Editorial 1 / The fall guy
Editorial 2 / Trade buzz
Mobile inequalities
Fifth Column / Death of distance and of closeness
Traditions of bad housekeeping
Document / How best to manage other people’s affairs
Letters to the editor

With the opposition baying for a statement from the prime minister, the finance minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, may not have had his say and has promised a point-by-point response to the charges, when given the chance. But the spiel is familiar enough, both from what he was allowed to say in Parliament and from his chats with reporters. US-64 problems arose because of excessively high dividends and increased dependence on equities in the portfolio. No one from the finance ministry made calls to the former chairman of the Unit Trust of India. The last point is hardly important and is easily disposed of. The first two points are factually correct, although this does not absolve the finance ministry of culpability on account of oversight, even if there may not have been any mala fide intent. When the stick was necessary, the finance ministry kept quiet under the pretext that UTI was autonomous. For instance, in March 2000, the finance ministry requested UTI to move to net asset value based pricing, when NAV was higher. UTI did not listen and the finance ministry realized a request was only a request. After the Y.H. Malegam committee submitted its report in February 2001, making the points that Mr Sinha now makes, the finance ministry made another similar request. In May, UTI demurred about divulging the NAV for US-64 and the finance ministry made further requests. Finally, the finance ministry made another request with a deadline of July 1 to move to NAV-based pricing.

UTI ignored the deadline and stopped sales and repurchases from July 2. It is impossible to believe that Mr Sinha was not informed in advance. Mr Sinha knew this, as he certainly knew the basic problem he now articulates. He also knows of similar problems confronted by 18 other monthly income plans run by UTI and of the near-bankruptcy faced by the Industrial Finance Corporation of India, the Industrial Development Bank of India and the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India. There is the added problem of a file on UTI’s investments disappearing from North Block. To presume Mr Sinha was ignorant of all this is to impart him with a stupidity he does not possess. So what does one make of his non-action? Was it simply hope that the problem would disappear, along the lines of his perennial hope that the economy will revive in September or October? Was it hope that he would not be around when the deluge started? On this last point, there is evidently some likelihood of Mr Sinha’s not being around for next year’s budget. The flak on the prime minister’s office has to be deflected and the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies are not in a position to accept the resignation of Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This leaves Mr Sinha as the obvious scapegoat, since a scapegoat must be found.


Throwing a tantrum is always a good way to call attention. The 24-hour “all-Bengal trade strike” on Wednesday, organized by the Confederation of West Bengal Trade Associations, was just such a tantrum. It was frankly meant to “call attention” to the fact that the members of the association are not pleased with what is perceived as the pro-landlord bias in the West Bengal Premises Tenancy (Amendment) Act. According to the confederation, the extreme step was taken because a number of delegations and memoranda to the government have not elicited any response. The cause the confederation has taken up is that of small traders who will be disadvantaged if the act is implemented without modifying certain provisions. That alone does not account for the sulks. One of the confederation’s demands is that the tenant should regain his right to go to the civil courts and the high court in case of a dispute with his landlord. It is not clear how the strike helped the cause, besides the fact that the striking traders lost a whole day’s sales. A brother organization, the Federation of West Bengal Trade Associations, has unkindly called the confederation’s bluff. The state government has already decided to re-examine the provisions that traders are finding objectionable. The strike was at best an attempt to call attention to the size of the confederation’s membership in the city.

There is, however, a deeper illogic in the whole exercise. The old tenancy laws were flagrantly in favour of tenants. This is the first time that the state government is trying seriously to correct the bias at the risk of losing popularity. The proposed reforms are not adequate in many areas, but the important thing is that some have been made and the government means to implement them, even if with modifications. At most, the state can offer to protect the underprivileged, by creating a rent threshold. Anyone paying rent above that amount would come under the new law. In any case, traders cannot be classed among the underprivileged by the wildest flight of imagination. There is no reason why the provisions for eviction or inheritance should not be applied to them. It is stranger still that a group of them should sulk and throw tantrums when the state decides to look into the question of tenancy rights. In all fairness, there need not be a separate tenancy law at all; hiring premises should fall under the contract laws. It is the traders, small and big, who are the most voluble in touting market forces whenever they raise the price of their commodities. Market forces should be allowed to operate in the sphere of business premises too. The expectation that they will always be able to have their cake and eat it too has as much to do with the state government’s compliance as with the traders’ complacency. The strike was a sign that the complacency has been dented.


