Editorial 1 / Not by rice alone
Editorial 2 / Wrong floor
Functioning anarchy
Fifth Column / Autonomy for the mission
At the heart of the matter
Document / Each state to its own growth
Letters to the editor

The controversy over Basmati, and other areas of intellectual property, generates more heat than light. There are two separate issues and they need to be kept separate. First, there is a new variety of rice which Ricetec claims to have invented, and the question of whether this has been enough of an inventive step. Depending on the answer to this question, Ricetec can obtain a patent. Second, there is the question of what this rice can be called and this takes one into other areas of intellectual property like trademarks and geographical indications. Basmati may have been originally grown in India and Pakistan, but variants are now grown in Thailand and even Texas. Using parental genes sourced from Pakistan, Ricetec developed new hybrid strains designed to flower and fruit differently because of shorter days in the United States. These hybrid strains are also shorter than the original Basmati, so that they can survive high winds and have higher yields per hectare. In principle, there should be nothing wrong in experimenting with basmati and improving it. The Indian Agriculture Research Institute has also invented hybrid Basmati that it now plans to patent and commercialize through seed companies like Mahyco. Having gone through with the invention, Ricetec submitted a patent application to the US patent and trademark office. Unfortunately, unlike India, the US does not have a system of seeking third party objections before granting patents. Patents can only be challenged after they are granted and the US patent office also has a tendency to grant patents on broad and exaggerated claims. So in 1997, all Ricetec’s 20 original claims obtained patent protection. This included not only the hybrids, but the entire germplasm.

Had these patents gone unchallenged, Ricetec would have obtained a monopoly on the original Basmati as well. However, India challenged the Ricetec’s claims in April 2000 and on its own volition, Ricetec withdrew 15 of the original claims. This narrowed down the sweeping patent, which now covers three improved and hybrid strains. There is no threat to India exporting the original Basmati to the US or elsewhere. However, there is the matter of what Ricetec’s rice can be called. The US is likely to argue that the word Basmati is generic. As such, it cannot obtain trademark protection and there is no bar to Ricetec selling the rice as improved Basmati, Texmati or Jasmati.

There is the added problem that Basmati is not a geographical indication in the sense that Darjeeling tea, Scotch whisky or Champagne connote geographical areas. And the Uruguay round agreement makes it clear that no country is compelled to protect geographical indications that are not protected in the country of origin. The abortive geographical indications bill has been knocking at the doors of Parliament for quite some time, as have the plant varieties protection bill and the biodiversity bill. Hence Basmati is not protected in India either, quite apart from the fact that if Basmati is protected in India as a geographical indication characterizing Punjab, rice grown in Haryana, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal or western Uttar Pradesh cannot be called Basmati. The moral of the story is twofold. First, many problems are India’s own creation, resulting in an inability to set its own house in order. Second, litigation linked to intellectual property rights will increasingly be a common phenomenon in the future. In that sense, the battle over Basmati may be over. But the war goes on.


The sorry performance of the Trinamool Congress in the West Bengal assembly elections does not seem to have had a sobering effect on its legislators. The party’s vociferous sit-in in the Writers’ Buildings on Monday was one more instance of its disruptive politics. The problem with the Trinamool Congress has always been the one-point agenda of its chief, Ms Mamata Banerjee: remove the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and hence the Left Front, from power in West Bengal. It is difficult for a party to ride to power on a completely negative policy, and a passionate hatred. Two things are bound to happen. Such a party’s politics is likely to go haywire, exemplified in this case by the Trinamool Congress’s jumping from the embrace of the Bharatiya Janata Party to the Congress’s and now, it seems, back again. The combination of aggression and indecision simply confuses voters, as the Trinamool Congress found to its cost. Apart from this, such a party’s functioning within the state can be based only on disruption. Without development plans and a serious assessment of the weaknesses of the ruling government, it is not possible to form even a constructive opposition.

