Editorial 1 / Demanding ally
Editorial 2 / Rights and wrongs
Pipe down, America
Fifth Column / How the corrupt starve the poor
Letting loose a sectarian passion
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / DEMANDING ALLY 
 
 
 
 
It is outrageous for Pakistan to attempt to extract a price for its cooperation with United States-led efforts to bring to justice all those responsible for last week’s acts of terrorism. Terrorism and states that finance, train or harbour terrorists must not be rewarded, and there is overwhelming evidence that not only were the taliban a creation of Islamabad, but Pakistan also continues to be a breeding ground for extremists who are spreading havoc globally. If Pakistan is today seeking to rehabilitate itself within the community of nations, it must do so unconditionally. It must provide its support without linking it to a wish list of demands, and the international community must, with one voice, make this clear to the military regime in power in Islamabad

Consider first Islamabad’s ploy to manipulate the situation in New York and Washington to suit its interests. On the one hand, Pakistan has been pussyfooting on the issue of supporting possible military action against the taliban regime, which is sheltering the prime suspect in the terrorist actions, Mr Osama bin Laden. Although Islamabad has now sent a delegation to Afghanistan ostensibly to persuade the taliban to hand over Mr bin Laden, it has still not made it clear whether it will agree to its territory being used for military action in case all other avenues fail. On the other hand, it has been signalling that the price that the US and its allies would have to pay for greater support from Islamabad would be to keep India and Israel out of any multinational military effort. No less deviously, Pakistani officials have been suggesting that the US must also promise to actively intervene in the dispute over Kashmir and help to write off $ 30 billion in external debts.

There are a few home truths that must be brought to Islamabad’s notice. First, Islamabad is as much responsible for creating the network of terror that led to the tragedies of last Tuesday as the taliban regime in Afgh-anistan. Indeed, the US state department’s report, “Patterns of Global Terrorism — 2000” explicitly stated that Pakistan was providing the taliban with materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers. And it pointed out that Islamabad had failed to take effective steps to curb the activities of certain madrassahs that serve as recruiting grounds for terrorism. Second, the terrorists operating in Afghanistan cannot be separated from the extremists who are responsible for the heightened violence in Kashmir. The same forces responsible for bringing death and devastation in New York and Washington continue to operate in Kashmir. Finally, Islamabad cannot continue to hoodwink international public opinion by promising support on the one hand and doing little in reality, on the ground. There will be a backlash from the extremists, if Islamabad takes — as it must — stern action, but the Pakistani state should have realized, at least a couple of decades ago, that it is not easy to tackle a Frankenstein once it has been created. There are apprehensions in India that the US may, in its urgency to secure Mr bin Laden, agree to these preposterous demands, and the old Pentagon-Pakistani army nexus may be revived. There is little evidence to suggest that this is indeed happening. The US foreign policy establishment, short-sighted as it may have been in the past, can surely recognize that a deeply unstable military dictatorship that trains terrorists cannot become a reliable ally unless it radically transforms itself.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / RIGHTS AND WRONGS 
 
 
 
 
Life, liberty, equality and dignity are all violated by rape. Hence the language of human rights is often invoked in the ethical and legal discourse on rape. The law also makes human rights enforceable by the courts. So it makes sense that Chief Justice A.S. Anand has called upon judges to regard rape as a violation of human rights. This point has been made before by the Supreme Court. But such reminders could remain in the realm of abstractions, and the entire discussion of human rights could often sound almost meaninglessly lofty in relation to particular actualities. What Mr Anand’s reminder should lead to is a transformation of the defendant’s experience in the lower courts during the rape trial. The notion of human rights violation in the case of rape must therefore translate itself into judicial action and a corresponding change in social attitudes.

Seeing rape in relation to human rights immediately puts what the offence violates in the realm of the absolute and the universal. In real courtroom terms, this could place the defendant beyond social respectability, considerations of the woman’s “virtue”, of her role in “inciting” the offender, and so on. Society’s automatic assumptions regarding female sexuality enter the courtroom in many guises, and before the judgment is passed on the offender, the defendant also has to confront other forms of judgment. A human rights approach could, and should, cut through these profoundly discriminatory values. But the human rights emphasis risks a deeper peril. By making rape a fundamental form of violation, it could be seen as tantamount to taking life. And this further associates a woman’s sexual “honour” with her entire existence. Robbing her of her honour is then like finishing her off altogether. This could end up reducing a woman’s life to her sexual purity, a notion that could lead to dangerous forms of oppression in Indian society. Rape is a brutal and heinous crime, but there can be life (public and private) afterwards for the victim. If, in the largest sense, rape is seen as a violation of a woman’s right to govern her own sexuality, then that right must be sustained by ideas of equality, dignity and freedom for which Indian society will have to make some more room.

