Editorial / Enemy of promise
Talking about the weather
This above all / Gangster’s mole becomes a lady
People / Kiran Karnik
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL / ENEMY OF PROMISE 
 
 
 
 
Reputation can sometimes become a liability. The Union home minister, Mr L.K. Advani, is perhaps realizing this much to his dismay. His accession to the chair of home minister, and the de facto number two position in the Union cabinet, was preceded by a larger than life image. That image was not without substance but was a trifle over blown. It was based on Mr Advani’s ratha yatra, which gave to the Bharatiya Janata Party and to the ideology of Hindutva a sudden dose of adrenaline. This propelled Mr Advani to the position of a national leader. He was seen to be articulate and coherent, and it was widely believed — and this belief may have been nurtured by his camp followers — that he, rather than Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had the ears of the puppeteers sitting in Nagpur. When the BJP came to power, it seemed natural that Mr Advani should become the home minister. His reputation led to the facile assumption that he would make a strong and effective home minister. His supporters put it out that he was the best home minister India had had since Vallabbhai Patel. The sobriquet “Sardar” was often heard to describe Mr Advani in his early days as home minister. Mr Advani, consciously or unconsciously, had to live up to this reputation. It was a burden he could have done without. This reputation is now in tatters and the sobriquet has acquired more than a hint of ridicule.

To an extent, Mr Advani is himself to be blamed for the tarnishing of his reputation. There is very little in his track record as home minister that can be applauded. Take as a representative sample the last few major decisions emanating from Mr Advani’s ministry, and their aftermath. In the Northeast, an area that is particularly sensitive, the home ministry initiated an extension of the ceasefire pact it had with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) to areas outside Nagaland. The consequence of this was an uproar in Manipur. The home ministry had to face the ignominy of doing a complete reversal and returning to square one. Any observer of the Northeast could have told Mr Advani that an extension of the ceasefire to territories outside Nagaland would have serious repercussions. But the home minister decided to walk blind folded. A similar ineptness is evident in Mr Advani’s handling of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. The consequences there are much more tragic. Nobody disputes that militancy in Jammu and Kashmir flourishes under Pakistani patronage but this cannot absolve the home minister of his failure to protect the lives and properties of ordinary citizens, and of pilgrims on their way to Amarnath.

It cannot be the case that Mr Advani is directly or personally responsible for these failures but he has to admit his moral responsibility. This is the least that can be expected from a man of Mr Advani’s rectitude. Not even a gesture has come from Mr Advani. This is the context for the battering his image is currently receiving. He may not be the author of his own image, just as he cannot be held responsible for the tall claims his advocates make for him. But he can surely do something to silence his critics.

   

 
 
TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER 
 
 
BY CHANDRASHEKHAR DASGUPTA
 
 
How important is global warming ? Last month, it figured prominently in President George W. Bush’s talks with European leaders as well as in the group-of-eight ministerial meeting in Genoa. The Bonn meeting on climate change was the subject of headlines in the international press.

The prominence accorded to global warming in the agenda of world leaders might come as a surprise to those who still think of climate change as an esoteric subject for meteorologists or environmentalists. In fact, global warming has profound implications for our economy and society.

What is “global warming”? There is mounting evidence that a build-up of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere is causing the planet to become warmer. Carbon dioxide emissions have increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution because of increasing dependence on hydrocarbon fuels — coal, petroleum and natural gas. Energy generation and consumption lie at the heart of the problem.

Higher temperatures will trigger off a number of other changes. For instance, rainfall patterns are likely to change. Storms and cyclones might become more frequent and severe. The sea-level is expected to rise because of thermal expansion of oceans and melting of the polar ice-caps. Low-lying islands and coastal areas would be submerged on account of rising sea-levels. In the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, for example, millions of people are likely to be displaced during this century.

These changes would, in turn, profoundly affect agriculture, forestry and fishery. They would have an impact on human health as well as bio-diversity. The changes would not occur overnight but would be spread over several decades.

It is thus obvious that climate change could result in vast economic damage, if unchecked. On the other hand, arresting global warming will also involve costs, though these may be only a fraction of the damage that would otherwise result. Reducing carbon emissions involves cutting down use of hydrocarbon fuels. It thus has major implications for industry, transport and agriculture.

