Editorial 1 / Not too late
Editorial 2 / Rites of dialogue
Friendly interests
Fifth Column / Power without the glory
Mani Talk / Not the Tehelka tapes
Document / Create more breathing space
Letters to the editor

It is obvious from recent events in Calcutta and its environs that organized crime, based in Dubai, is attempting to gain a foothold in the city. There are states in India which face, over and above the threat of organized crime, the threat of terrorism. The name of Jammu and Kashmir comes readily to mind. The atmosphere there is particularly charged because the terrorism originates in Pakistan. The problem of curbing organized crime and terrorism is hamstrung by the absence of a central law like the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. Human rights activists had campaigned for the withdrawal of TADA and against the enactment of another law to replace it. This vacuum has allowed both terrorism and organized crime to flourish and to make fresh inroads. The Central government has on the anvil the terrorism (prevention) bill 2000, but this will take some more time to be placed before Parliament. Under the circumstances, the suggestion made by the minister of state for home affairs, Mr D. Swami, that the states should enact their own anti-terrorist laws, should be welcomed. It is to be noted that Maharashtra already has the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act. This may not be directed against terrorism by name but it can also be used against terrorists. Thus, there exists a model for other states to emulate. In fact, it can be argued that the effectiveness of this act in Mumbai has forced organized crime gangs to seek pastures in West Bengal. Reports suggest that the West Bengal government has already moved to adopt the Maharashtra act for the state.

There is a more important issue embedded in the idea of laws directed against terrorism and organized crime. The distinction between terrorism and organized crime is a semantic quibble. Both attempt violently to infringe on the rights of other individuals. Terrorism, because it operates under the shadow of ideology, is no less a crime than protection rackets, abductions and so on, which are the stock-in-trade of organized criminal gangs. Neither terrorists nor mafia dons have any respect for the rule of law and the established laws of the country. It is impossible to curb such activities within the ambit of the rule of law. The police and other law enforcement agencies have to be endowed with special powers given to them through special legislations. The battle for the eradication of terrorism and organized crime knows of no halfway houses; neither does it have any space for faint-hearted human rights activists who fight for the rights of terrorists and pay scant regard for the rights of the victims. New and tougher laws are necessary and if need be, a bit of the milk of human kindness has to be sacrificed. There are times when draconian measures are needed to uphold democracy. Protection of the many at the cost of the few is the watchword of a democratic government.


It is always a relief when violence and distrust are followed by an effort to talk. The dialogue initiated by the Catholic Bishop Conference of India and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is thus a step in a hopeful direction. The fact that the Global Council of Indian Christians has proclaimed its “unequivocal support” for the process is a good sign too: it shows that Christians in India are eager to participate in an exchange that may lead to better understanding among communities. History has its own moments, its own strange twists and turns. Old custom and ways of operation that have been taken for granted for years suddenly acquire a different significance in the light of changed politics and changed circumstances. The erosion of understanding between the Christian community and branches of the RSS in recent times is an example of such a turn in history. The bitter controversy raging around conversion has resulted in open or concealed violence and vitriolic attacks. The tendency of the more extreme fringes of the RSS to identify foreign intrusion with Christianity has not helped matters. It is also true that much of the funding of the churches has overseas sources. It has been easy to claim that this inflow of money is part of a large conspiracy to convert the poor of India. This has had two unfortunate effects. It has tended to obscure and devalue the social work carried out by churches and related bodies in the spheres of education, health and relief. Besides, it has led to a spate of reverse “conversions”, by outfits like the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, in a bid to “bring home” erring Hindus. These are purification ceremonies, and performed, ironically enough, most often on tribal people who had become Christians, and who could not have claimed their religion to have been Hinduism in the first place.

This is a bitter and difficult place to tread, and both sides in the dialogue need to come halfway in order to achieve understanding. The secular fabric of India is threatened by extreme action in the name of religion. Traditionally, secularism in India evokes the image of many faiths living side by side. This, of course, is not the only meaning, but it is one of the more popular ones. It is also, as history shows, one of the most difficult things to achieve in its ideal state. Hence meeting other communities halfway to allay suspicion and fear becomes doubly important. Since there is one major religion in the country and many minorities, and those too not of equal size, it is essential for representatives of both major and minor religions to work out precise strategies that would lessen misunderstanding. The dialogue could be a starting point for this. By identifying problem areas and expressing the exact nature of the distress surrounding them, the two communities could begin to chalk out new strategies of coexistence.