The sit-in was obviously contrived and thoroughly pointless. It ultimately served to make the legislators look comic rather than tragic. Simply put, it was not necessary. One, the chief minister, it has been established, meets opposition legislators whenever an appointment is made, and sometimes even without it. Two, objections about the government’s handling of law and order should have been made without actually disrupting law and order. Sensationalism is the Trinamool Congress’s trademark. Evidently this was all that was being aimed at. The sit-in was arranged for the day on which Ms Banerjee was to speak to the Union home minister about the terrible state of law and order in West Bengal. This has become a traditional exercise with Ms Banerjee. The actions of her legislators, just like her own, bespeak a terrible ineffectuality. The failure in the assembly elections should have helped the Trinamool Congress rethink its strategy and policies. That does not seem to have happened yet.


The institutions of the state are not supposed to work at cross-purposes. They are designed to make the system run smoothly by providing the necessary checks and balances so that the errors of one can be corrected by the others. This ensures integration at the systemic level. Effective governance of complex societies, however, demands something more. It requires social integration through mechanisms for peaceful resolution of conflicts in both political and administrative spheres which means general acceptance of certain norms and possession by those in power of the requisite moral authority to arbitrate between contrary claims and make their decisions stick.

The splintering of national polity, sharpening of regional, caste and ethnic identities, increasing violence in public life, a virtual cold war between different institutions of state, the nexus between crime and politics, steady erosion of norms in public life, and an overload of claims on the system, even as the latter’s capacity to process these is decreasing, have all conspired to create what can only be called a crisis of ungovernability.

The Vajpayee government may have good reason to pat itself on the back for having managed to survive longer than any previous coalition regime. But its capacity to manage one crisis after another or limit the damage done to its image has been of little avail in preventing a rapid erosion of its authority. Part of its inability to forge a unity of purpose may be due to the character of the National Democratic Alliance which enables powerful partners in the coalition to force the government quite often to go back on its decisions and leads to serious policy differences within the sangh parivar of which the chief constituent of the alliance is a member. But to a large extent it is also the result of a whittling down of whatever moral authority the government had at the start of its uncertain career.

The second securities scandal in which staggering amounts of public funds from nationalized and other banks were once again gambled away by operators at the stock exchange showed that the Vajpayee government had miserably failed to imbibe the lesson of the first such case, and that whatever new safeguards it had devised were wholly ineffective. The Tehelka tapes exposure gave another big jolt to the government bringing home to millions of television viewers how the web of corruption was rotting the nerve and bone of both political life and the administration. The Bharatiya Janata Party was forced as a result to sack its badly compromised president and the prime minister, with a sad heart, had to ask one of his most trusted colleagues in the cabinet to quit his high-profile post. That the government managed to survive could not compensate for the further loss of both face and auth-ority.

There were already signs of a recession developing in the United States and many feared that the shrinking market for goods and services in the most affluent society would have repercussions all over the world. This did not however deter Yashwant Sinha from exuding more good cheer than prudence justified while presenting his budget. This won him kudos not only from the corporate sector but from the general public. Yet it did not take long for reality to creep in and make a hash of what was hailed as a “dream budget”. There was a sharp decline in stock prices. The export sector lost its buoyancy, the rate of growth came tumbling down to just a little over two per cent and even the country’s credit rating touched a new low.

How much of this sorry tale was the result of larger forces beyond the control of the government and how much a consequence of internal mismanagement is hard to say. In any case there can be no excuse for the government’s failure to curb its own profligacy. We can as well forget all the rhetoric about sustaining high growth rates over a long period, with all the states as well as the Centre continuing to live far beyond their means and the total fiscal deficit accounting for as much as 10 per cent of the gross national product. Such laxity may be a good prescription for the government’s survival but spells economic stagnation, increased unemployment and mass discontents beyond the capacity of those in power to control. The prevailing situation is indeed making many people wonder if anyone is really in control.

The surprise is that all this has not affected the efficacy of the government’s survival kit. It does not cast a shadow even on its optimism. Has not the planning commission, despite so many depressing indicators, set a target of 8 per cent growth for the next fiscal year? And does not the governor of the Reserve Bank of India still assure the public that the economy will grow by 6 per cent this year? If we go by the philosophy of jam tomorrow we will have indeed no cause to worry about all our todays.