The potential impact of global warming is so extensive that there is an obvious case for international co-operation to arrest the phenomenon and, where necessary, to adapt to its consequences. But while all countries have a common interest in mitigating global warming, there are major differences over the way in which costs should be distributed. Which countries should be required to reduce their emissions and by what extent?

In the first place, there is a North-South divide on the question. Developing countries maintain that the North should meet the costs of mitigating and adapting to climate change since the industrialized countries are responsible for causing the problem through excessive per capita carbon emissions. Moreover, the North possesses the financial and technological resources required to tackle the problem. The North, on the other hand, argues that from a “practical” view point, countries like China or India, whose emissions are rising rapidly, should accept some obligation to control the rate of growth of these emissions.

Climate change is not simply a North-South question. There are major differences within the North as well as within the South. Within the North, there are divergences between the European Union, which favours relatively ambitious reduction targets, and countries like Japan or Canada which want more modest reductions. There are differences also within the South. In particular, the Gulf countries which derive most of their national income from oil revenues, are apprehensive about reducing global petroleum consumption. Most other developing countries, as potential victims of climate change, would like to see a strong agreement. Because of these diverse positions, the climate change negotiations have proved to be a difficult and complex process.

The first milestone in the negotiations was the Framework Convention on Climate Change, concluded in 1992. The convention requires developed countries to stabilize and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to provide financial resources to developing countries to cover the marginal costs of measures they might implement. It imposes no commitment on developing countries to limit their emissions. It specifically recognised that the extent of measures taken by the developing countries will depend upon the extent of the financial resources provided to them. These provisions were accepted by the North after very difficult negotiations.

The next major step was to fix specific emission ceilings for developed countries. This was achieved by the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which requires each developed country to reduce or limit its emissions to a specified level by the years 2008-2012. The intention was to reduce the overall emissions of developed countries by at least 5 per cent below the 1990 level. Though a modest target, it was nevertheless important as a first step.

The Kyoto protocol was, however, incomplete in the sense that certain details had to be worked out before it could come into operation. These included questions concerning the impact of forestry as well as the question of a penalty for non-compliance. All too often in international agreements, the devil lurks in the details. There were wide differences on these questions. A conference held in The Hague last November failed to resolve the differences.

At this juncture, the Kyoto protocol received a blow which could well have proved fatal. The newly-appointed Bush administration withdrew from the agreement, denouncing it as “fatally flawed”. Washington claimed that implementing the Kyoto protocol would harm the American economy. It also complained that developing countries like China and India were not required to reduce their emissions.

The United States accounts for no less than 36 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. It is evident that the impact of the protocol will be greatly reduced by the American decision to abandon it.

The US rejection raised a broader question. Would other industrialized countries agree to abide by the Kyoto pact if the Americans pulled out? Is it feasible to implement a multilateral agreement with profound economic implications, without the US? It was widely expected that the Kyoto protocol would collapse if the failure of The Hague meeting were to be repeated at Bonn.

Thus the survival of the Kyoto protocol was at stake in Bonn. Well aware of the consequences of failure, the EU chose to concede most of the demands of an opposing coalition of industrialized countries which included Japan, Canada, Australia and, on many issues, Russia. Generous ceilings on credits for forestry were given to Russia, Japan and Canada. A decision on penalties was postponed in deference to Japan.These concessions will reduce the impact of the protocol in terms of carbon emissions but the price had to be paid to salvage the protocol.

Apart from its contributions to protecting the environment, the Bonn agreement also has an important political message. It shows that it is possible to have a multilateral agreement with wide-ranging economic implications even if the US stays out. It reflects the fact that the global power structure is polycentric at the economic level, even though, at the military-strategic level, there is a single super-power at the apex. After agreement was reached in Bonn, the European Commission commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, observed with justifiable pride: “I think something has changed today in the balance of power between the US and the EU.”