   

 
 
PIPE DOWN, AMERICA 
 
 
BY ASHOK MITRA
 
 
A week has gone by, but according to all indications, the American nation continues to be in a daze. It has reasons to be. That thousands of helpless people have lost their lives is of course a tragedy of immense proportions. For the United States citizens though, the trauma has far deeper sources. Suddenly the world’s only superpower has discovered that its might is of no avail. In one fell blow, it has been reduced to the level of ordinariness and this amazing feat has conceivedly been performed by a mere dozen or two dozens of desperadoes.

The haughty triumphant towers of American capitalism have been demolished in a jiffy; the Pentagon, symbol of American military prowess, has also been razed to the ground. Equally galling, the much vaunted Yankee intelligence apparatus has been exposed as an emperor without clothes.

The Americans deserve the world’s sympathy, and they have received it in generous magnitude from all over the world. Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban people, whom the American establishment has tried to starve to death for over 40 years now, was one of the earliest to offer his condolences in most graceful terms; he has offered whatever modest help his small country is capable of offering. Other erstwhile and current adversaries too have come forth with identical gestures of commiseration.

This is the time for introspection and understanding. The world comprehends the depth of the American agony. It is as if god’s own country has been deserted by god himself. The US has lost its omnipotence. It finds itself vulnerable, to an extent which could not have been imagined ever before. The calamity nonetheless does not permit either the Americans or their close allies to slur over the other facets of reality.

Never mind the discomfiture it has suffered, the US still remains the wealthiest and mightiest land on earth. It has the largest nuclear capability. It has, on its own volition, donned the mantle of global policeman. The assumption of such responsibility however implies a corresponding load of obligation; the exercise of power has to be combined with the exercise of mature judgment.

Whatever the impact of the shock that has shaken the nation, it does not behove Americans to lapse into hysteria. Unfortunately, this is precisely what the American establishment has chosen to opt for. It has, really and truly, gone berserk. The killing of thousands of innocent citizens is painful beyond words. But hyperboles such as bestial inhumanity should better be shoved aside. Trampling the value and sanctity of human lives is another sanctimonious cliché which does not deserve to be made too much of. To claim that the nadir of civilization was reached on September 11, 2001, is equally fatuous.

Would the good Americans kindly take the trouble of remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where 55 years ago, they put to death hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese people? Besides, hundreds of thousands were either deformed or grew up with embedded cancerous cells. Would the American nation have the humility to remember the thousands of Vietnam villages they napalmed out in the Sixties, thereby killing thousands of brave patriotic Asians? Would they also please refresh their minds with annals from almost contemporary history, for instance, how the bevy of American fighter planes unloaded crates of lethal bombs on the civil population of Iraq, including women and children? Or, given the datum that this piece is being composed on Indian soil, would the noble-hearted Americans care to spare one or two tears for the many thousands of poor innocent Indian citizens who were gassed to death in Bhopal in 1984 by a multinational company with headquarters in the US?

This is, in fact, the nitty-gritty issue. Reprisal and resentment cannot be a one-way street. Americans themselves have perpetrated great evils for which neither the US government nor the majority of that nation have had the courtesy to beg forgiveness from the rest of the world. They have gone their way as if nothing was the matter: only a number of people in some doggone countries have met with cruel death; so what, and it has been taken for granted that that was their assigned fate.

Let us be blunt, with the exception of a handful of honourable individuals, Americans as a nation have yet to perceive the quantum of anger and hatred that has welled up in the hearts and minds of millions and millions of men and women across the continents. Some amongst the latter have now struck back and with a ferocity that has stunned the constituents of the American establishment. They, these distinguished leaders of American society, appear to be unhinged. Their boiling indignation, they will, of course, assert, is of the righteous kind. Many will differ. There is, it will be said, such a thing as a symmetry in human affairs.

