Editorial 1 / United mistrust
Editorial 2 / Militant morale
Lessons from the UTI
Fifth Column / Bihar suffers through it all
Our singing, their singing
Document / To realize the dream of total literacy
Letters to the editor

The appointment of a joint parliamentary committee is the last resort of a political escape artist. The miasma of doubt and suspicion over the finance ministry’s handling of the Unit Trust of India and the alleged involvement of the prime minister’s office in the matter have forced the government to accept that the JPC should inquire into the matter. The opposition can claim a victory, but it is only a limited one since the UTI affair will be investigated by an already existing JPC. The JPC probing into the stock market plunge will extend its purview to cover the UTI. The downward movement of the sensitive index and mismanagement of UTI funds may be linked, but the expansion of the scope will entail a loss of focus. It also means that the JPC will drag itself out till everyone has grown tired of it and has forgotten about the UTI scandal. The JPC investigating the stock market scandal linked to Mr Harshad Mehta did not amount to much. A JPC offers to the representatives of the people an opportunity to make their own independent inquiry into a matter of national importance. But in practice it has become an instrument of procrastination that gives to the government of the day an opportunity to cover up through political machinations while keeping intact its honour and dignity.

The first demand of the opposition was the resignation of the finance minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha. It got deflected from this demand because of its own lack of enthusiasm. Mr Sinha’s own defence was weak and left too many questions unanswered. Mr Sinha’s attempt to pass the responsibility on to Mr Manmohan Singh, who was finance minister five years ago, can only be described as juvenile. Even if one accepts for the sake of argument that Mr Singh had mismanaged the UTI affair in his time, that cannot absolve Mr Sinha of his own ineptitude. He could not have been unaware that the UTI’s functioning was not in keeping with the recommendations made by the Deepak Parekh committee. His reference to the UTI investment in Reliance Industries is disingenuous since, despite the unusualness of that investment, it brought profits into the coffers of the UTI. The question hinges on investments that went awry and were clearly unwarranted.

The finance minister reiterated that the UTI is an autonomous institution. This championing of UTI’s autonomy has been weakened by the statement that powerful officials from the PMO spoke to the UTI chief, Mr P.S. Subramanyam, at crucial times. The response that these conversations had nothing to do with investments begs the most important question. Why should anybody from the PMO speak at all to the UTI chief? There are government nominees on the board of the UTI through whom affairs can be monitored and regulated. The failure to follow Mr Deepak Parekh’s guidelines is a clear indicator that such monitoring was absent. The JPC probe might throw light on the PMO’s interests in talking to the chief of the UTI. Mr Sinha’s handling of the UTI debate in Parliament and the alleged involvement of the PMO further the suspicion that the UTI is an iceberg. What has been revealed is perhaps only the tip that is visible. The part of the iceberg that is not visible, Mr Sinha will do well to remember, is always the more dangerous part.


Sunday’s ambush by Bodo militants in Assam’s Bongaigaon district , in which eight jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force and two civilians were killed, exposes the degree of their desperation in the face of certain developments which may curtail both their strike power and influence on local supporters. With the Bhutan government asking the United Liberation Front of Asom and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland to shift their training camps out of the country, both outfits are in a spot. But the NDFB seems far more disadvantaged than the ULFA, which has reportedly agreed to shift four of its nine such camps out of Bhutanese territory. Although the two groups are known to work in tandem, it is the Bodo areas close to the southern parts of Bhutan where the militants’ operations will be far more directly affected by the Bhutanese stand. Hence the NDFB attack on a vehicle in Kokrajhar district less than a week ago in which six Bhutanese nationals were killed. The other factor which has reportedly unnerved the NDFB is the Centre’s dialogue with its main rival, the Bodo Liberation Tigers. Although the BLT has often been accused of being a “stooge”, raised and armed by Indian intelligence agencies to divide the Bodo movement, the NDFB is desperate to prove, by intensifying its strikes, that it — and not the BLT — is the rightful voice of the Bodos.