The author is former ambassador to the EU, Brussels, and is a distinguished fellow in the Tata Energy Research Institute. He was the chief negotiator for the Framework Convention on Climate Change

   

 
 
THIS ABOVE ALL / GANGSTER’S MOLE BECOMES A LADY 
 
 
BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
 
 
Sometime in 1982, I was rung up by the commissioner of police of Lucknow and asked if I would like to send a reporter to cover the arrest of Phoolan Devi. She was reported to be sick and likely to come to her parents living in village Gur-ka-Purwa to tie a rakhi on the hand of her only brother. Instead of sending a reporter, I decided to go myself: it was too good a story to miss. I was then editor of The Hindustan Times. I asked my correspondent in Lucknow, Lakhan Naqvi, to accompany me as I didn’t understand the dialect spoken by the villagers.

From Lucknow we drove over dusty, snake-infested scrub country. We arrived at the dak bungalow on top of a hill. I spent much of the morning going through the police files on Phoolan’s past. The first and only time she had been arrested was January 6, 1979 in connection with a robbery in her cousin’s home. Her father had some dispute over land with him. Some stolen goods were found in their home and she spent a fortnight in police custody.

Her statement was prefaced by a note by the police officer who described her as “about 20 years old; wheatish complexion, oval face; short but sturdily built”. Phoolan’s statement read: “I am the second daughter of a family of six consisting of five girls. The youngest is a boy, Shiv Narain Singh. We belong to the Mallah caste... At the age of 12, I was given away in marriage to a forty five year old widower, Putti Lal”. Then she talks of her second “marriage” to Kailash in Kanpur. Later in the afternoon I got the rest of her story from her mother, Muli.

“Phoolan Devi was too young to consummate her marriage and came back to us after a few days. A year or two later, we sent her back to her husband. This time she stayed with him for a few months but was unhappy. She came away without her husband’s permission, determined not to go back to him”. It would appear that she had been deflowered. Her mother describes her as being “filled up”— a rustic expression for a girl whose bosom and behind indicate that she has had sex. It would appear that she had developed an appetite for sex which her ageing husband could not fulfil. Her parents were distraught: a girl leaving her husband was a disgrace.

Phoolan picked up a liason with the son of a village headman. The headman’s son invited his friends to partake of the feast. Phoolan Devi had no choice but to give in. The village gossip mill ground out stories of Phoolan Devi being available to anyone who wanted to lay her. Her mother admitted: “The family’s pojeesun (position) was compromised; our noses were cut. We decided to send her away to her sister, Ramkali, who lived in village Teonga across the river”.

It did not take long for Phoolan Devi to find another lover in Teonga. This was a distant cousin, Kailash, married and with four children. He gives a vivid account of how he was seduced by Phoolan: “One day I was washing my clothes on the banks of the Yamuna. This girl brought her sister’s buffaloes to wallow in the shallows of the river. We got talking. She asked me to lend her my cake of soap so that she could bathe herself. I gave her what remained of the soap. She stripped before my eyes. While she splashed water on herself and soaped her bosom and buttocks she kept talking to me. I got very excited watching her. After she was dressed, I followed her into the lentil fields. We made love many times. But it was never enough. She started playing difficult to get. ‘If you want me , you must marry me. Then I’ll give you all you want’, she said. I told her I had a wife and children and could only keep her as my mistress. She would not let me touch her unless I agreed to marry her. I became desperate. I took her with me to Kanpur. A lawyer took fifty rupees from me, wrote something on a piece of paper and told us that we were man and wife. When we returned to Teonga, my parents refused to take us in. The next day I told Phoolan to go back to her parents as I had decided to return to my wife and children. She swore she would kill me. I had not seen her since then. But I am afraid one of these days she will get me.”

Phoolan’s initiation into dacoity came soon after Vikram Mallah, deputy leader of a gang led by Babu Gujjar met her. Both took fancy to her. She agreed to join them if they spared her younger brother who she loved dearly. Babu Gujjar was an uncouth and rough man. He liked having sex in the open with his gang watching them. Phoolan complained to Vikram, who killed Babu while he was asleep. Phoolan became Vikram’s mistress. She had a rubber stamp made for herself which she used as a letterhead: “Dasyu (dacoit) sundri (beauty), Dasyu Samrat Vikram ki premika (beloved of Vikram, emperor of dacoits)”.

The inspector general of police showed me a sheaf of letters written by Phoolan. “Honourable and respector Inspector General sahib, I learn from several Hindi journals that you have been making speeches saying that you will have us, dacoits, shot like pye-dogs. I hereby give you notice that if you do not stop bakwas (nonsense) of this kind, I will have your revered mother abducted and so thoroughly raped by my men that she will need medical attention. So take heed.”