Apparently the slidedown in the economy has failed to shake the government out of its torpor. Even the shock administered to 20 million investors by the biggest mutual fund in the country has not perturbed it too much. It was supposed to exercise overall control over the Unit Trust of India, it admits ruefully. But how could it possibly keep track of the details of what it was up to? This only makes the sceptics ask in disbelief as to how it could be unaware of the fact known to all operators in the market that 70 per cent of the funds under the US-64 scheme were invested in equity subject to wild price fluctuations and that this was by no means a prudent course for a scheme committed to paying the investors a reasonable yearly return on their savings.

If the government was jittery at all over the UTI scandal — it even suffered a loss of nerve for a while — it was not on account of the widespread panic among millions of poor and middle class investors. It was more worried over the likely impact of the affair on the BJP’s fortunes in the state assembly election in Uttar Pradesh due early next year.

The phrase, “functioning anarchy”, to describe the political system in India was coined long ago by a former US ambassador to this country when things were far more stable. Indeed the process of the splintering of political life had not even begun by that time. Caste and ethnic identities were not one quarter as sharp as they are today. The population pressure had not yet allowed proliferating slums to overwhelm all the big cities. And though the economic growth rate was dismally low, governance of the country was not half as chaotic as it is today. The “anarchy” has by now become non-functional. The government may have managed to survive against great odds. But as it happens, effective governance is an altogether different ball game from that of survival.

Whether it is the challenge of putting its fiscal house in order, creating an administrative environment which attracts investment on the requisite scale in a hopelessly rundown infrastructure, ending the nexus between crime and politics, making the states financially more viable, putting an end to the many insurgencies that infect Kashmir and many states in the Northeast, or building a consensus on how to make the new phase of reforms more rewarding as well as less painful, every action plan requires a degree of moral authority the present government lacks conspicuously.

How can it acquire this authority when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief himself makes snide remarks about the prime minister’s office and the Shiv Sena chief, another NDA stalwart, publicly berates the BJP? The sight of the prime minister and the sarsanghchalak sharing the same platform and voicing the same sentiments may be a good public relations exercise. It can do little to conjure away the contradictions between different front organizations of the sangh parivar which have different compulsions, different constituencies to take care of and different identities.

The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh cannot afford to lose its support just to come to the aid of the Vajpayee government by backing the proposed changes in labour laws. Nor can the Vishwa Hindu Parishad abandon its Hindutva platform to please the secularists in the NDA and liquidate itself in the process.

However one looks at the national scene, all that meets the eye are scenes of rank confusion, inter-party and factional squabbles, new groups busy constructing half-fictitious identities, institutions in an advanced state of decay and state governments in dire straits. The national economy may have achieved fast growth for some years. It can no longer be too sure about the dimension or duration of the recession it is experiencing now. What is non-governance after all but another name for non-performance.

If the government can come to the aid of banks with huge non-performing assets, why can it not make life a little comfortable for non-performing assets in political institutions? These human assets in the form of elected representatives happen to be lawmakers. How often do they work hard to hold up proceedings in the two houses by creating bedlam instead of attending to their legitimate business of debating policy issues or making laws?


A confrontation, regarding the recruitment of teaching staff, between the West Bengal government and the Ramakrishna Mission seems to be well on the way. The education department has directed the mission to appoint teachers according to the recommendation of the school service commission. The mission authorities have, however, opposed the directive on the plea that it would affect the standard of recruitment of its teachers and therefore they intend to continue the present system of recruiting teachers through the employment exchange.

The government’s stance is justified. It had passed an act regarding the appointment of teachers of all schools that are either state-run or are dependent on similar assistance. The act stated that the teachers are to be appointed only through the SSC. Therefore, as a beneficiary of the state fund, the mission cannot follow a separate method of recruitment. According to the school education minister, only the schools in the “minority” institution category can adopt a recruitment policy of their own. Since the mission schools cannot claim to belong to this special category, they must accept the method of appointment as determined by the governmental order.