The Centre and the Assam government may not have any option but to carry on the anti-insurgency offensives in the state. Also, New Delhi must do whatever it can to ensure that the outfits do not threaten Thimpu’s rule over any part of the kingdom and thereby strain relations between the two countries. At the same time, talks over the so-called Bodoland issues have to be more substantial than these have been so far. The Bodo Accord of 1993 already lies in ruins, with the Bodoland Autonomous Council never having either an election or enough funds for any development work. Even the disputes over territorial jurisdiction of the BAC were never quite settled. The government’s policy of wearing down the militants’ morale can at best be a battle strategy; but winning over the Bodos would require genuine and realistic steps for their wellbeing.


For several weeks now, the Unit Trust of India has been hogging the headlines, and not just in the financial dailies. This is not at all surprising because the UTI is a household name in India. For almost three decades and a half, the UTI has been a very special financial institution, with a status far exceeding that due to the country’s first mutual fund. Large sections of the Indian middle class have considered the UTI units almost as safe as investment in government securities or in bank fixed deposits. This public sentiment has enabled the UTI to mop up huge sums since it has consistently paid much higher returns than bank fixed deposits.

So, any sharp turn in its fortunes affects a very high proportion of the reading public. Indeed, the decision of the previous management to temporarily ban all exit options delivered a sharp blow to the investing public. This also promised to blow up into a major political issue. Not surprisingly, the government stepped in quickly, issued summary dismissal orders to its chairman as well as instructions to the new management to frame a scheme allowing small investors some scope for redeeming their holdings.

The board of trustees has recently announced such a scheme. The scheme will not satisfy most investors. But it is better than nothing, and will take some of the heat off the UTI. The failure of the Agra summit, the murder of Phoolan Devi — these are all emotive issues, and it will not be a surprise if the opposition parties find these to be more convenient sticks with which to batter what seems to be an increasingly moribund government. There is a possibility that everyone will soon forget the turmoil in the UTI until the next crisis surfaces all over again.

After all, this is exactly what has happened during the last few years. The investing public was delivered a rude shock when it was discovered three years ago that the UTI’s finances were in a perilous state. A large fraction of its holdings were in almost useless public sector undertakings, and its net asset value was far less than the par value.

This attracted the charge that it was running a giant Ponzi scheme since it was able to pay the high returns only because increasingly large numbers of new investors continued to entrust their precious savings to it. There is no doubt that the UTI would have caved in but for Central government support which gave a huge Rs 3,300 crore bailout package to the fund. This enabled the UTI to tide over that crisis.

The government also appointed a committee to inquire into the functioning of the UTI. This committee soon submitted its recommendations. Most of these — greater transparency, the move to a system in which units would be traded at prices based on net asset values — were obvious enough. Indeed, these were so obvious that one wonders why the UTI ever deviated from these norms. But it did. What is worse is that the UTI does not seem to have taken any firm steps to implement any of these recommendations even after the crisis was made public. It continued to fix purchase and repurchase prices of the units at levels which had no relation to the true value of the units. It declared dividends which were higher than warranted by its earnings. It is also emerging slowly that even its investment policy was at best inept, and at worst criminal.

The finance minister has essentially disowned all responsibility, claiming that the government was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the UTI. This is a tricky issue. On the one hand, successive governments in India have been accused of undue meddling in the affairs of public sector enterprises. On the other hand, the government does bear a responsibility to ensure that giant financial institutions such as the UTI carry out their operations efficiently and with a modicum of fiscal prudence. Any failure to do so carries the risk of turmoil in the entire financial sector. And it turns out that the UTI is not the only the public financial enterprise in trouble. The IFCI is also struggling to keep its head above water, and will probably need some help from other financial institutions in order to meet its redemption obligations.

The experience of the public sector commercial banks makes for equally dismal reading. Despite increasing competition from banks in the private sector, these banks as a whole mop up roughly 80 per cent of the aggregate deposits of commercial banks. Their loans and advances also account for roughly the same fraction of the total loans and advances.

Unfortunately, their seeming efficiency in mopping up deposits is not matched by their profitability figures. It is well known that a sizeable number of the public sector banks are in the red, and the average profitability of these banks is significantly lower than that of the new private banks.