A full decade of economic reforms has led to many evaluations of the economy, and its prospects for the immediate future. The reforms have brought about significant changes in certain spheres of government intervention like industrial and trade policies, fiscal and monetary policies. Growth and inflation rates have both been good but not spectacular when compared to the decade of the Eighties. The balance of payments, especially the stock of foreign exchange reserves, has shown a stability that many people had not anticipated ten years ago. The Indian economy did not suffer from the contagious crisis that hit a significant part of Asia a few years ago.

Despite such positive strengths, there have been signs of lethargy in pursuing further changes in policies and institutions. Labour market regulatory processes and the problems of the public sector have had cursory and tentative attention from policy-makers. There are serious concerns raised about the lack of fiscal discipline. Physical as well as social infrastructure remains woefully inadequate in terms of quality and quantity. There has been talk of the need of a “second generation” of economic reforms specifically addressing these problems.

There has also been debate on whether the decade of economic reforms actually failed to address the issue of poverty, with some claiming that poverty may have actually increased in the past decade. There has certainly not been any dramatic fall in poverty levels. Moreover, there has possibly been a slow informalization of the labour market with rising insecurities of employment. These anxieties have been compounded by fears of bankruptcy of local producers, with imports now being extended to a wide spectrum of consumer goods.

The signs of globalization, especially in the consumption goods and services sector, are quite visible. From clothing to cosmetics, from exotic foods to electronics, the variety on offer at affordable prices is something new to the urban middle and high income groups. The lure of globalization is patently perceptible, but restricted to two distinct though inter-related groups. First, to those who can afford (in terms of education and talent) to go abroad with jobs and incomes hitherto not dreamt about. Second, to those who can afford (in terms of income and wealth) a qualitative change in consumption patterns. Both these groups together constitute a small fraction of the total population.

Market-friendly reforms are supposed to create opportunities in a meritocratic system, rewarding hard work, innovations and talent. Markets, however, are known to breed inequalities too; in outcomes such as income and asset distributions. This fact is well known to economists. Inequality may actually promote growth to the extent that high income groups also have a higher marginal propensity to save.

Rising inequality may also reflect the fact that rapid growth is shifting workers from low to high productivity activities. Many years ago, economists like Nicholas Kaldor and Simon Kuznets had pointed out the positive, dynamic aspects of high income inequalities. However, more recent experience, especially from Latin America (which had the worst income inequalities compared to any other developing region) indicates that high and rising inequalities can effectively block productive opportunities reaching the poor.

It may be argued that one should not take a one-time view of high inequalities. It constitutes a symptom of dynamic trends which could be quite positive for sustained growth. This is indeed true. More than income or wealth inequalities at a point of time, it is the dynamic opportunities (both real and perceived) for mobility that are crucial. Perceptions of mobility may be of different varieties. They could pertain to life-time opportunities within social mobility or location mobility.

Finally, there could be important issues of intergenerational mobility. Positive perceptions about such dynamic opportunities create broad-based constituencies of support for market-friendly reforms. Obviously, such support is of some importance in a democratic polity.

India has deep-rooted inequalities and a dearth of mobility that reflect linguistic, cultural and historical handicaps. Over and above this, the rising insecurities in labour markets and a rising hiatus in material consumption patterns could provide the ingredients of a backlash for further change. Despite growth and change, the decade of the Nineties has witnessed a wide spectrum of particularistic interests based on a variety of identities — such as linguistic, religious, provincial-local — command a voice over national economic policies. It is in this respect that completing the unfinished agenda of reforms is bound to become an increasingly difficult task.

The last decade has also thrown up an understanding that government and markets are not substitutes but complements of one another, despite many severe critiques of government strategies and many convincing case studies of market-failures. The trick of course, is to get the right blend.