Our obsessive focus on the Pervez Musharraf-Atal Bihari Vajpayee summit at Agra was logical and inevitable. But we did not take sufficient notice of the visit of the Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, to Moscow which took place exactly during the dates when the summit was held at Agra. The Jiang Zemin-Vladimir Putin discussions resulted in a wide-ranging agreement on Sino-Russian friendship and cooperation which has significant and interesting implications for great power equations and more specifically for Asian regional security.

The context in which Sino-Russian relationship is being structured should be recalled to assess the ramifications of the July visit of Jiang Zemin to Moscow. Since the end of the Cold War, and particularly the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the ideological antagonisms which permeated Sino-Russian relations completely disappeared. A phenomenon of bilateral complementarity of needs and perceptions evolved since Mikhail Gorbachev’s time which has now culminated in the Jiang Zemin-Putin rapport.

While both China and the Russian federation have a working multi-faceted relationship with the United States, both have reservations about a world order dominated by the US alone. Apart from the strategic and security ingredients of their shared reservations about US dominance of world politics, the sense of self and national identity of both Russia and China constitute the deeper rationale of their objections to untrammelled US influence in world affairs.

Russia and China have a common interest in containing excessive influence by the US and its allies in the resource rich central Asian republics. To a limited extent they share concerns about the impact of US plans for theatre missile defence in their coastal seas and US plans for eventually developing and deploying a national missile defence system. Sino-Russian defence cooperation has increased qualitatively and quantitatively since 1991-92. China is today the largest importer of defence material from the Russian federation. China’s defence supplies imports from Russia valued at 20 billion dollars is perhaps the most important factor sustaining defence industries of the Russian federation.

The disintegration of the old Soviet economy makes the Russian federation a very large market for Chinese exports, specially of consumer goods. Given the Chinese energy requirements, China hopes that a cooperative relationship with the Russian federation will enable China to obtain energy resources from the central Asian republics like Kazakhstan and potentially from Siberia. China also hopes to obtain the technologies in defence engineering and weapon designs from the Russian federation.

It is these substantive factors of mutual benefit which are underpinning the positive impetus in Sino- Russian relations. There are parallelisms in Russian and Chinese policies towards the World Trade Organization, about United Nations reforms, about arms control and nonproliferation issues and about the political expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its adjunct, the partnership for peace, which now extends to major central Asian republics like Uzbekistan.

While both Russia and China enjoy an interdependence with the US in broad political and economic terms, they also need to balance off excessive US influence in the region. So the treaty between Jiang Zemin and Putin was part of a carefully calibrated minuet, where they structured a political resistance to US domination while sustaining their respective relations with the US.

The treaty of friendship signed in Moscow on July 16 is valid for 20 years. It stipulates that governments of China and Russia will establish relations of good neighbourliness, friendship and wide-ranging cooperation in the political, economic and technological fields. Putin and Jiang Zemin also signed a joint declaration which stated that the anti-ballistic missile treaty of 1972 should be preserved.

The declaration announces the policy of the two governments to prevent nuclear proliferation and to keep the outer space free of weapons; by implication it affirms the opposition of China and Russia to the NMD. Elaborating this point, the joint declaration says: “Russia and China would step up their cooperation in nuclear nonproliferation, including efforts to encourage all members of the international community to join the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.”

The Putin-Jiang Zemin statement also calls for an international agreement to ban placing of weapons in outer space. They jointly recommended that a special committee be established under the umbrella of the UN disarmament commission to prevent militarization of outer space. An additional suggestion is that the members of the UN should establish a global regime on non-proliferation of missile technology on an equal and non-discriminatory basis.

The cosmetic contents of the Sino-Russian treaty of friendship are equally interesting. The treaty indulges in hyperbole, affirming that “Russia and China are friends forever, enemies never”. Lest the motives behind this treaty are perceived as antagonistic to the US or other important powers, the treaty goes on to say: “The friendly relations of the two countries are inter-state relations of a new type, built on the basis of not forming an alliance, non-confrontationist and not being directed against third countries. The two sides have no territorial claims on each other and vow to respect the inviolability of their borders and territorial integrity.” This particular clause was included to reflect the decision of Putin and Jiang Zemin to resolve their border dispute in two areas which still remain pending.