However, many will argue (and with some justification) that the playing field is not level at all — the private and public sector banks do not face the same set of rules. The most crucial difference comes in the form of priority sector lending — the public sector banks are forced to lend roughly 25 per cent of their deposits to these sectors. These loans are typically associated with higher administrative costs. They also carry a higher risk of default. The obligation to lend to the priority sectors also contributes to the significantly higher proportion of non-performing assets in the portfolios of the public sector banks. Add to this the gross overmanning and all the other ills which characterize all public sector enterprises and one has a fairly potent recipe for disaster.

There is no doubt that the government must now take some steps towards restructuring the public financial enterprises. As far as the UTI is concerned, the first step must be to ensure that it moves to net asset value-based trading. The UTI has also reached an unmanageable size. Its huge size means that any attempt by it to sell shares of a particular company immediately causes the share price of the company to fall sharply, while any attempt to buy leads to an increase in price. So, it is forced to buy high and sell low. Perhaps the time has come to split up the UTI into several separate companies.

The government has taken some steps to strengthen the public sector banks. But these will all prove to be useless unless they are allowed to lend on purely commercial criteria. Unfortunately, all governments frequently use these to further their political goals by forcing them to give loans at concessional rates to favoured groups. The time has also come to see whether there is any further need for development finance institutions such as the Industrial Development Bank of India and the IFCI. These institutions no longer have access to cheap sources of finance and cannot hope to compete with the more successful commercial banks since the latter can also give short-term loans.

The author is an economist at the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi


Dogged by several Central Bureau of Investigation cases and encircled by rival political heavyweights baying for their blood, the Laloo Yadav-Rabri Devi duo continues to move on. But Bihar does not. The latest available data indicate that Bihar not only lags behind all other states in terms of most socioeconomic indicators, but the gap between it and others is also increasing. While the state is declining by the day, the former chief minister received another reprieve as the Supreme Court ordered that the bail granted to him in a fodder scam case be extended for three more months on July 16.

There are a number of fodder scam cases against him and charge-sheets are being prepared by the CBI in a few other related cases. Besides, there is also a disproportionate assets case against the Bihar chief minister, Rabri Devi, and her spouse. Legal pundits in Patna believe that though the multi-crore fodder scam cases will continue to harass Laloo for a long time to come, there is a greater chance of conviction of Bihar’s ruling couple in the assets case which has already reached an advanced stage.

Burdened and depleted

Meanwhile, burdened with a huge population, Bihar languishes in poverty and backwardness. It is not surprising that it is the only state in the country where the 1991-2001 decadal growth rate of population is much higher than for the period 1981-91. Similarly, the 2001 census data confirm that Bihar has the lowest level of literacy (47.53 per cent) in the country. Bihar also has the lowest per capita income among all major states and the second highest number of people living below the poverty line.

The only improvement that might have taken place in Bihar recently is in the perquisites and allowances of the ministers, says an opposition leader at Patna. It may be recalled that from July 10, the state cabinet has endorsed a proposal for a hike in the perks of the ministers as well as the speaker and deputy speaker of the state assembly. Even the left allies of the Rabri Devi government have criticized the cabinet decision. Although the amount involved may not be too large, it sends an inaccurate message to the people, particularly when the state is facing a severe financial crisis, argue left leaders at the state capital.

Laloo Yadav and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, however, show scant regard for such criticisms. While the industrial Chhotanagpur-Santhal Parganas plateau has now become a part of Jharkhand, and the state remains precariously dependent on its subsistence agriculture, Laloo Yadav is busy conjuring up a vision of an ensuing information technology revolution in Bihar.

Sudden turnaround

The sudden turnaround by Laloo Yadav from his earlier anti-IT views seems to have a lot to do with providing a public platform for his son-in-law. He however asserts that the media has falsely depicted him as a person hostile to the development of IT. In an attempt to boost the flagging confidence of the people of Bihar in the IT dream, Laloo Yadav claims that “the government will offer help to all those supporting the advancement of IT in a backward state like ours.”