The government’s role in the economy has been of four distinct kinds. First, as in any modern government, the economy’s fisc and money supply have to be managed. Second, the modern government is expected to provide poor public goods (e.g. defence) where exclusion is prohibitively expensive. This intervention is essentially a response to market allures. The third type, increasingly showing remarkable positive effects on sustained growth, is the public provision of private goods such as education, health and social insurance. Finally, government may act as planner and producer of private goods in a fully controlled public sector.

Significant economic critiques of state intervention have pertained to the last role, that is, the state as the producer of private goods in a public sector. As far as the provision of private goods is concerned, such as certain types of infrastructure, education and health, no one has seriously questioned this role per se. Rather, criticism has focused on the need to create a user-stockholder identity which best comes from well-designed cost-sharing schemes. This cost-sharing is also important from fiscal considerations of deficit management. A moment’s reflection will indicate that this positive role of the state constitutes a “market-enhancing” role that is critical, not from efficiency considerations at a point of time, but rather from the dynamic consideration to create social and economic mobility.

India has not been able to redefine the role of the state over the past decade despite witnessing dismantling of much of the apparatus of direct control. The image of a new role is apparently not clear to policy-makers, politicians or industrialists. There is a propensity to fall back on government whenever the going gets tough. The current slowing down of the economy, where private investments are not forthcoming despite relatively low rates of interest is diagnosed as suffering from inadequate demand. And the expectation is that the government creates demand by undertaking large new projects.

Ten years of inconclusive reforms have led to a worsening of mobility within the economy with relative inequalities growing. The government has failed to gear up to a modern market-enhancing role to create dynamic opportunities. The public sector is in limbo, its fate fraught with uncertainties and ambiguities. The private sector has been restructured partially (in the face of incomplete reforms) without displaying great strengths in terms of staying power.

The winds of globalization have been refreshing only for a few. The large informal sector and agriculture remain largely outside the reach of reforms. The labour market appears stifling and harsh. Particularistic interests grow day by day. A crisis looms large. Only this time, a bail out will be much more costly with serious bankruptcies and unemployment. It will, in the least, have adverse consequences on a fragile democracy.

The author teaches economics at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta


Consider the incidents: an upper-middle class boy, on his way to get his higher secondary results, calls a helpline from his cellphone saying he is scared. Nobody hears from him anymore. A teenage girl, jilted in love, sends a farewell note from her computer to an internet chatroom and then takes an overdose of sleeping pills. In the next room, her parents don’t have an inkling of it.

We have grown used to hearing about such incidents. We feel saddened, talk about our education system or the importance of the family and forget them. Rarely does any detail force us to look into the puzzling paradoxes. In the two above cases, a cellular phone and a computer became vital tools in the tragic tales of the two young people who send their last elegiac messages to professional agencies dealing with such situations. Is the access to communication accompanied by a breakdown of all vital modes of communication? Is it taking us away from our loved ones to the abyss of silence?

Recently, a cellphone company introduced a family card scheme to attract urban teenagers. Coincidentally, the next day, a newspaper reported how voluntary counselling agencies were playing a key role in the lonely lives of the young. The news items give a hint of the dilemma our youngsters face — communication and the absence of it.

Bitter nothings

It is almost a Beckettian dilemma where there is nothing to communicate, no power to communicate, no desire to communicate, but only the obligation to communicate. The market ensures that this obligation stays and devises new ways to make it irresistible. One cellular firm ropes in homegrown celebrities, another compares the price of one call with that of a metro ticket or jhal muri. While the filmstar adds a touch of sexuality to mobile telephony, the comparison with the price of jhal muri stresses the banality of it all. Together, they point to the complete commodification of communication.

There is a phenomenal growth in the city’s cellphone market, with the school and college-going youth constituting a vital part of it. With only 1.2 per cent of its population connected to airspace, the growth prospect of mobile telephony in Calcutta is immense.

Such are the dynamics of market forces, they put a price tag on everything. The ideal and the tangible, the sublime and the banal, the kitsch and the classic play a perpetual game of musical chairs. Thus, mother’s love gets transformed into a herbal soap and father’s care into a mutual bond. Given such weird representations, no wonder that communication should be equated with a snack or thirst quencher that one can buy for less than two rupees. Where does this all lead to?