More than teachers

The educational wing of the mission has always maintained an enviable record. This is obviously the result of combining a well-planned system, administrative discipline and the dedication of the teaching staff in a purposeful direction. The teaching staff is obviously a significant part of the novel mechanism of the mission. The purpose of the teachers of the mission schools is not merely to educate the pupil. The teachers are also involved in character-building as well as culturally enriching the student. The mission schools therefore need to have a special method of choosing their teachers to decide whether they can be made an integral part of the system. An interference with the mission’s independence while recruiting surely affects the purpose of the mission.

Certain untoward events in the past have made the monks feel that they must have the opportunity to run their educational institutions autonomously. Having failed to find any alternative, the mission declared itself a “minority” institution and sought to claim the benefits of Article 30 of the Constitution. The article states that minorities can establish their own educational institutions according to their particular criteria. Also, the management of the internal affairs of the institution must be free from external control.

Minority rights

However, the right is not absolute and does not mean that the state cannot regulate the administration of such institutions. In fact, some of these qualifications are inherent in the right itself. The Supreme Court has also stated that the right to administer cannot include the right to administer badly. The state can impose regulations relating to the sanitation, discipline and other affairs of an institution. It can also ensure that the standard of education does not fall below the desired level. But such regulations must be reasonable or they might abridge and even negate the right conferred by Article 30.

The Ramakrishna Mission justified its claim to be a “minority” institution with all the advantages of Article 30(1) because the organization was founded on the teachings of Ramakrishna, who was not a “Hindu” in the strict sense of the term. His followers, therefore, belong to a “minority” group and the mission schools can claim the right to “administer” their own affairs under Article 30(1). This naturally includes the independent recruitment of teaching staff.

Although the contention was accepted by the Calcutta high court, the mission schools cannot enjoy the benefits of Article 30(1) because the Supreme Court has rejected it. Official spokesmen claim that the mission must follow the governmental fiat or lose the financial assistance it receives. The monks fear that the official policy will make it difficult to maintain high academic standards. The mission authorities have to take a careful decision. If they want to defy the governmental order regarding the recruitment of teachers, they must find necessary means to maintain their educational wing without governmental assistance. A government enacts a law for uniform application and cannot allow a selective predilection. But experience tells us that uniformity does not always produce the desired result.


Nongovernmental organizations can save the world from the ill-effects of a rapid population growth. The world’s population is now six billion with an addition of three billion in just 40 years. Obviously, such a rapid growth is unsustainable and population stabilization ought to be a matter of urgent concern for every individual, state and international agency.

Unfortunately, most of the population growth is happening in developing countries, causing major impediments to their development which, as is well known, would have proved the best to control the growth. Many third world countries are trapped in this vicious cycle. Also, because of several socio-political factors, governments feel reluctant to take other effective measures, which are often not quite popular, to stabilize the population factor. NGOs can play an effective role in such situations. This they can do in two ways.

First, NGOs can impress upon the media, national governments and international organizations the need to provide adequate funds and ensure that policies are formulated and implemented to control the demographic growth. For example, the Population Institute, an NGO based in the United States, tries to convince the US government and world bodies like the United Nations Development Programme, the UN population fund, the World Health Organization and others about the need to provide more assistance to developing countries. The Population Institute also encourages the media in this regard by giving the Global Media Awards in 15 categories every year to media persons and organizations for excellence in population reporting. The award has gained immense respectability the world over and is proving to be a great motivating factor.

Television is a very powerful media, particularly in India where it has a massive viewership among every stratum of society. It thus could be used quite effectively to promote family planning. A lot more needs to be done. The Population Foundation of India, an NGO established by J.R.D. Tata, for example, could come forward and institute a media award for the print and electronic media for excellence in reporting on demography, like the Population Institute in the US.

NGOs in India have done precious little to motivate, involve and encourage the media to take up the issue of population more enthusiastically and effectively. There are exceptions, like the Punjab-based NGO, Aabadi Roko Andolan, which has undertaken the work of propaganda along with the job of promoting family planning programmes at the grassroots level. It organizes jagaran programmes, where folk songs based on the theme of family planning are sung with great gusto. Such community-level programmes are proving to be highly effective. The organization has also released an audio cassette, persuading people to adopt the small family norm. ARA has already distributed 50,000 cassettes free of cost.