It is difficult to understand how the Laloo-Rabri regime carries on despite the anarchy and backwardness in the state. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which was the strongest opposition force in undivided Bihar, has also become weaker since Bihar was divided, as their main strength lay in the southernmost part of Bihar, which has now become Jharkhand. The absence of a powerful opposition has made the task easier for Laloo. Even the departure of certain RJD members of parliament, including Ranjan Prasad Yadav, who was earlier projected as a prospective chief minister, from the parent party does not seem to have weakened Laloo.

Looking beyond Laloo’s serious failure in placing Bihar on the development map, it has to be conceded that the creation of Jharkhand has greatly hurt Bihar’s economic interests. The A.B. Vajpayee government is yet to give the promised compensation to Bihar for the losses it has suffered because of the division. That apart, Laloo Yadav has inherited many of the legacies of the earlier Congress government. According to an editor in Patna, earlier it was the upper caste rural gentry that siphoned public money to fill private pockets. Now it is the turn of the other backward classes to loot the state’s scarce resources. And the people suffer through it all.


To many of us the sight of Nicole Kidman swooning to the song, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, interspersed with the popular Hindi track, “Chhamma Chhamma”, in the new film, Moulin Rouge, might look like a hideous caricature of the degenerative kitsch that Hindi cinema is symptomatic of. But it is also an indicator of the fact that Hindi music and formulaic cinema a la Bollywood has caught up with the popular imagination (in however perverse a way) of Western audiences — and most significantly of those addicted to Hollywood masala. Above all, this instance of musical or cinematic inspiration is a lesson for Indians, especially Indian music-makers.

No one can deny the cliché that music knows no language, that it is either good music or bad music; or even that the quality of music is a matter of individual tastes and preferences — one either likes the music or dislikes it. In India, the addiction to Western popular music is so strong that generations of Indians have been hooked on playing and listening to it as a natural part of growing up, without feeling that it is conspicuously not native to their culture. I use “Western popular music” to include any kind of music that makes it to the most popular charts without distinguishing pop from rock or blues or even from jazz.

Meanwhile, of course, the world has opened up and cross-cultural influences pervade all parts of the globe. Admittedly, at some level there has been a collapse of time and space. And sure enough, however tenuously, the world today is a “global village”. But when a Hollywood filmmaker who comes from Australia makes the most ambitious commercial venture of the year, backed by a corporation as large as 20th Century Fox, and chooses to rely on the Bollywood formula for it, we should perhaps feel a mixture of pride and discomfort.

The film is based almost totally on songs, dances, a love triangle, the money/class factor, jealousy and ends with high drama. By his own admission, the director, Baz Luhrmann, is inspired by India. No wonder then Nicole Kidman is dressed as a Hindu courtesan in a stage show shot as part of the film.

But why pride and discomfort at the same time? We should feel proud because there is finally a genuine international platform for our indigenous version of full-blooded entertainment. The discomfort arises elsewhere. For Western audiences, the film will ultimately be treated at the level at which it is made — high commercial drama packaged for the box office and made deliberately fantastic, exotic (bindi, et al) and with an “Indian” twist to the tale.

On the other hand, what passes for musical inspiration in the shape of “Chhamma Chhamma”, remains just that and does not border on either “lifting” or “aping”. Luhrmann refrains from making the song an outrageous, third-rate copy of the Bollywood original in which Urmila Matondkar dances with Amrish Puri and sundry others. Luhrmann has also been careful enough to keep the original playback singer of the song, Alka Yagnik, on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, and not got any old Western artiste to perform a heavily accented rendition. That would surely have turned out to be a rather disagreeable parody of the original.

The point of these details is that when Hollywood releases a version of a Hindi song, it does so with a certain degree of sophistication. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Indian performers doing their versions of Western music. In recent times, we have had any number of Indians singing in English. This was inevitable, given the preeminence accorded to the English language, which has come to be synonymous with privilege in our society, and the multilingual nature of the education system, especially in the urban centres.

Besides, with so many Indians travelling abroad to study and to work, it is inevitable that the Indian diaspora will come up with Indo-Anglian singing, like Indo-Anglian writing. The embarrassing thing as far as music is concerned is that most Indians, when they perform Western songs, look and sound ridiculous. This is where Luhrmann and Hollywood triumph over the Indian artistes singing in English.