Elusive reality

Recently, the internet and mobile telephony have revolutionized communication. A British writer, Frances Cairncorn, has argued in Death of Distance how this new age of information technology has annihilated distance and forged new relations between space and time. How this is going to affect human relations, especially our interactive abilities, remains a fuzzy area that she hasn’t covered.

The problem can be approached from two angles. On one side, there is the loosening of familial bonds. Today’s fast-paced life is producing a generation of latchkey children who are largely deprived of the rich oral and aural ambience that a home is supposed to generate. Added to this is the increasing presence of television, video games and other forms of solitary entertainment. On the other side, there is a globalized communication network which means a certain standardization and homogenization of its modes, leading to stereotyping.

Many languages and dialects are facing extinction. Even within languages, localized expressions and slang that nourish them are fading, making way for fashionable cant imported from a dominant language. The result: a breakdown of true and meaningful intercourse.

In the incidents referred to, the girl chose to bare her heart to an internet chatroom rather than her parents watching TV in the next room. She found it an easier option, both linguistically and psychologically. For her parents too, watching and empathizing with imagined lives on TV came more easily. The death of distance has brought in its wake the death of a few other things, including a sense of reality.


The collapse of the Indo-Pakistan summit at Agra could be turned into a serious exercise in introspection to get an idea of the extent to which the Indian policy-making system is sound. The event affords an opportunity to consider why doubts regarding the capacity of the political establishment to deal with sensitive issues should arise in the first place. A note of caution against the danger of succumbing to the temptation of debating these complex issues at the populist level should be appropriate before getting into sundry speculation.

Given the popular disappointment, it will be grossly unfair to try and single out any particular individual or wing of the establishment in order to pass the buck. It would rather be more sound to concede that the system dealing with national security, and indeed dignity, has been a long-running casualty. The fallout of Agra should be seen as a culmination of distortions accumulating largely from the Seventies. A serious endeavour to squarely address what can be called a syndrome of compromise or neglect by choice, with its attendant risks, has been avoided so far.

A combination of personal fancies prompted by expediency and a deliberate strategy to exploit foreign policy priorities (with a sharp focus on garnering mileage in domestic politics) is at the heart of the continuing malaise in the institutions dealing with external relations. The problem was born in the halcyon days of India attaining nationhood. The basis of the Kashmir issue, degenerating into a festering wound, can perhaps be traced to the dawn of the independence.

When the Indian army was gaining substantial ground under the competent leadership of General Thimayya to repulse the invading Pakistan-aided forces, from the entire Kashmir valley, a decision to take the act of aggression to the security council was rather casually announced by the government. The circumstances, or compulsions, that weighed on the government to opt for this strange option are yet to be revealed. But it is known — although this knowledge is not widely circulated — that the government was warned about the risk of taking the issue to a highly select club waiting for India to fall into its gameplan.

The warning came from the most astute and seasoned Indian diplomat, Girija Shankar Bajpai. He argued from New York in a cable, reportedly running into a good 10 pages, that the security council was a chamber for political machination and hardly a place for expecting fair play. The counsel was treated as an affront and he was magisterially instructed to hand over charge and return home. After cooling his heels for almost two months in Delhi, he was inducted as the founder secretary-general of the foreign office, largely at the intervention of Sardar Patel.

There is no resolution since then of what has become the biggest liability of the nation. Yet, it should be acknowledged that the running of the foreign office in a personalized manner was not as prevalent then. The exception was the comic diabolical wit of Krishna Menon. His marathon haranguing on Kashmir in the security council made him a hero at home, with some help from movie stars.

The foreign office’s first big experience of an almost rudderless existence came during the border war with China in 1962. The full frontal humiliations in the face of the Chinese thrust were compounded by the disarray, in physical and diplomatic terms, within the foreign office led by Jawaharlal Nehru. On examination, with hindsight, there is no escape from a distinct feeling that all claims, rather pretensions, of being the first among the peers in matters concerning foreign policy were lopsided. Compromise, in the shape of promotion and posting largely on the strength of subjective predilections, prevailed on a limited scale till the Sixties.

But this blossomed into a fair signal after the advent of Indira Gandhi, first as a compromised candidate and later as a supreme manipulator of power. There was only one principle determining her priorities — trust only those with an unquestioning loyalty and dispense with doubtful commodities. The first major casualty of this doctrine was Dinesh Singh. Indira Gandhi’s choice of officials in sensitive posts was largely made wearing political blinkers.