The purpose certainly is not to rub it in, but a quote from the greatest figure in English literature is particularly relevant at this moment. It is a well known passage, but is yet to lose its thrust: “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”

Substitute the sobriquet, “Jew”, by “Vietnamese” or “Indian” or “Arab”, and it could be a state-of-the-art morality lesson. If indeed the Septempber 11 atrocities were committed by the Arabs, they have only accomplished a better execution of the education imparted by the Americans all around the world.

But this is hardly the occasion for polemics. What is of priority concern is to plead with the great American nation that insensate anger needs to be dropped from the agenda. Blind reprisal, they should appreciate, will only invite a far worse and more perilous counter-reprisal. Leave out other considerations, because of the more globalized system the Americans have created in the course of the past two decades, even the manufacture of not just biological and chemical weapons, but of nuclear bombs too, it is possible to speculate, has by now been turned into a cottage industry.

In the white heat of their current mood, the American establishment is of course totally capable of obliterating from the face of the earth a number of countries they regard as their enemies. But are they prepared to take a wager that the response from the other side to such a measure would not take the form of the launching of a holocaust which could render into pulp the entire north American continent, including Canada?

If the US administration on its own is incapable of grasping the essence of this crude reality, it is for leaders of other nations such as China, the Russian federation, Germany and France to take the Americans aside and inform them of the facts of nuclear existence. Britain can be rutted out from this list of pacifiers. It is a burnt-out case, much in the manner of the government of India. Faithful lackeys are in this season the worst counsellors. The most appropriate appeal to beam at this juncture to the inhabitants of the northern half of the western hemisphere will seem to be: America, please pipe down, otherwise you might truly usher in the surcease of the human discourse.

Finally, for politeness’s sake, may one enquire: in this medley of confusion, what has happened to the United Nations? Is it simply hibernating or is it plain dead?

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / HOW THE CORRUPT STARVE THE POOR 
 
 
BY TILAK D. GUPTA
 
 
The starving tribals of the Kashipur block of Orissa’s Rayagada district, gave a stormy welcome to the chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, and the local Bharatiya Janata Dal legislator, Bibhisan Majhi, when they visited the villages from where cases of starvation deaths were reported by the media last week. The tribals threw mud and mango kernels at Patnaik’s cavalcade and beat up Majhi. There are confirmed reports that at least 21 persons, including women and children, have died in five villages of Kashipur. The opposition parties, however, claim that many more persons have perished because of a prolonged period of semi-starvation. The state government argues that people in Kashipur actually died of “food poisoning” after eating mango kernels and not of starvation.

The government of India has also sought to wash its hands of by shifting the responsibility to the state government for the disaster. The government has adequate food stocks to be delivered to the needy, but the states are not lifting their food quota meant for the deprived sections of the population, asserted the union minister for food, Shanta Kumar.

Meanwhile, the Kashipur deaths have become an explosive issue with the Congress deciding to launch a sustained campaign against both Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime and the Patnaik government for their “ failure to provide minimum food security to the people”. The Orissa chief minister’s much-delayed visit to Kashipur actually symbolizes the utter callousness and apathy of the state administration to the plight of the indigent tribal population of Orissa.

Explosive issue

They argued that Orissa, where government officials are notorious for their lethargy and corruption, the problem of starvation has been compounded because the price of rice from the public distribution system is beyond the reach of the poorest section of the tribal population in districts like Rayagada. It is however, another story that PDS rice allocated for the below poverty-line cardholders is being siphoned off by an unholy nexus of government officials, panchayat chiefs and traders. In August, the state government lifted only about 50 percent of its quota, informs the state food supplies and consumer welfare secretary, Jogendra Patra.

According to the state’s special relief commissioner, Hrishikesh Panda, the food grain component under the food-for-work scheme has not reached Kashipur; and the Antyodaya programme for supplying rice to the poor has not been launched. In the village of Panasguda, where at least seven people had died, official report suggests that the villagers were so poor that they pawned their BPL cards to a local money-lender, Dada Sabat. The local users bought off the subsidized rice to sell it at a profit in the open market.