Putin and Jiang Zemin were particularly focussed on the US NMD system. Jiang Zemin had arrived in Moscow on Sunday, July 15, a day after the US successfully tested one of its missile interceptors. Both these leaders issued a joint warning that the proposed NMD would upset the strategic balance and would trigger a new global arms race. They went on to state: “It is the consistent view of both the governments that the US in disregard of the universal reservation and disapproval of the international community is developing missile defence system, in violation of the ABM treaty and urged that the US treats seriously the opinion and concern of other countries and exercise prudence on this question.”

Putin, giving an assessment of his discussions with Jiang Zemin at the end of the visit, stated that “in our opinion, the agreement just signed opens up a new level of cooperation between our two countries. Of course the agreement most of all touches our two nations (Russia and China) but we presume that this document will form the basis for stability in international relations as a whole.” This treaty follows the agreement between China and Russia to maintain international peace and stability in their discussions in Beijing and in Moscow.

While this stage of Sino-Russian relations affirms a convergence of interests between the two countries, it would be interesting and important to observe how Putin and Jiang Zemin reconciled the policy orientations reflected in the treaty with their separate and ongoing efforts of fashioning a stable relationship with the US.

George W. Bush has met Putin twice since the end of June. The US national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, has been in Moscow. During her visit indications were that Russia and US are inclined to find a via media on their differences regarding the NMD scheme. High level Chinese contacts with the US are also on the cards before the end of this year. While the US and Russia might forge some compromise, the Chinese are likely to react more strongly against NMD. If in consequence, the Chinese continue further nuclear and missile tests, it would become a major security concern in the south Asian and the southeast Asian region.

The security environment in northern and northeastern Asia and the Pacific would be different because the Chinese, the US, Russian and Japanese military technological capacities may balance one another off in that area. It is India and the other south Asian countries which will have to cope with the likely arms race. It is obvious that India will have to undertake separate dialogues with China, Russia and the US on the implications of such a situation. The subject would become an important item on the agenda of the Association of South East Asian Nations’ security forum and the Asian Regional Forum.

The most important thing to be remembered by Indian policy-makers is that the Sino-Russian treaty of friendship does not imply many confrontationist strategic arrangements against the US. There has been some speculation about the possibility of a China-Russia-India strategic arrangement in confrontation against the US. This is a patently wrong predication, and an illusion which India should assiduously avoid in structuring its strategic and security policies in the coming months.

The author is former foreign secretary of India


Jharkhand, Babulal Marandi, is an unwitting pawn in the hands of power. Chief ministership seems to have overwhelmed him and this has left many in the sangh parivar red in the face. Ranchi is full of tales of a mysterious “Mrs chief minister”, who answers telephone calls from the chief minister’s residence. The much-married Marandi is having a tough time fending off rumours in the capital’s motley political circle.

The lady in question is an advocate, Manju Rai, and according to the chief minister, “a long-time friend’’. Rai is articulate, unlike the reticent Marandi. The opposition, however, refuses to buy the friendship story. If the grapevine is to be believed, the sangh parivar has asked the power-happy Marandi to mend his ways.

The allegations have heightened the sense of disquiet in the Marandi camp, already besieged by a number of contentious issues. The chief minister, despite bold image-boosters, has been unable to tackle the wily opposition, which is more seasoned in the rough and tumble of a complex ethnic politics. The opposition has punched embarrassing holes in all his valiant endeavours. Early this month, the chief minister went to town with plans of an elaborate “militant surrender show”, billing it as a major breakthrough in the National Democratic Alliance’s counter-insurgency drive in Jharkhand.

Keep the guns

Over 37 hardcore Naxalites surfaced in Giridih, his home turf, at a media-studded official event. But contrary to Marandi’s claims, all the militants surrendered without arms. They preferred to keep their weapons for future use. The show lost its sting following a Maoist Communist Centre statement refuting government claims that a large number of Maoist guerrillas had “shunned the path of violence.’’ The MCC claimed that its ranks were untouched.