She preferred selecting confidants with expressed anti-American and pro-Soviet sympathies. There were enough smart fortune-seekers who exploited the situation at the cost of scrupulous professionals and this started telling on the quality of the service. For almost a decade there could have been no strategy on formulating a policy to mend fences with China. Advisers close to Indira Gandhi, with presumably some encouragement from her, preferred to avoid opening up with China to suit the Soviet sensitivity and drive home the fear of external threat perception.

This stratagem also prevailed in dealing with the United States. These goings on prevented any objective professional review of policies which could have served the national interest better. There are two glaring examples of arbitrary decisions which continue to hurt the national interest. The assessment of senior professionals in the foreign office was ignored when the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was more or less endorsed by India.

Besides taking on the stigma of being a Soviet-follower, India was denied any role in dealing with the regime in Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. And today Afghanistan has become the epicentre of terrorism directed against India. In another instance, the potential of exploiting the opportunities of enjoying close relations with Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries was missed by recognizing the Hang Samrin regime in Cambodia even when the Vietnamese forces were there.

It is known that a former foreign secretary, close to the powers that be, had maintained that an Indian recognition of the regime would be deeply appreciated by the then Soviet president, Leonid Brezhnev. The ASEAN door to India was closed until recently. Lately there have been some tall claims regarding the great success of Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988. It is true that a visit by an Indian prime minister after more than 30 years was a well- meaning gesture and the Chinese were impressed with it. It marked a good beginning after a long spell of hostility.

The process initiated by the visit has since gained some momentum. But a candid recall of history is eminently in order to set the record straight and to highlight the danger of doing diplomacy on the sly. The visit, now being glorified, could have been an unmitigated disaster by any reckoning. Rajiv Gandhi planned to visit, and indeed he did visit, senior Chinese leaders without taking with him P.V. Narasimha Rao, who was then the foreign minister, K.P.S. Menon, the foreign secretary and a former ambassador to China, and the serving ambassador, C.V. Ranganathan. The plan was obviously worked behind the backs of all those who were directly relevant to the talks. Menon was, understandably, so exercised that on hearing the plan he threatened to resign and return home. Rao prevailed on his foreign secretary to prevent a diplomatic disaster and national loss of dignity.

A similar spectacle was repeated at Agra when the professionals some of whom, at the higher level, were strangers to Indo-Pakistan issues and were treated only as backroom aides. Then there was a specious excuse made that the members of the security committee of the cabinet would be the players.

It is a well-established procedure that the political masters in such an exercise act only as the custodians of an appeal and do not get directly involved in negotiations. It is rather strange that the external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, preferred direct negotiations with his Pakistani counterpart, Abdul Sattar, on the basis of a Pakistani prepared draft document, which was reportedly described by an official as a joke.

Sattar could get away with his brazen claim that since the Shimla Agreement was uneven and a fruit of the Indian victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, it should not figure in the document. Sattar obviously came with the approval of his masters to confront India with an agenda which smacked of a position of strength gained in the aftermath of sustained cross-border terrorist campaign against India. Pakistan seemed to have proceeded on the assumption that it could turn the course of history afresh and hustle India into serious negotiations. The non-starter of an event at Agra should shift the focus on improving the level of housekeeping and separate personal priorities from professional wisdom.


The importance of creating a more effective conflict prevention paradigm is underscored by the alarming global trends forecast in the recent National Intelligence Council’s report, Global Trends 2015. The following trends are not hard predictions, but a forecast of what is likely to happen if international, national, and non-state actors fail to take action.

Demographic changes will include an overall population increase from 6.1 billion in 2000 to 7.2 billion in 2015... The global economy is expected to grow, maintaining long-term dynamism... However, the gap between the haves and the have-nots will increase, even in rapidly growing countries...

In the area of health, developed countries will experience increased spending and major medical advances, which will fuel a biotechnological revolution. Non-infectious diseases will pose greater challenges than infectious diseases... In sharp contrast, developing countries will witness an increase in infectious diseases...