The honeymoon with Vikram Mallah did not last long. Thakurs Lal Ram Singh and Shri Ram killed Vikram on August 13, 1980. They took Phoolan with them to Behmai, kept her locked in a room, raped her repeatedly and marched her naked through the street. On the excuse of relieving herself one night, Phoolan disappeared into the dark.

Phoolan joined another gang led by a Muslim, Baba Mustaqeem. She was not interested in loot; she thirsted for the blood of the Thakurs of Behmai who had murdered her lover, and humiliated her. She persuaded Mustaqeem to help her quench her thirst. That’s what brought her to Behmai on February 14, 1981. They surrounded the village. Phoolan stood on the parapet of a well in the centre of the village and, through a megaphone, summoned the villagers to her presence. She addressed them in the foulest language and asked them about the whereabouts of the two Thakurs. They swore they had not seen them in Behmai. She marched two dozen men to an open space and lined them against a wall. She gave them a final chance to disclose where the two men were. They denied any knowledge. She ordered them to turn around and face the wall and opened fire with her, leaving 20 dead and two injured. When the news of the massacre broke, Phoolan’s name made the headlines in the world media. A gangster’s mole became “symbol of women’s pent-up hatred against women’s maltreatment by men”.

Phoolan spent 13 years in jail. Phoolan had her story, The Bandit Queen, written by Mala Sen. Thus the poor Mallahin of Gur-ka-Purwa became rich and famous. Mulayam Singh, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, withdrew all cases pending against her, had her elected to the Lok Sabha twice and, by honouring her, garnered votes of the lower caste. She has become proof of the saying, “those who live by the gun, die by the gun”. Even though dead, Phoolan will never be forgotten.

Cut short tall claims

As I know the sky overhead and the earth below/ You make tall promises, I know/ No, no I am not referring to UTI,/ I sang for a prince many hundred years ago/ He was delighted to hear my voice, and so/ said to his deevan that I be given/ Two hundred mohars, and I leapt for joy/ And looked grinningly, to be told by deevanji/ “Come tomorrow”. When he said smilingly/ “Hey, it was only the high spirit in the prince,/ And if you don’t believe me, ask him personally”/ So next morning, with folded hands, I said/ “Didn’t you promise two hundred mohars,/ your majesty?”/ “Yes, of course”, he said , “Then pray, tell deevanji”/ “But why? Did you give me anything ?” ”No Sir”/ “You only made me happy for a while/ And for full two days“ dismissing me , he smiled/ “I too have made you happy. We are quits,”/ Aren’t we? And since then , I know/ Your promises as I know my poverty.

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, New Delhi)

   

 
 
PEOPLE / KIRAN KARNIK 
 
 
 
 

Force Market

Mobile phone rings do more than let you know someone’s trying to reach you. They also, say the pop-psycho-analysts, give out a subtle little clue to the owner’s personality. Kiran Karnik — the new National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) chief — hasn’t read the pop-psycho stuff, but his ringer’s set to a single, sharp, unobtrusive, nanosecond of a beep.

Pop psychology aside, it doesn’t take too long to figure out that Karnik isn’t quite a “saare jahan se accha” or “dil to paagal hai” kind of person. While fixing up an appointment for this interview he asked, “How are we going to recognise each other?” Despite the assurance that his is a ‘known’ face, he asks a little doubtfully: “Are you sure?”

It is the kind of effacement that made Karnik a popular figure while he headed things at Discovery for the last five-and-a-half years. So why did he quit the channel? And more importantly, was there a fond farewell?

Karnik, speaking characteristically very fast and soft, clarifies that the decision to move was a personal one minus any muck-raking: “Though of course when I initially announced my plans to leave everyone thought I had another job lined up. But after being at the same corporate organisation for almost six years, the enjoyment continued but the excitement had left... I needed to move on. But I waited till the next person was found to ensure a good transition.”

The “excitement” has always been an important ingredient for Karnik. Which is what brought him to Discovery in the first place (after a long stop at the Indian Space Research Organisation as director of the development and education unit there). “When I moved to Discovery it was something like working in a start-up. There was nothing there other than a whole lot of pessimism, because it didn’t seem like India was ready for a channel like Discovery,” he recalls. It was exciting to be in unfamiliar territory, felt Karnik.