Why Giridih? ranted the opposition in the assembly, which met on August 17. Why not in Garhwa, Palamau or any other Naxalite-ravaged district? The opposition argued that though Giridih was troubled, Palamau was the Naxalite hotbed and Marandi should have logically chosen Palamau as his first surrender venue. There were allegations that the entire show was contrived to project the NDA as a party with a human face. Marandi had got together a crew of petty hoodlums and walked them down the podium to hoodwink people.

However, not everyone subscribes to the strident NDA denials of a farce. The flock is divided. Disgruntled Bharatiya Janata Party members plan to take the battle against misgovernance to Delhi. The dissidents led by senior BJP leaders, Dukha Bhagat and Karia Munda (who longs to be chief minister), have managed to wean away 12 BJP legislators from the Marandi fold. These rebels are crying foul over anomalies in transfers and postings of primary school teachers, a sensitive issue, which rocked the house last week.

Denying the farce

Another NDA constituent, the All-Jharkhand Students’ Union, has also threatened to launch an agitation in protest against tardy progress and non-fulfilment of demands. The AJSU, the erstwhile armed wing of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, wanted withdrawal of all pending cases against its activists involved in the 1989 economic blockade and general amnesty for cadres languishing in jail. It had traded support to the Marandi government in lieu of a three-pronged agreement. But Marandi conveniently forgot to keep his promise to the union.

The opposition also trained its guns on the state government for an alleged raid on the Nagaruntari palace in Garhwa by the Uttar Pradesh police and charges of caste-based ragging at Netarhat Vidyalaya, one of the few public schools of repute in the state. The ongoing assembly session has been stormy with the opposition making fresh charges almost every day. The house was adjourned sine die twice and a harangued speaker had to intervene every time Marandi and his opponents came to blows. A hostile bureaucracy has also added to the chief minister’s woes.

Marandi’s lifestyle is now a drawing-room debate. Jharkhandis argue that his personal fleet of 32 official cars and four choppers is not in keeping with his do-good Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh background. Others before him have been stumped too by the politics of power, but they have managed to keep their house in order.


This one-act play draws its inspiration from the British TV programme of the Seventies, Not The Nine O’clock News. The author’s apologies for the shameless plagiarism.

[The curtain rises on the drawing room of the National Security Minister, G. Porgie, affectionately known to all and sundry as Porgie saheb. The drawing room is emphatically NOT the drawing room of Madam National President, MNP, as she is known to sundry and all. For MNP has her own drawing room miles away and any resemblance between the two is justiciable.

When the curtain rises, the drawing room is empty save for the presence of a Just-Retired Military Officer, J-R MO, dressed in mufti but immediately recognizable as a military officer by his ramrod straight bearing. What a retired military officer should be doing in the drawing room of the National Security Minister, Porgie saheb, is, of course, not disclosed for that would be to rob the play of all dramatic purpose. The audience is required to sit up sharply at the spectacle of a J-R MO in the drawing room of the National Security Minister and ask itself, in the colourful language of a soon to be introduced Major-General, What the F*** is Going on Here?]

Enter MNP left

MNP: And what, may I ask, is a J-R MO doing in the drawing room of the National Security Minister?

J-R MO: Madam, I came to see thee.

MNP: How durst thou come to see me in a drawing room which be not mine own?

J-R MO: “Cause betimes I thought it to be thine.”

MNP: Then thou art wholly mistaken, for this be not the drawing room of Madam National President. It be that of Porgie saheb, the Dread of the Pakis. As also of the Chinks.

J-R MO: Oh! MNP, forgive me my trespasses — but take thou thy daily bread from this unworthy hand.

MNP: Forsooth, of what daily bread doth thou talkest?

J-R MO: Madam, there stand without young men of wild mien that come hither from a strange foreign land, desirest of selling Thermal Night-Vision Binoculars to Porgie saheb.

MNP: Knave thou art that stealest into the drawing room of Porgie saheb in the mistaken belief that this be mine. But thy purpose is clear. What Gifts of the Magi bring these strange beings from without?

J-R MO: The exact sum I know not. But if thou wilt but let this poor servant bring them to thy presence, thou wilt in a moment learn the truth thereof. (Turns towards the wings)

MNP: (soliloquy) Oh! Cursed, cursed Fate

That thou hath loaded me

With incompetent companions

That canst not raise the ducats required

To summon all to the Dance in Eyesore

Where I am to be crowned Queen of the


But soft, methinks there might be cause


To end my woes

Ere this glinting blade (pulls out a knife)

Find its destination.