As for our natural resources and environment, food production levels will be sufficient to meet needs, but donors will be wary about providing aid to regions where they may become involved in military conflict. Severe water shortages will spark conflict, especially in the Middle East. Environmental problems... are likely to increase.

In the realm of science and technology, there will be rapid advances in information technology and biotechnology... There is the potential for certain practices (genomic profiling and genetic modification...) to spark cultural, religious and political upheaval.

The international system will continue to see the nation state as the predominant unit of political, economic, and security affairs. Nation states will face challenges resulting from globalization and increasingly vocal and organized publics. Globalization...will challenge state authority and produce demands for increased international cooperation on transnational issues. State repression of communal minorities is likely to occur in countries with slow economic growth, concentrated executive power, and weak rule of law...

Non-state actors will become increasingly active, forcing the nation state to deal with multinational corporations, private voluntary organizations, and other nongovernmental organizations. Trans-national criminal organizations...will challenge state authority...will generate income from narcotics trafficking, alien smuggling, trafficking women and children, and the smuggling of toxic materials, hazardous waste, illicit arms, and military technology.

The United States will remain the strongest military power due to its information technology-driven “battlefield awareness” and its precision-guided weaponry. Challenges will include: Asymmetric threats where state and nonstate opponents avoid a head-on challenge but exploit perceived weaknesses and employ “sidewise” technology to minimize US military strength.

The threat posed by strategic weapons of mass destruction emanating from capable states... as well as non-state actors via unconventional delivery. Regional military threats from states with large military forces and a mix of Cold War and post-Cold War weapons.

Interstate conflict is less likely to occur, with the exception of regional rivalries in the Middle East and Asia... Internal conflicts will continue to spawn internal displacements (refugee flows, humanitarian emergencies)...

Weak states spawning internal conflicts will threaten the stability of the...international system. The United Nations and other regional organizations will increasingly be called upon to manage internal conflicts as major states ... restrict their involvement...

...Some major conclusions emerge: national policies will continue to matter. Governments will have to invest more in technology and public education, and incorporate nonstate actors in order to succeed in 2015.

Both primitive and precision-guided weapons must be monitored. The US and other developed countries will be challenged to do this...

International arrangements will be needed to solve complex transnational problems ... Should these fail, the US and other developed countries must broker solutions with non-state actors.

Greater communication and collaboration must be established between national security objectives and the domestic policy agenda, especially in inter-agency cooperation.



Blind alley

Sir — Is there a lesson in the story of the twins from Kanui Banka village (“Brothers battle odds to chase IT dream”, July 30)? If there is one, it is certainly not going to lift too many hearts. Arup and Swarup Chattopadhyay may well be the success stories of the new education system of West Bengal. But they also show that for all the tall claims of the state government of reaching primary and secondary education to the remotest villages of the state, the new education system has added to the number of students eligible for higher education but unable to avail themselves of it. How many students from rural West Bengal make it to the Madhyamik and higher secondary merit lists cannot be an indicator of a prosperous education scene. In fact, the greater this number, the greater the possibility that the education policy is nurturing higher education dreams only to have them cruelly nipped in the bud. Hopefully, with a little help from altruistic individuals, Arup and Swarup will be able to realize theirs.

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Pal, Calcutta

Watered down

Sir — The recent events in the Narmada valley and around the Sardar Sarovar project have drawn very little attention in the press. Once again, hundreds of adivasis and villagers from the Narmada valley, and activists including Medha Patkar are facing the swirling monsoon waters of the Narmada. They have undertaken a satyagraha and resolved to face the waters until the government addresses their concerns. This has largely fallen on deaf ears. The recently completed survey by the retired judge, S.M. Dawood, reaffirmed what the Narmada Bachao Andolan activists have been arguing for years: there has been no adequate land rehabilitation even upto the 90 metre level. This clearly violates the Narmada water disputes tribunal’s ruling and even the Supreme Court decision, which proscribes construction until rehabilitation requirements are satisfied. These are also the recommendations of the Narmada Control Authority R&R subgroup, an apex body set up by the government. The Madhya Pradesh government has admitted the lack of available land for rehabilitation and is handing out cash compensation, flagrantly violating all norms.