When Indian performers sing in English — either an original composition or a cover of a classic pop/rock hit — they feel obliged to assume that the song should “sound” Western. In fact, in case of cover versions, the rendition must be like an exact copy of the original, note for note. In their desperation at conjuring up this mythicized authenticity, they strike up an accent, which does not sound like any the English spoken in any of the Anglophone countries of the world. In this venture, and almost involuntarily, they end up making the songs sound outlandish.

I had the occasion to visit the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur a couple of years ago for their annual event, Springfest. If I was not horrified at the Western music event, it was because I had already known (having attended several other gigs in Calcutta, at college fests and pubs) that Indian musicians regularly do this sort of thing. And what is most irritating is that Indians, for generations remain oblivious of the fact that it is possible to perform inventively various versions of the same song.

And this is not all. There is a growing fashion in our cities of holding concerts where artistes solely perform covers of classic Western pop songs. Sometimes we have a “Rolling Stones nite”, sometimes a “Doors nite”. It is almost as if the Indian audience is caught in a time warp as far as Western popular music is concerned. What used to be fashionable thirty years ago still remains fashionable. What used to be radical when our parents were youngsters, is understood to be radical even now — and this, without a real comprehension of the times and contexts in which these songs were written and composed.

I do not even expect these musicians to have any idea about the lives of the songwriters and composers of these songs. One watches with some unease as groups of Asian performers with their complicated guitar licks and heavy synthesizers burst on to our television screens on some international music channel and claim that they are heavy metal performers and that their favourite band is Guns ‘n Roses.

Even more unsettling is the experience of talking to these performers backstage after a show. It is sad to see that there is nothing remotely cosmopolitan about them. They speak the same language as the rest of us, live the same everyday lives, driven by the same desires and anxieties. One also finds out that their behaviour, accent and demeanour are sometimes packaged for their live performances, photo-shoots and studio appearances.

This is what Baz Luhrmann has been able to steer clear of. In Moulin Rouge, he has shown us that when Hollywood copies, it does so with a certain élan. But when we attempt it, it turns out to be a vulgar demonstration of how seriously we take ourselves, and how the Indian collective memory assumes that the very act of copying the English-speaking world — no matter what sort of travesty we make of it — is an end in itself. It is not so much for art’s sake as it is for the sake of worse than mediocre replication.


The adoption of the 1968 [education] policy, which was based on the recommendations of the education commission (1964-66), marked a significant step in the history of education in post-independence India. Since then there has been a considerable expansion in the educational facilities all over the country at all levels. While several prominent educational institutions were established in different parts of the country, particular attention was paid to the creation of basic educational facilities in the rural areas. Efforts were also initiated to adopt a common structure of education throughout the country and to lay down a common scheme of studies for boys and girls.

While these achievements were impressive by themselves, the general formulations incorporated in the 1968 policy neither got translated into a detailed strategy of implementation nor were accompanied by the assignment of specific responsibilities and financial and organizational support. Problems of access, quantity, quality, relevance and financial outlay...accumulated over the years.

It was in response to this that the new national policy on education (NPE) was adopted in May, 1986 after a comprehensive appraisal of the existing educational scenario. The policy laid great emphasis on developing a national system of education, the elimination of disparities in the educational system and provision of more facilities through qualitative interventions. It proposed to decentralize educational administration with a view to make it more responsive to the needs of the people.

One of the significant aspects of the NPE, 1986 is the greater concern for the empowerment of women, and access to education to disadvantaged sections of the society, educationally backward minorities and the disabled. The policy gave added impetus to the launching of a largescale programme of non-formal education, boldly acknowledging that the school system cannot reach all children. In order to nurture rural talent, the establishment of Navodaya Vidyalayas (model schools) with residential facilities, was also part of the NPE, 1986. It also called for greater rigour and discipline in academic pursuits, autonomy and accountability, experimentation and innovation, nurture of excellence and modernization of processes at different levels of education.

The NPE, 1986 in consonance with the earlier policy, also proposed that the implementation of its various parameters be reviewed every five years...Accordingly, a review of the 1986 development of education in India policy was conducted during 1990-92. The review broadly endorsed the NPE, 1986.