For if this knave speak Truth,

Salvation be at Hand.

Turns to J-R MO, now inching his way to the exit.

Knave, bring hither forth the men thou spoke of late.

J-R MO: They be but boys, Madam, but I hurry to thy bidding.

Exeunt J-R MO.

[He returns, right, accompanied by two Smooth-Chinned Youth, S-CY, neither shaved for they have not learned shaving yet, being too young for manly hirsute games.]

MNP: How now, knaves?

S-CY: (Smooth-Chinned Youth together) All hail to thee. For thou shalt be Queen till Birnam wood comes to Dunsinane.

MNP: Idiots, this be not Macbeth. And I be not Lady Macbeth. I be the MNP and this be the drawing room of Porgie saheb.

S-CY: Forgive us, Madam, but this varlet here led us strangers to believe that we be at thine own abode [Draw their swords]. We will at him anon, fair Lady.

MNP: No, no, sheath thy swords and to thy purpose straight. What bringest thou here from the distant land of the setting sun? What bearest thou for our delight?

S-CY: If this be not then thy drawing room, prithee Madam, wouldst tell us where we be?

MNP: Thou art welcome to the castle of My Lord Porgie saheb, The King’s Most Trusted Servant for the security of the nation, in brief, the National Security Minister.

S-CY: How now, be we at the sanctum sanctorum and the Lord Himself hath fled?

MNP: Be not affrighted, for I be the Madam National President — MNP, and I have an MNP — Minimum Needs Programme. Whatever it be thou desirest, it be in my gift to grant. That is to say, you dumb idiots, keep me in good humour and I’ll put in a word for you in the right quarters.

S-CY: We thought not to meet thee, Madam, but encounter thy servants of the sort that demand wine in deep bottles and saucy maids I dare not more describe.

MNP: Avaunt ye scoundrels, for what use have I of Blue or Black or even Red Label elixir? And what use have I of strumpets and other denizens of the undergrowth? Take thou those to our National Treasurer and other such Creatures of the Dark. For me, I desire nothing for myself.

S-CY: How can that be, oh Highest? For wherever we go in this benighted land, they demand — now a full pocket, now deeper pockets still, now ducats in national currency, now showerings of foreign gold, nay, deposits, they sayest, in lands afar (such as Credit Suisse), worse, Madam, worse, they ask that we fetch them maidens, not in ones and twos, but, as with grapes, in bunches. And now, fair Lady, we are brought to thee, by this J-R MO here, and thou demandest nothing, not even, sayest thou, an introduction fee?

MNP: I need for nothing, for my slightest need, and I have but few, are attended to. But there be a pain in my heart which thou must list to.

S-CY: We be thy servants, Ma’am, thy slaves, thy Genies. Do but rub the brass of thy desire and we shall hurry to thy service.

MNP: Then listen thee with care. There will be a Ball in Eyesore shortly. And I wouldst be the Queen of May. Again. But the mean and tight-fisted locals lack whereof the resources to put the awning up and feed the milling millions who wouldst be at the Crowning of their Queen.

S-CY: Madam, our King commandeth that thy lightest wish be our command. Here, from our petty purses, take thou this kindly offering — 200,000 ducats. And this be just the start.

MNP: I shall not stain my hands with such offerings. Betake thou to my Minister and he shall set thee straight.

S-CY: How shall we know him, Madam?

MNP: Simplicity itself, thou fools. Knowest not that he be the Minister with the same initials as those of Porgie saheb’s Party, of which I be Queen?

J-R MO: Waste not the precious minutes of Her Majesty. I shall unravel this riddle for thee. Takest thou I shall, as I broughtest thee here, to the Minister with the same initials as the Party whereof she spoke.

S-CY: Oh, noble Lady, Oh! gracious Fate that has brought us to thy roost.

MNP: Out, out damned spot, have I not told thee this be not my roost? My roost be elsewhere. I take this mean habitation on rentless hire when there be business to be done. There be many, many who come hither to meet Porgie saheb — and finding him fled make do with Me. Worry not. I shall to Porgie saheb and speak on thy behalf to him. For Justice reigneth in this land — and Justice shalt thou get. At any rate now that I am to be the Queen of May, Mother, now that I am to be Queen.