ARA has come up with yet another ingenious way to encourage eminent people to adopt the small family norm. It sends through registered post the “Fitte-lahnt praman patra” (depreciating certificate) to important people who produce a large family. Such certificates have already been sent to more than 150 persons so far.

It is necessary that every NGO in India, irrespective of its concerns, make use of its goodwill — especially among the underprivileged — to motivate people to have a small family. There exists a strong link between poverty and population growth, yet promoting family planning among the poor is perhaps the most difficult task. A family tortured by shortages of food, water, fuel, shelter, medical care would hardly be interested in what a social worker has to say about family planning. But unless these people are convinced about the need to plan, any population control programme is bound to fail.

There exists a large number of NGOs in our country, many of them are doing excellent social work amongst the underprivileged. Many of these are loved and respected by the people. If such NGOs could be persuaded to take up the task of promoting family planning besides their own philanthropic activities, the poor would be immensely benefited. Once the families agree to have fewer children, the government can assist them through the NGOs to adopt birth control methods.

Any social or philanthropic work is generally undertaken with two main objectives. One, to eliminate human sufferings and social evils and two, for moral self-improvement. Philanthropic services undertaken for the limited, like feeding beggars on certain occasions, are no doubt good, but it would certainly be better to aim at eliminating the very cause of human suffering or social evil.

All NGOs must address themselves to both these aspects, that is, the immediate, but temporary, redress of the misery, and providing a permanent solution to social problems. Since our massive population and its rapid growth are the root cause of most of our problems, most of our troubles would defy solution unless this basic issue is resolved.

For example, NGOs who are working hard to save the ecosystem do not concern themselves with population control. But by doing so, they are either ignoring or are unaware of the fact that there is a strong link between human population and environment. The larger the population in a given geographical area, the greater the impact on environment. Every environmental problem is either caused or worsened by the growing human population and its increasing level of consumption. Humans affect the environment in two ways: they consume resources like food, energy, wood, water and so on and produce waste which could be excreta, garbage, industrial effluents, vehicular emission and others. All these adversely affect the environment. Yet none of the NGOs or governmental organizations working with environment seem to take note of this close link.

There are two reasons for this. Environmentalists in India could be classified into two groups: one guided by Western models of environmental activism, and the other influenced by Gandhian paradigms. The former thinks that ecological problems, though a consequence of consumerism and industrialization, can be solved by technology, irrespective of people’s lifestyle and level of consumption. The second group believes that the cause of environmental decay is the consequence of not following the Gandhian model of simple living.

The Western model does not directly concern itself with overpopulation. On the other hand, the Gandhian dictum does not encourage contraception since it supposes that there is enough for everybody. Environmentalists, who are followers of the Western model, fail to realize that unlike in the West, the levels of industrialization and consumerism in India are quite low and hence are not the main cause of India’s environmental problems. And we all know that the average standard of living in India is one of the lowest in the world. Although irresponsible use of technology or deployment of obsolete or faulty technology in India is contributing to the country’s environmental degradation, this is only a part of the whole story.

It is important to realize that the impact of population on environment is a function of the number of people it supports and average levels of consumption. In other words, low per capita consumption in a country with as high a population density as India’s, can be as dangerous for the global ecology as high per capita consumption and low population levels in the West.

The same holds true for other NGOs working in various areas like rehabilitation, illiteracy, malnutrition and so on. Population stabilization is a necessary pre-requisite for true and durable success of any and every NGO in this country. To spread this awareness, NGOs working particularly in the area of population control, like PFI or ARA, must take the initiative to convince other NGOs working in different areas of the indispensability of population stabilization.