Based on an in-depth review of the whole gamut of educational situation and formulated on the basis of national consensus, the NPE enunciated a comprehensive framework to guide the development of education in its entirety. ...These modifications were introduced in May, 1992. Universalization of elementary education, equalization of educational opportunities, women’s education and development, vocationalization of secondary education, consolidation of higher education, modernization of technical education, improvement of quality, content and process of education at all levels continue to be the themes of national endeavour in the field of education. One of the significant changes is that the focus in elementary education has now shifted from enrolment per se, to retention and achievement...

...The experience of the national literacy mission has proved that the mission mode is the most effective strategy for achieving total literacy. The total literacy campaigns will be the means for achieving total adult literacy. The revised policy formulations have also extended the scope of vocational education by including generic vocational courses.

Consequent on revision of the policy, the government also prepared a revised programme of action (POA) in August, 1992. The POA, 1992 emphasizes that the first and the foremost task is to reform the management of education and calls for developing an ethos of cost-effectiveness and accountability at all levels of educational planning and administration.

It advocates that efficiency should be rated not by the ability to consume budget and demand more but by performance and delivery. The POA envisages preparation of action plans at the state and district levels in tune with the situational imperative.

The POA...has also proposed alternative channels of schooling like voluntary schools and non-formal education centres for those who cannot attend conventional full-time schools. It has suggested improvement of facilities in schools through revamped Operation Blackboard to be extended to upper primary stage. The POA notes that the total literacy campaign has emerged as a viable model. It has transformed the perception of universal adult literacy from one of the hopeless dreams to an achievable prospect.

The POA perceives the problem of universalization of elementary education as, in essence, the problem of the girl child and stresses the need to increase participation of girls at all stages of education, particularly in streams like science, vocational, technical and commerce education where girls are grossly under-rated. The POA stresses the need for reorienting the education system to promote women’s equality and education.

It advocates need for institutional mechanism to ensure that gender sensitivity is reflected in the implementation of all national programmes. It also calls for curbing the unplanned proliferation of sub-standard institutions.



A world apart

Sir — The report, “Miracle birth dwarfs nature’s laws” (Aug 5), afforded an insight into the world of dwarfs and the discrimination they face. That Shanti, barely two feet in height, gave birth to a healthy baby is both a medical marvel as well as an example of how sure determination can help overcome obstacles. Her courage to go through the pregnancy despite not having the latest medical technology at her disposal is admirable. Her decision to sign a statement absolving the doctors of all responsibility for any mishap during the delivery is a sign of pure grit that must not go unnoticed. Her husband’s statement that instead of being discriminated against he should be given a job and thereby allowed to prove his capabilities sums up the predicament of dwarfs not only in India but all over the world. They are a marginalized people, weighed down by preconceived notions and sadly not allowed to become part of mainstream society. Hopefully, this report marks the beginning of a change in the way they are perceived and allowed to live.

Yours faithfully,
Rahul Puri, Delhi

Original sins

Sir — It is true that Jawaharlal Nehru was the sole cause of our continuing imbroglio with Pakistan (“Tradition of bad house keeping”, Aug 2). But, Subhash Chakravarti ignores the fact that Nehru was equally responsible for the tilt towards Russia. Krishna Menon compounded it and Indira Gandhi confirmed it. To understand why India shares certain relations with various countries, one need only take a look at its political history. Foreign policies were set down solely with a motivated consideration for vote-bank politics.

The Congress needed the support of the Communist Party of India to survive in government and therefore a mainly anti-West, rather than an anti-Russian, stance was taken. After Partition, Nehru, fearing erosion in the Hindu support-base, assiduously cultivated a coterie of Muslim block votes. The Communists, under E.M.S. Namboodiripad, revived the Muslim League in Kerala with the promise of a separate Muslim-majority Mallapuram district in exchange for the chief-ministership of Kerala for him. Mallapuram is now a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism.

Our country’s foreign policy in the Muslim-dominated west Asia was guided by the sole intention of sustaining this domestic Muslim vote-bank, and although successive prime ministers followed this policy, Rajiv Gandhi outshone them all. In the event, Israel became taboo, Salman Rushdie was banned and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan was endorsed.