Bottomless pit

Villages like Panasguda or Bada-maribhatta in Kashipur block have deep-rooted problems such as tribal landlessness and non-availability of employment opportunities, say NGO activists in Bhubaneswar. Usurious money lending and illegal alienation of tribal land have pushed the native inhabitants into a bottomless pit of poverty.

The starvation deaths have become both a major media event and a live political issue. The state Congress chief minister, J.B. Patnaik, says that the deaths were because of “criminal negligence of a callous government which allowed the creation of such a distress situation”. According to him, the death toll has further increased and a Congress enquiry team is presently verifying reports of about 26 more starvation deaths in the region. In a resolution adopted in September, the Orissa Pradesh Congress committee accused the Bharatiya Janata Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government of not adopting any programme for the BPL families since coming to power.

But will the outcry over Kashipur deaths help to improve tribal life in Orissa? A positive answer to this is not yet in sight. For the moment, there will be free kitchens run by social organizations or political parties in some villages and the government will dole out some rations or cash to the starving people for a brief period. But beyond that the tribals may continue to live a wretched life unless their income is enhanced through restoration of tribal land and effective implementation of different income-generation schemes.

   

 
 
LETTING LOOSE A SECTARIAN PASSION 
 
 
BY MAHESH RANGARAJAN
 
 
In a recent television discussion on implications of the terrorist attacks on the United States, two speakers struck contrasting notes. Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Narendra Modi, saw a congruity of the interests of India, Israel and the United States in the war against terror. He left no one in any doubt that Islam and terrorism could be synonymous. In doing so, he anticipated the tone and tenor of a major force in Indian politics.

Former envoy to Pakistan, G. Parthasarathy, was more cautious. Indian interests were distinct from those of other nations, and while all opportunity to protect them should be used, we should resist any easy equation of violence with any particular faith. India was against the export of violence without regard to creed or language, having been the victim of more than one kind of militancy supported from abroad. As a seasoned diplomat and patriotic Indian, second to none in protecting the country’s security interests, he cautioned against a knee-jerk, ideologically driven response that would prove detrimental to the country in the long run.

The debate drives home a critical point. The attacks on prime targets in New York and Washington are more than a day that shook up the world’s only superpower. They also brought the region we live in to the centre of the world stage. For the first time since the Soviet intervention in December 1979, Afghanistan, and indeed the entire region, is back in the crucible of world politics. For a decade after that invasion, the US funded, armed and assisted anti-Soviet fighters, tapping the wellsprings of discontent in many Muslim countries. Islam was reduced to a weapon against international communism.

The prime beneficiary was the Pakistani military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq. Under Hamid Gul, the Inter-Services Intelligence tried to realize a dream of many that have ruled the plains of south Asia — to project their power across the Hindu Kush. The exit of the Soviets in 1989 only confirmed to the world, as it did to the British on as many as three occasions, that the country was not hospitable for conquest. Pakistan’s rulers, both military and civilian, tried another tack: they used the madrassahs in the western half of their country as a springboard to put in place a regime more amenable to their own interests. By the mid-Nineties, the taliban were in power.

Yet, there are other disconcerting parts to the story which an Indian leadership would do well to take note of. Ahmed Rashid’s superb study of the taliban places its ascendancy in the broader context of international rivalry over oil and trade routes. The taliban initially won powerful backing from a section of the international oil industry. It all went awry as their ideologically driven brutality alienated powerful Western lobbies, including women.

But for a long time, the door remained open. Prince Turki, head of Saudi intelligence, who first met the leadership of the taliban on a bustard hunt on the border in winter 1994, brokered a deal. Far from being simply a group of fanatics, the taliban won support from a host of national states. These included the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It is only after Osama bin laden, the Saudi dissident sheltered in the country, used it as a base against the US, that the latter blackballed him. Till as recently as two years ago, this was not the case.

Nations, as the diplomatic saying goes, have no permanent enemies or friends. They do, however, have stable interests. From an Indian standpoint, the worst possible outcome of the Soviet incursion was the gift of weapons and cash bestowed on Pakistan. These also enabled it to stave off repeated Indian calls for international pressure, first in the case of Punjab and then on Kashmir. More seriously, the defeat of the red army served as a beacon for a new, more militarized notion of jihad, put to use in the troubled waters of Kashmir. If the Eighties saw the West use religion as a rallying call, the Nineties saw Pakistan and its taliban allies lead the charge. India paid a heavy price on both occasions. Yet, it would be a grave miscalculation to let reason be prisoner at a time like this. Now that the Western world has realized how painful and ghastly terrorist strikes can be, India needs ask, while being sympathetic to human aspects of the tragedy, what it wants and why.