[A volley of trumpets, as they all disperse.]


The rapid growth of Delhi in recent times has resulted in significant increase in environmental pollution... In view of the seriousness of the issue, the minister of environment and forests decided to have a series of interactive meetings with concerned government agencies, NGOs, experts and citizens, with the objective of defining a plan of action to combat the problem. The outcome of these meetings is a white paper on pollution in Delhi with an action plan covering various aspects of pollution control, including vehicular and industrial pollution, solid waste management and noise pollution.

Rise in population and growth in economic activity has led to increase in pollution in Delhi. After Independence, the city became a major centre of commerce, industry and education. The growth of government departments and office complexes has also contributed to the spread of the city. Civic amenities have not kept pace. Unabated in-migration has compounded the problem. Land use regulations have been flouted. The green cover has dwindled.

According to the 1991 census, Delhi had a population of 94.21 lakhs. The population is projected to touch 132 lakhs in 2001...The number of industrial units in 1951 was approximately 8,000. By 1991, this number had increased to more than 1,25,000. The vehicular population has increased phenomenally, from 2.35 lakhs in 1975 to 26.29 lakhs in 1996, and expected to touch 60 lakhs in 2011. In 1975, the vehicular population in Delhi and Mumbai was about the same: today Delhi has three times more vehicles than Mumbai. Vehicular pollution contributes 67 per cent of the total air pollution load...in Delhi. Another 25 per cent of air pollution is generated by industries and coal based thermal power plants. The three power plants in Delhi generate 6,000 mt of fly ash per day. Sixteen drains are discharging about 1,900 mld of municipal sewage and waste water into the river Yamuna. The industrial effluent load is 320 mld. Municipal solid waste generation is estimated to be 5,000 mt per day...

For controlling pollution in Delhi, the ministry of environment and forests has now prepared an action plan... Also included in the plan are the existing projects for pollution abatement. The plan stipulates the implementation of a time bound programme entailing a coordinated inter-departmental strategy. It is recognized that environment protection measures are inherently multi-agency. Though the main responsibility for implementation of such measures rests with government agencies, a key role also has to be played by community and local residents organizations.

...A draft action plan was drawn up, which was circulated to the various ministries and departments of the Central government and Delhi government...The plan was also referred to the lieutenant governor and the chief minister of Delhi... The lieutenant governor and the chief minister concurred with the proposals in the action plan and stressed the need for its implementation without delay.

The target being pursued by the action plan is the protection and improvement of the environment, keeping in view pollution trends and the prescribed ambient standards. The ambient standards for air (residential-industrial) in respect of sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and suspended particulate matter are, respectively, 60-80 micrograms per m3, 60-80 and 140-360 microgrammes per m3, on annual average basis. The ambient standards for water in the rivers (bathing quality) in respect of dissolved oxygen, biological oxygen demand, and total coliform are 5 mg/l or above, 3 mg/l or below and 500/100 ml, respectively. The ambient noise standards range between 40 to 75 decibels depending on the designated zone, with different standards for night and day. Presently, the ambient air quality in respect of the levels of sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and suspended particulate matter is 15-26 microgrammes per m3, 28-46 microgrammes per m3 and 362-452 microgrammes per m3 respectively. The ambient water quality of river Yamuna in respect of dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand and total coliform at Okhla is 1.3 mg/1, 16 mg/1 and 3,29,312/100 ml respectively. The ambient noise quality in many areas ranges between 75 to 85 decibels.



Prince of the times

Sir — Monarchy seems to be coming of age, or at least the Norwegian monarchy is (“Prince charming weds Cinderella”, Aug 26). The marriage of Norway’s crown prince, Haakon, to Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby, a single mother, is an unprecedented break from tradition. The marriage marks a milestone in various aspects. Never before has a marriage between a civilian and a member of royalty taken place without the royal being removed from the line of succession. This is also the first time that a royal has married a divorcee, that too with a child from a prior marriage, with the blessings of the church. When Edward VII had wanted to marry a civilian and a divorcee, Wallis Simpson, he had to abdicate as the church would not sanction the marriage. Although monarchy is an outdated institution in itself, while it exists it should try not to take age old traditions for granted, or else it will only survive as an anachronism, waiting to be abolished or disregarded by those who cannot relate to its values and customs.