Yours faithfully,
R.H. Putran, Calcutta

Sir — As Sunanda K. Dutta-Ray has written in “Leave parleying to envoys” (July 21), it should be the Kashmiris and not Indians or Pakistanis whose viewpoint should be taken into account regarding the issue of Kashmir. “Nationalist” Indians can cry themselves hoarse at the suggestion but how many Punjabis, Bengalis, Manipuris and so on would appreciate any outsider interfering in the affairs of their home state? While Pakistan’s invasion of Kashmir and the subsequent occupation of some parts of it are barbarous, India itself does not stand on a high moral ground.

Although, the maharaja, Hari Singh, signed the instrument of accession and agreed to merge with India, how could India ignore the voice of the masses? Did India bother to take the Kashmiris into confidence before negotiating with the ruler? It is high time that the dual policy on Kashmir is terminated and the fate of the state determined by the people of Kashmir. If India is so confident that the Kashmiris wish to be a part of India, it should initiate a plebiscite in Kashmir under the aegis of the United Nations. India could take the cue from Canada,which allowed the French-speaking Quebec region to opt for secession.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — The article, “ Leave parleying to envoys”, displayed deep concern with the question of Kashmir. It is clear that all statements by India and Pakistan on the geography, history and politics of Kashmir hide the wish of both countries to colonize Kashmir. This is a self-serving attitude in both the countries. They have taken little notice that military power cannot subjugate the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination. One hopes that the two countries realize that it is only the Kashmiris who could decide their own fate.

Yours faithfully,
Surajit Basak, Calcutta

Warm and disagreeable

Sir — I agree with Gwynne Dyer that the Kyoto agreement of 1997 is as good as dead without the involvement of the United States and that the Bonn meeting in July was simply a waste of time (“Cold winds and global warming”, July 18). The US is, after all, the main contributor to the greenhouse effect. The US and its allied nations are opposing the implementation of the Kyoto agreement on the grounds that it will slow down their industrial growth and increase unemployment.

It seems odd that the US — the champion of human rights — is willing to add to human suffering and aid the destruction of the earth. The US can maintain its industrial growth if it cuts down on fossil fuel consumption by increasing the generation of power through nuclear and hydro-electric processes.

Yours faithfully,
Manoranjan Das, Jamshedpur

Sir — According to the report, “All night marathon saves climate deal” (July 24), the refusal of the US to participate in the Kyoto agreement is going to prove to be a stumbling block to the conservation of our environment. The US emits 25 per cent of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming. The idea, held by George W. Bush, that lowering fossil fuel consumption will decelerate industrial growth is myopic and can seriously hamper the Kyoto accord. Without the biggest offender agreeing to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions, all efforts will be put to waste. It is therefore essential that the US rectify its stance before the Morocco meeting in November for the Kyoto agreement to be a success.

Yours faithfully,
Reba Bose, Jamshedpur

Sir — The demonstrations against the group of eight countries in Genoa last week were two-pronged — they were against global warming as well as against globalization. George W. Bush’s unilateral abandonment of the Kyoto treaty, which has created divisions among the G-8 leaders, was the main reason behind the demonstrations. The US is the greatest generator of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The fast-track globalization that is taking place is perceived by demonstrators as a deliberate attempt to continue and consolidate the dominance of the capitalist countries, with the US taking the lead, to safeguard the interests of multinational and oil and energy corporations in globalized markets. International bodies like the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are effective tools of manipulation in the hands of these countries. Therefore, if we hope to nip the problem of global warming in the bud, the first issue that needs to be tackled is globalization.

Yours faithfully,
Phani Bhusan Saha, Balurghat

Parting shot

Sir — Much like certain buildings are no-smoking zones, auto-rickshaws and other modes of public transport should also be non-smoking zones. I frequently travel by auto-rickshaw and find it a nuisance to have co-passengers smoking near me. I think transport authorities should deal with this problem immediately to make it more comfortable for non-smokers to travel in auto- rickshaws.

Yours faithfully,
Keshab Kumar Chowdhury, Calcutta

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