Far from equating Islam with militancy, India has made common cause with many Muslim majority countries. It is of great significance that in its diplomatic offensive, successive Indian regimes have seen geography as a critical factor. That explains the overtures to Iran on the west, and to the central Asian states, especially Tajikistan in the north. Egypt and Indonesia, two countries that have always tried to reconcile their pre-Islamic heritage with their faith, have also been crucial to India at the international level.

It is here that the ideological blinkers of the present regime and its domestic calculations need to be watched carefully. On his visit to Israel, the home minister, L.K. Advani, talked about the common problem of cross- border terrorism. The sangh parivar’s outfits have spoken of common links of India with “the Jewish people”. Such facile observations do not even make the obvious comparison between two religion-based nation-states, Israel and Pakistan. Nor do they acknowledge the non-denominational basis of nationhood common to Indians and Pales- tinians.

More seriously, such a tone is expected to be more strident not at the highest levels of government but in the propaganda machinery of the party and its fraternal outfits. The forthcoming campaign in the Uttar Pradesh elections will probably see a stepped up ideological offensive. The idea of a militant Islam fits well with the notion of India as a homeland for Hindus. Already, the state government has put on war footing the detection of Bangladeshi immigrants. If the past is any guide, this can easily degenerate into an excuse to harass Muslims who make up 15 per cent of the population in UP.

Vajpayee is at his best when it comes to foreign policy. Part of the reason is the relative absence of direct conflicts of interest with domestic constituencies, such as those of his National Democratic Alliance allies. But there are disconcerting notes that arise from the domestic compulsions of the sangh parivar.

The contrast with the past is instructive. In 1971 and again in 1979, under Indira Gandhi, India used the currents of international politics to defend and advance its own interests. In the Bangladesh crisis, the Soviets were drawn in to forestall a US intervention on the side of the Yahya Khan regime. At the end of the decade, India resisted the pressure to be part of an anti-Soviet line up, not because the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was seen as positive, but because of national interests. These dictated that the long-term implications of US aid to the mujahedin would run counter to this country’s plural character and to its core strategic interests.

At the dawn of a new century, India must help in countering terror, but it cannot afford any easy equation of violence with a faith that has so many adherents within its borders. A rapid unilateral military response will have repercussions no less tragic for this region than that which followed the great games of the superpowers in the post-1979 epoch.

The NDA has to pursue strategic options while it guards the interests of all Indians in peace and security. This, no less than Ayodhya, will be a litmus test for the BJP-led government.

The author is an independent researcher on ecology and political affairs and former fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum Library, New Delhi

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Unguarded response

Sir — The events of the last few days seem to signal the fact that the first war of the 21st century may be only a couple of days away. With the president of the United States talking of hunting down those responsible for the attacks in New York and Pentagon, some form of military action against Afghanistan is imminent. However, India seems to have jumped the gun in its eagerness to please American policy-makers as well as to garner support for its much publicized stand on terrorism. The Indian prime minister in his address to the nation was guilty of using the same high-sounding rhetoric as his American counterpart. India’s condemnation of those who commit terrorist acts is understandable, given that it has been dealing with Pakistan-sponsored militancy for a long time. But one cannot help wondering whether South Block has paused to ponder the possible ramifications of any retaliatory action by the US. The editorial, “Advantage India”(Sept 16), too, seemed overtly optimistic in its assessment of India’s response.

Yours faithfully,
Radha Guha Roy, via email

Race against time

Sir — As was predicted by the intelligentsia in India, neither the Indian government nor the media was overtly interested in the discussions that transpired in the United Nations conference on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, religious intolerance and other issues. Even though the different Dalit lobbies in India had campaigned enthusiastically to include caste as a subject of deliberation in the conference, their demands were rejected by the Indian government which maintained its stand on the issue by reiterating that caste should not be confused with race.