This approach paper proposes that the tenth plan should aim at an indicative target of 8 per cent gross domestic product growth for the period 2002-07. This is lower than the growth rate of 8.7 per cent needed to double per capita income over the next 10 years, but it can be viewed as an intermediate target for the first half of the period. It is certainly a very ambitious target, especially in view of the fact that GDP growth has decelerated to around 6 per cent at present. Even if the deceleration is viewed as a short term phenomenon, the medium term performance of the economy over the past several years suggests that the demonstrated growth potential over several years is only about 6.5 per cent. The proposed 8 per cent growth target therefore involves an increase of at least 1.5 percentage points over the recent medium term performance, which is very substantial.

Economic growth cannot be the only objective for national planning and indeed over the years, development objectives are being defined not just in terms of increases in GDP or per capita income but broader in terms of enhancement of human well-being.

This includes not only an adequate level of consumption of food and other types of consumer goods but also access to basic social services, especially education, health, availability of drinking water and basic sanitation. It also includes the expansion of economic and social opportunities for all individuals and groups and greater participation in decision-making. The tenth plan must set suitable targets in these areas to ensure significant progress towards improvement in the quality of life of all our people.

To reflect the importance of these dimensions in development planning, the tenth plan must establish specific and monitorable targets for a few key indicators of human development. It is proposed that in addition to the 8 per cent growth target, the targets given below should also be considered as being central to the attainment of the objectives of the plan.

Reduction of the poverty ratio to 20 per cent by 2007 and to 10 per cent by 2012; providing gainful employment to the addition to the labour force over the tenth plan period; universal access to primary education by 2007; reduction in the decadal rate of population growth between 2001 and 2011 to 16.2 per cent; increase in literacy rates to 72 per cent by 2007 and to 80 per cent by 2012; reduction of infant mortality rate to 45 per 1,000 live births by 2007 and 28 by 2012; reduction of maternal mortality ratio to 20 per 1,000 live births by 2007 and to 10 by 2012; increase in forest and tree cover to 25 per cent by 2007 and 33 per cent by 2012; all villages to have access to potable drinking water by 2012; cleaning all major polluted rivers by 2007 and other notified stretches by 2012.

The above mentioned social targets will require a substantial allocation of resources to the social sector and major improvements in governance to make effective use of these resources. It must also be recognized that achievement of these targets is not independent of the achievement of high growth. Indeed, high growth rates will generate the flow of public resources needed to sustain improvements in social indicators.

The plan has traditionally focussed on setting national targets but recent experience suggests that the performance of different states vary considerably. For example, although the economy as a whole has accelerated, the growth rates of different states have diverged and some of the poorest states have actually seen a deceleration in growth.

It is important to recognize that the sharp increase in the growth rate that is being contemplated for the tenth plan is possible only if there is a significant improvement in the growth rates of the slow growing states. Indeed, if the higher growth target is sought to be achieved with a continuation of the low growth rates observed in some of the most populous states, it would necessarily imply a very large increase in inter-state inequality with serious consequences for regional balance and national harmony.

In order to emphasize the importance of ensuring balanced development for all states, the tenth plan should include a state-wise break- down of the broad developmental targets, including targets for growth rates and social development. These state-specific targets should take into account the potentialities and constraints present in each state and the scope for improvement in performance given these constraints. This will require careful consideration of the sectoral pattern of growth and its regional dispersion.

It will also focus attention on the nature of reforms that will have to be implemented at the state level to achieve the growth targets set for the states.



Right choice, baby

Sir — So the unsung hero comes out to sing for the heroine. K.N. Govindacharya’s “I was willin’, Uma was not” (Aug 20) seems nothing short of it. The image of the Union sports minister, Uma Bharti, has taken a severe beating ever since reports of her confessions to two journalists in colder climes about her love-life were published last year. Then came the splash of her alleged secret-marriage to the former general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party and now recluse, Govindacharya. Her one time beau’s “Uma was not” might salvage some of the sanyasin’s reputation and bring her admiration for being true to her single state. But to the discerning it should be obvious why Bharti did what she did. She must have realized that the image of the fire-breathing, saffron-clad sanyasin would sell much better politically than the numerous other images of vermillion smeared sari-clad political hangers-on of their politically powerful husbands. There could not have been two Sushma Swarajs in the same party anyway. Right choice, Uma.