It is the same excitement of the unknown that made the Nasscom offer sound rather attractive. “I am not a diehard IT person, nor do I know what’s happening inside a computer. But I do know that the whole IT industry has reached a certain stage here and is ready for change.”

Though not a diehard IT person, Karnik does have “an ancient background in science”. He studied physics in a Mumbai college. But his first job, a year-and-a-half-long stint — managing space programmes — at an atomic energy centre, had less to do with physics and more to do with his IIM Ahmedabad (batch of 1968) days.

Today, however, despite the success of Discovery, Karnik is reluctant to call himself a marketing man. “If I am forced to stereotype myself into a broad category, then I’d rather say I’m a general professional manager, because if I am to say I am essentially a marketing person then I lay claim to a certain speciality, which I don’t necessarily have,” he says.

He might shy away from the classification but the headhunters that zeroed-in on Karnik as the late Dewang Mehta’s replacement did so largely because of his strengths as a marketing person.

According to Harish Mehta, chairman of the Nasscom selection committee, the committee based its selection of Nasscom president on “four key criteria.” These were building Nasscom as an industry institution; marketing the India Inc brand effectively; involving Nasscom in a developmental role for the IT industry in key areas such as infrastructure and finally consensus building for the industry.

Karnik, who satisfied the committee on all four fronts, has substantial plans for Nasscom. “The excitement of this job lies in the fact that Dewang very successfully brought Nasscom to a certain stage. Now we have to take it on from there.”

Given the tech slowdown and the dotcom bust much of the fire seems to have gone from Nasscom’s belly. Being the apex body of the country’s software, e-commerce and IT services industry, the “organisation now needs a little more shape. We have to move beyond the stage of merely trading in human brains and do something more.”

During his years at Discovery, Karnik worked towards building the channel’s brand — and creating a niche for “thinking TV without the naach-gaana”. He admits that “While the channel still didn’t break even, it had come close to break even point” just before he quit. He plans to launch a similar brand-building kind of exercise at Nasscom. Which according to Nasscom insiders would be quite a task given that the body actually has a rather disorganised internal structure.

The “something more” Karnik feels Nasscom should do also includes the possibility of creating branded software. “Maybe something along the lines of Windows, but made in India and sold to the world.” There is, it would seem, no taking the marketing out of a marketing man, even a reluctant marketing man at that.

Karnik also talks about scouting for new markets. “All this while we have been using only the US market, that’s what we are comfortable with. But given the slowdown it is time to look elsewhere.” Though he admits that looking for new markets also means a big change in mindset “and the need to overcome barriers like language”.

For Karnik, who has over the years lived for extended periods in different cities — Ahmedabad, Mumbai and now Delhi, with a shorter stint in the US — believes in constant adaptation to one’s surroundings.

So if Nasscom hadn’t happened, what would Karnik have done after Discovery (given that there was no other job lined up)? Like every other professional who has had a fairly long innings, he was ideally looking for ‘time off.’ “My plan was to take a few months off, relax, read some of the backlog of books that has piled up, write a bit... you know all those things of a semi-retired life,” he says.

As part of his larger plan for a semi-retired life, Karnik had decided to devote a larger amount of time to his writing, something he is quite fond of. In the past he has written, among other publications, for marketing journal A&M on the future of Indian media; India Today’s 25th anniversary issue (“a futuristic look at the media in the year 2047 — I rather enjoyed doing that piece which became quite a bit of sci-fi.”); and a totally fun series on small insignificant sidelines of the city for a daily newspaper.

“But to be able to write well you have to read a lot, as that is the best way to keep in touch with your subjects,” he feels. Which is why Karnik takes on “rather foolishly” the odd book review for journals like Biblio and Down to Earth on subjects that interest him. “Foolishly” because after taking on the assignment he invariably finds himself bogged down with a hundred other commitments.

The ability to pick up a hundred other commitments, which showed no inclination to slow down despite the semi-retirement plans, is perhaps why the whole idea might have been a bit premature in the first place. Moreover, he adds: “My friends felt that semi-retirement (despite all my good intentions) if seriously imposed, might get a bit dull, and that I would soon need something more substantial.” Karnik certainly feels they were right about the “more substantial” part, given that “I am a person who has strong views on everything.”