Quite expectedly, problems of the Dalits and other backward classes were not discussed in the meet. Even though they faced stiff opposition from Indian officials, Dalit activists staged demonstrations, sit-ins and registered other forms of protest to publicize their cause. The Indian delegation, however, laid greater emphasis on issues like racism, slavery, colonialism and the west Asia peace process. India’s refusal to include caste as a subject of discussion ensured that the problems faced by the lower castes in India remained under the wraps.

Yours faithfully,
Kaustav Gupta, Calcutta

Sir — A.K. Biswas’s article, “Ways of an unequal land” (Sept 3),was disturbing. It seemed to have blown out of proportion the discrimination faced by the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in India. One would recall that the system of reservations was first introduced in the erstwhile Madras presidency to assist the lower castes. At that time 74 communities had been listed as backward. After more than seven decades of the reservation system, their number has gone up to 273. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, had warned against the dangers inherent in the policy of reservation, which he felt could compromise efficiency.

Even if one were to accept Biswas’s argument, a careful analysis of facts would reveal that the reservation system has aggravated discrimination based on caste and led to further segregation. Indian policy-makers had been of the opinion that reservations must only be on the basis of caste. Now it has been extended to economically backward classes as well.

It is the weak and the poor who are discriminated against in every society and reservation does not protect their interests. Since the government is aiming for social justice, Muslims should also be brought under the ambit of reservations, given that they too are subject to discrimination in many respects. However, since the political class in India comprises of a bunch of self-serving politicians who are incapable of creative thinking, they have made sure that important issues take a backseat on their agenda.

As things stand today, no political party would think of changing the quota system. Yet a much better alternative is within reach. Free education and stipends could be given to those who are socially and economically backward so as to bring them at par with the rest. The implementation of this system would ensure that everyone can compete for jobs without any group receiving special advantages.

Yours faithfully,
Swagata Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — It was shocking to read A.K. Biswas’s article. Even though most of us are aware of caste oppression, it was nevertheless painful to read about incidents in which Dalit women were being paraded naked in front of their relatives or of women of lower castes being punished for drinking water out of the same well as the higher castes. Biswas is right in pointing out that in this era of information and accountability, India should not have tried to sideline the issue of caste by opposing its inclusion in the agenda of the Durban conference.

Yours faithfully,
Piyali Mukherjee, via email

Still teething

Sir — The editorial, “Teething trouble”(Sept 5), has rightly portrayed the need for developing the state of Jharkhand. The government should give due importance to the uplift of the adivasis in the state. The first task of any government in the state is to spread education among the tribals. There are two obstacles in the path of development. Half of the 22 districts are under the control of radical, militant groups like the People’s War Group, Maoist Communist Centre and the Communist Party Of India (Marxist-Leninist). Their anti-government tirade would prove to be the main hindrance. Second, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha under Shibu Soren is playing havoc in the newly created state. The JMM and the National Democratic Alliance leaders, instead of squabbling among themselves, should pay attention to the problems affecting the region and ensure the all-round development of Jharkhand.

Yours faithfully,
Mili Das, Sindri

Sir — There has been a steady deterioration in Jharkhand after its formation. The state of electricity supply is appalling despite the existence of several power stations. Corruption has increased, especially in the state’s taxation department. The Babulal Marandi administration should immediately adopt necessary measures if it wants to survive its full term.

Yours faithfully,
S.P. Kisku, Dhanbad

Sir — Poverty among the tribals in Jharkhand is abysmal. This is disappointing given the fact that the region is rich in mineral deposits and forest cover. The Laloo Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi government of Bihar had nothing for the people of this region and from the present situation it is evident even the Marandi government will fail them. As before, public money is fattening the pockets of politicians and bureaucrats. The chief minister should concentrate on the development of the state instead of his seat.

Yours faithfully,
Manoranjan Das, Jamshedpur

The rot within

Sir— To get a passport for myself, I had submitted my form at the Dalhousie office. A few days later, an inspector came to my house to verify a few details. He also asked me to see him at his office at A.J. C. Bose Road and indirectly asked for money. When I went to meet him, I was shocked to see officials demanding exorbitant amounts from others and harrassing those who refused to pay. It was disgusting to see them accept bribes despite despite a good salary. That the government itself must be aware of this corruption is even more disconcerting.

Yours faithfully,
Rahul Mehra, Calcutta

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