Yours faithfully,
Jai Mahanta, Calcutta

Sit in judgment

Sir — Our judicial system needs thorough overhauling to suit Indian conditions. Such change is bound to be resisted by members of the bar and bench, because in the present system, judges and lawyers get protection from the law and are in possession of power which is not commensurate with their responsibilities.

It seems that judgments cannot be delivered without the presence of expensive lawyers or influential litigants. Yet, in this modern era, high courts and the Supreme Court should have been made to furnish copies of judgments to litigants on the day the verdict is passed, making unnecessary an application for it. Lawyers must be responsible for the verification of the identity or signature of the litigant and the formality of attestation abolished. Also, there is no need for the long vacations which judges enjoy, because this delays numerous cases.

Moreover, judges of the high courts and the apex court enjoy unlimited powers against “contempt”, which obstructs the exercise of the fundamental rights of citizens. The judicial system must be made open to discussion by giving complete freedom to the press and public to comment on and criticize judicial authorities. Rules must be formed to enable action against guilty judges. To avoid locally appointed judges from being influenced by their former bar colleagues, every judge of the high court must be appointed from outside his or her state.

Black marketing of backdated stamp papers must be checked by making these available in government offices and civic bodies, post offices, banks and so on. Stamp papers may be printed for denominations of rupees ten, one hundred and one thousand. The functioning of judicial system can be improved only through the adoption of such measures.

Yours faithfully,
S.C. Agrawal, New Delhi

Sir — The apex court’s recent directive to high courts for speedy dispensation of justice is laudable (“Supreme court sets six-month deadline for judgment”, Aug 7). But it is doubtful how far the instruction will be carried out, especially in the case of petty offenders who languish in the jail for years. People often travel to district courts and high courts to settle minor disputes which could have been settled in family courts, lok adalats or fast track courts. The public should be made aware of the existence of such alternatives. Judges’ posts go vacant for long periods, lawyers absent themselves from hearings and cases pile up for years. We can only hope that this dismal situation in the judiciary is resolved by the action taken by the Supreme Court of India.

Yours faithfully,
A. Bose Chowdhury, Barrackpore

Sir — Judicial inconsistency reflects the fallacies of the judicial system. It is rare that a person undergoing imprisonment for a long period can ultimately prove himself innocent. Many such cases of judicial lapse can be shown if proper surveys are made. Again, there is too much scope in the judicial system for distortion of evidence. All these matters require serious attention.

As the editorial, “Deadline hope”, (Aug 10) points out, another case of judicial lapse is when undertrial prisoners are made to suffer because of the delay in disposing of cases. The Supreme Court’s six-month deadline could work only if other irregularities are removed like the largescale vacancies which impede the process of justice, and the hundreds of already pending cases. Moreover, lawyers themselves often prolong cases.

Yours faithfully,
K.R. Venkatasubramanian, Calcutta

Sir — “SC blow to ministers minus seats” (Aug 18) could prove to be a landmark judgment. The judgment, which provides clearcut guidelines on the re-appointment of ministers, may go a long way in effectively plugging the loophole by which many aspiring politicians, who are not elected, become ministers through the back door. The judgment with its far-reaching implications will strengthen democracy in our country and reinforce the faith of the common man in the judiciacy.

One hopes that J. Jayalalitha and others of her kind understand this judgment and refrain from entering the political arena through unlawful means.

Yours faithfully,
S. Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Parting shot

Sir — Going through the advertisements of the school service commission published in newspapers recently, one notices that once again, Urdu medium schools will suffer heavily as most of the vacancies are under quotas for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. I don’t quite know the commission rules on the quota system, but the education department as well as chairman of the school service commission should be aware of the non-availability of SC/ST candidates in the Urdu speaking sector.

The condition of most of the Urdu-medium schools in West Bengal beggar description. They are far behind schools of other media of instruction. The educational standard in these schools is poor. If good teachers are not appointed soon, this might worsen. I request the education department not to be step-motherly towards these schools. All hurdles should be removed and opportunities given to Urdu-knowing candidates to improve in all directions.

Yours faithfully,
Mohammad Sarfaraz Ahmed, Calcutta

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