He is, for instance, particularly passionate about the direction in which media in the country is headed.

“This is a strong word to use... but I think the media has become quite xenophobic. For example, why didn’t any of our newspapers, or the electronic media for that matter, debate the Indian government’s handling of Musharraf’s visit. Isn’t Kashmir also a core issue for India in some way? Why couldn’t this be debated?” Warming to his subject he talks, a little faster, about a media solely driven by market responses. The sort of market that demands “titillating pictures even in a hard-core financial daily.”

No, not that Karnik minds the titillating pictures, it’s just that maybe they would look nicer outside the pink pages, he says with a smile. Just before the nanosecond beep translates into a personality clue that says ‘non-dil to paagal hai type, plus moralist’.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

The fine art of copying

Sir — The article, “Our singing, their singing” (Aug 7), is a perfect example of the illogical Indian fascination with all things Western. To make a blanket statement, “When Hollywood copies it does so with elan”, based on a single film is completely incongruous. Baz Lurhmann’s use of the song “Chamma Chamma” is indeed tasteful. But to state that no Indian filmmaker could copy Hollywood as well as Lurhmann has copied Bollywood is an exaggeration. Films such as Masoom and even the potboiler, Khoon Bhari Maang, to name a few, far surpassed the foreign films they were copied from. It is time we stopped singing the praises of Hollywood and other things foreign.

Yours faithfully,
Shreya Choudhury, Calcutta

Housewarmed

Sir — The government is surely aware of the present condition of the middle class which comprises the majority of tenants in West Bengal. With the closure of so many companies, no capital being invested and few jobs available, the middle class is fighting a very grim battle for survival. The new fear of losing their home has been added to their list of problems. But the government obviously does not care. Are we really surprised that the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act 1997 is the only bill on tenancy to be introduced by the Left Front government in its 24 years of uninterrupted rule?

The Congress, the Trinamool Congress and other parties and even our current governing party raise a tremendous hue and cry over trivial matters, but are unusually quiet when it comes to the issue of tenancy. Even a clause as serious as the right of tenancy not passing to the son or daughter in case of the tenant’s death has been greeted with silence from the parties. This only reflects the complete lack of connection between the party leaders and the middle class which comprises its votebank.

Yours faithfully,
S. Krishnan, Calcutta

Sir — Tenancy should be made transferable to the children of tenants if the children are staying with the parents in the rented premises, and if the children do not have alternative accommodation in the city. This way children will not be rendered homeless. Landlords will also benefit if the above two conditions apply to tenants’ children.

Yours faithfully
Imtiyaz Ahmed, via email

Cruel shelter

Sir — The gruesome death of the inmates of a privately run home for the mentally ill near Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu was shocking (“Chained and charred in sleep”, Aug 7). What astounded me most was the reported chaining of the mental patients to their beds for the night. Not only that, it seems this act of chaining the patients was a usual practice of the home.

It was Phillippe Pinel who removed the chains of the mentally ill patients at the Bicetre asylum as far back as 1793. He has gone down in the history of psychiatry for this. More than two centuries later, these inhuman practices, however rare, still occur in India. It is surprising that this could happen in Tamil Nadu, a state known for its advancement in the field of psychiatry. The government of Tamil Nadu, the state mental health authorities and the state human rights commission should come forward and take stern action against those in charge of this mental home in an effort to ensure that such incidents do not occur in future.

Yours faithfully,
Jayanta Chatterjee, via email

Sir— The article, “Chained and charred in sleep”, provided an insight into the callousness prevalent in most homes which provide care and shelter for the mentally challenged. Such accidents and irresponsibility on the part of the authorities of the mental home should not go unpunished. As usual, the main culprits will remain at large while scapegoats, such as the clerk in this case, will be blamed for the accident.

The inhuman conditions of such homes should also be looked into. Never before have I heard of inmates being chained to their beds at night.

The Central government should investigate this matter to get to the bottom of the accident. If a crackdown on these homes leads to their closure, the state government should allow private organizations and non-governmental organizations to set up mental homes that should be scrutinized regularly for breach of regulations.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

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