The actions of the state government are akin to those of a dictatorial police state than a democracy. The recent motion to ban the NBA, ironically by a civil rights organization from Ahmedabad, is tragicomic. Its only crime has been the unrelenting crusade for transparency and justice, carried out in the true non-violent spirit of satyagraha. It is sad that such charges are being levelled against an organization which has faced police harassment, unlawful arrests, ransacking of offices and other human rights abuses for years. The NBA has made its accounts available to the government all along, not accepted foreign donations, not even money from prestigious awards like Goldman environmental prize and the Right Livelihood Award. Recently, Ali Sauer, a Canadian sympathizer of the NBA, was deported shortly after his arrival in Delhi. It is the government which is reluctant to share any studies including the recent one by Dawood.

Ministers and pro-dam lobbyists should visit the satyagraha sites and see for themselves the existing conditions and the state of the rehabilitation efforts instead of dispatching the police to pretend to rescue the people while ignoring their demands.

Yours faithfully,
Manoj Saranathan, Washington DC

Sir — I am a research student in the department of computer science and engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. Recently, I got a chance to visit the dam-affected villages of the Narmada valley.

I have always wondered why the people of the area refuse to accept the verdict of the apex court. I spent two days going around the villages of Domkhedi, Jalsindhi and Nimgaon (in the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh-Gujarat border) and talking to people. The experience was worth the time and effort.

The people are dispossessed of their lands, and governments have no place to accommodate the displaced. The report of the committee headed by S.M. Dawood exposes the discrepancies in the current “rehabilitation” package. It is the same in the other states. The Madhya Pradesh government has said it does not have land to spare for people from other states while it is struggling to rehabilitate its own people. The Dawood commission recommends that a monthly sum of Rs 2,000 be given to the relocated individuals for the next 50 years. But money does not translate into their former life.

Being uprooted from one’s own habitat, I believe, is a brutal violation of human rights. Worse, these villages are denied any kind of development just because they are “project- affected”. They have stood up in the worst of times and their struggle has survived over the years. A fine example of their determination is the jeevanshalas, a practical concept of alternative education.

A quarter of the tree under which the Dawood commission met the villagers in Domkhedi is under the water. It is strange that the gross violation of the Supreme Court’s orders makes smaller headlines than the people’s non-violent fight for their rights.

Yours faithfully,
Sudeep K.S., Mumbai

Rights of suspension

Sir — The recent suspension of the Indian cricket captain, Sourav Ganguly, from the fourth one day international against Sri Lanka in the ongoing Coca-Cola Trophy tournament is another instance of the rough deal Indian players often get. There was the incident between Rahul Dravid and Allan Donald in South Africa a few years back. No action was taken against Donald even after he forgot all norms of gamesmanship. How long will such partial treatment continue?

The International Cricket Council must evolve a common code for such suspensions. Ganguly did not show as much dissent as Donald had, but the match-referee had a different opinion on this matter. Mukul Kesavan, in his article, “It’s the umpire, stupid” (July 15), had pointed out a similar injustice dealt to Ridley Jacobs, the West Indian wicketkeeper. It is important that fairness be retained in the game of cricket.

Yours faithfully,
S. Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — The match referee has done the right thing by suspending Sourav Ganguly for his behaviour in the match against New Zealand. Cricket is reputed to be a gentleman’s game, and in the true spirit of it, the umpire’s or match-referee’s decision should not be questioned.

But have we kept this game an honourable one? With the huge flow of funds into the game, each match in the international circuit has become highly competitive. The players are under tremendous psychological pressure and a wrong decision can tip the scale in a career. What if a cricketer’s career is on the line owing to an umpire’s wrong decision? What action is taken against the umpire? In the age of technology, shouldn’t umpires be asked to refer every doubtful case for verification? Does the match referee always follow the rules himself?

Yours faithfully,
Amar Lahiri Majumdar, Calcutta

Sir — The editorial, “Umpire is always right” (July 29), was rather unkind to Sourav Ganguly. When much stronger exhibitions of dissent by Michael Slater, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and others have gone unpunished, a mere body movement by Ganguly has met with a suspension. The culture of cricket has undergone drastic change ever since the one-day version was introduced. It is true that the sanctity of the umpire’s position must be maintained, but the sense of justice must not disappear.

Yours faithfully,
A. Basu, Kalyani

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