an effort to prove to South Block that all is well with India-United States relations, the Indian embassy in Washington urged our ever-malleable media into publishing an incorrect report. It falsely quoted Bush as coming out against militancy in Kashmir. Despite being caught on the wrong foot, the Indian media has not bothered to retract the report, neither has the presidential spokesman in the US cleared the air of controversy. Either way, India has come out looking desperate. India is so eager to prove that it enjoys the full support of the US on the Kashmir issue, that the Indian media has had to fabricate reports to support the claim. The government, as also the media, must realize that much of India’s relation with the US depends on the support it enjoys in the house of representatives, which guarantees aid to India. Putting words in Bush’s mouth will hardly serve the purpose.

Yours faithfully,
Ramona Haldar, via email

Anniversary bash

Sir — While Sri Lanka continues to reel after the attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, it seems the entire episode at the airport could have been avoided had the authorities just kept their eyes open. A recent report, “Tigers prowl, Lanka snores” (July 30), described the numerous sightings of the terrorist squad during the journey through the airforce installation. If the Sri Lankan airport had paid heed to these warnings the calamity could have been avoided. The recent attack in fact speaks very poorly of the Lankan vigilance. Despite earlier attacks and threats of similar incidents all over Sri Lanka, the authorities still adopted a lackadaisical attitude towards the security of the airbase.

Also, the step forward that the Tamil issue had taken because of talks on the self-determination of Tamils, might yet again reach a standstill because of the attack. Sri Lanka is plagued by various problems, economic and political, and must realize that to avoid another celebration of the anniversary of anti-Tamil riots a more stringent stand must be taken against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Yours faithfully,
Shoma Chatterjee, via email

Sir — Much like the Lashkar-e-Toiba leaders, LTTE leaders also seem to evade being arrested despite both parties acknowledging their hand in terrorist attacks. It is obvious that Sri Lanka is not being able to handle the terrorist situation and superpowers like the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and others should come forward to help. The Sri Lankan authorities — the police and the army — should also start preparing for other such attacks. A definite solution to the larger problem has to be sought, so that the people of the country can live in peace. The United Nations security council should step in by including terrorism in Sri Lanka as an issue to be discussed in its next meeting and focus on a solution to the situation in that country. Till the threat of terrorism in Sri Lanka is brought to the notice of other countries, we cannot hope for peace to be restored to the island nation.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — According to the LTTE, the subversive activities of the Tigers on the high-security airbase in Colombo and international airport were nothing but a celebration of the 18th anniversary of the anti-Tamil riots. Owing to the rampant terrorist activities in the south Asian association for regional cooperation group of countries, we have been unable to prove ourselves as equals to the first-world countries. It is therefore imperative that Sri Lanka learns to deal with and thwart the Tamil problem and find a solution to it.

Yours faithfully,
Subhashish Majumdar, 24 Parganas

Summit of hopes

Sir — Kashmir could not regain its lost peace in the India-Pakistan summit at Agra. The high-pitched drama of the summit seems to have been staged by the two countries only for their political gain. The National Democratic Alliance in India hoped to regain both its popularity and capability, which it is fast losing, while Pervez Musharraf was in search of a political foothold. Despite spending crores of rupees on the summit, we got nothing in return. Our leaders must realize that civilians in Kashmir will continue to be brutalized by terrorists. Kashmir will, sooner or later, catapult the subcontinent into war unless the governments of both countries follow a soft policy of give and take for the sake of the people. The hardliners in India and Pakistan must change their attitude for the next summit in Pakistan to be a success.

Yours faithfully,
S.A. Rahman Barkati, Calcutta

Sir — The outcome of the Agra summit is not surprising. Though the ruling military establishment in Pakistan may portray the summit as a partial success for its own survival, the world knows very well that the so called freedom struggle in Kashmir is fuelled by Pakistan which sends armed mercenaries to India. Pakistan’s claim that it only provides moral and diplomatic support to the local Kashmiris in the so-called jihad gives India an advantage. India should strongly argue its case in international fora to expose Pakistan’s role in sponsoring terrorist activities. In recent years, India has been able to demonstrate successfully to the international community that India cannot allow the secession of Kashmir. A practical solution to the problem is to convert the line of control into the international border

Yours faithfully,
Sanjay Prasad, via email

Sir — By inviting General Pervez Musharraf for talks, Atal Bihari Vajpayee showed the international political arena that India wants peace and stability in the region as well as friendly relations with its neighbours, especially with Pakistan. General Musharraf’s comments on Kashmir and his statement that Pakistan is indeed supporting militants in India have exposed his stand on the Indo-Pak relationship.

The fact that Vajpayee gave Musharraf a patient hearing till the end without compromising on India’s basic policies is commendable. He gave the general the opportunity to build relations with India, but unfortunately, Musharraf did not take this up. Having accepted the the general’s invitation to visit Islamabad, Vajpayee has kept the door open for further talks. The Congress should also be lauded for its support to Vajpayee during the summit by playing the role of a very responsible opposition.

Although the people of India and Pa kistan want the Kashmir issue to be settled amicably, they also yearn for peace in the region by way of improvement in human relations, trade and commerce. One can only hope that during the next round of talks between the general and Vajpayee at Islamabad, things will work out better.

Yours faithfully,
S. Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — It is sad to note that even after three decades of Pakistan denying their existence, 54 Indian prisoners of war are languishing in Pakistan’s jails.At the Agra summit the general has has assured India that the jail administration will be asked to look into their jurisdiction for Indian PoWs.

India is partly responsible for this state of affairs. During the Bangladesh liberation war, about 90,000 Pakistani PoWs were being kept in Indian prisons. They were returned unconditionally. Pakistan, however, did not respond similarly. The summit has failed and it is time India stopped doling out sops to Pakistan.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

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