Yours faithfully,
Malabika Mukherjee, Calcutta

House hooligans

Sir — The attempts of the Lok Sabha speaker, G.M.C. Balayogi, at maintaining discipline in Parliament is laudable and long overdue (“Rush to the well, pay Rs 2,500”, August 24). It is disgusting to see members of parliament shamelessly indulging in disruptive behaviour. While behaving in this manner, they resemble a bunch of hooligans or mischief-mongers out to create trouble. These politicians, the so-called “leaders of the nation”, fail to understand that thousands watch them when they make a spectacle of themselves in the house.

Balayogi has taken the right initiative to discipline these legislators. But a penalty of a mere Rs 2,500 is not enough considering that each adjourned session costs the taxpayer Rs 9.32 lakhs. A more severe punishment should be given to the MPs at fault. Also, MPs do not deserve a daily allowance of Rs 500 while the house is in session. The recent hike in their salaries and perks should be reconsidered as well. Hopefully, the speakers of the state assemblies will also learn a lesson from the Lok Sabha speaker.

Yours faithfully,
Sumati Yengkhom, via email

Sir — It is unfortunate that during the 22 days of the monsoon session of Parliament, 29 precious hours costing around Rs 2.70 crore were lost. The misconduct of MPs led to the house being adjourned on numerous occasions, resulting in the loss of money. These MPs seem to consider Parliament their fiefdom and behave like street rowdies inside the house.

G.M.C. Balayogi had taken the correct decision to throw out the Samata Party MP, Prabhunath Singh, from the house for rushing to the well and not heeding the speaker’s request. This sort of unruliness only results in the the lowering of the prestige of the house. The proposal to cancel the daily allowance of Rs 500 with an automatic suspension for five days for errant MPs is a step in the right direction. This should have been taken much earlier.

Errant MPs should remember the 50th year of independence when, cutting across party lines, they had promised to maintain the sanctity and decorum of Parliament. Unless these MPs are brought to book, democracy will continue to remain a mockery.

Two other much needed measures have also been taken by the speaker. First, the move to bar television cameras inside Parliament. This will stop politicians from rushing to the cameras after forcing an adjournment of the house, to gain some cheap popularity. Second, the formulation of a code of conduct for the print media to ensure the accurate reporting of Parliament proceedings.

Yours faithfully,
S. Balakrishnan, via email

Sir — Since I live outside India I am not used to such scenes in Parliament. I am not alone when I say that such behaviour from MPs not only displays a lack of discipline and manners, but also a complete ignorance and disregard of parliamentary procedures.

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Das, via email

Healthier cities

Sir — The leprosy board and the government of West Bengal pledged that the disease shall be eradicated by 2010. According to the available medical opinion, leprosy is a completely curable disease. Although the medicine for it is being distributed free of cost to hospitals and other health centres, there is inadequate supply in most districts because of a shortage of funds. The health authorities can solve the problem by selecting 15-20 medical stores in Calcutta and two or three in the districts where the medicine could be sold at a price fixed by the government.

Yours faithfully,
B.B. Biswas, Calcutta

Sir — There is a serious outbreak of malaria in the fort area of Mumbai. This is largely because of construction activities being undertaken near the city. The disease assumed serious proportions in the past, when a large number of labourers had come from other states to work for the construction of canals, waterways, tunnels and so on. Many of them were carriers of this killer disease. The situation now gets worse during the monsoons. The mosquitoes usually breed in the stagnant water used for construction.

The national malaria eradication programme has stated in its report that a high degree of drug resistance has been found in construction sites which attract a large number of labourers. Since these workers migrate constantly, the disease gets a chance to move to the other major cities.

Yours faithfully,
Balarka Batabyal, Mumbai

Cut out the olives

Sir — I recently took an Air India flight to the United States. It was a pleasant surprise to see the courteous service extended to passengers at both the Calcutta and the New York airports. The in-flight service matched that of any international airline and the quality of food was excellent.

I did feel, though, that Air India, the country’s premier airline, could reduce the quantity of food it serves as most of the food is wasted. This would help the airline save a lot of money. I had heard of an instance when one of the famous American airlines stopped serving olives. This helped it save millions of dollars.

Yours faithfully,
A.S. Mehta, Calcutta

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