Editorial 1 / Easing labour
Editorial 2 / Mission possible
Two standards for terror
Fifth Column / Ariel sharon’s problem
A statute of liberty
Document / Watchdogs to guard property
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / EASING LABOUR 
 
 
 
 
Are reforms gathering momentum? On September 1, the national development council adopted a 14-point plan to stimulate the economy. On September 4, a new cabinet committee on economic strategy was formed. On September 6, McKinsey unveiled a 13-point action plan to jack up the growth trajectory to 10 per cent. On September 7, the trade and industry council met, and on September 10, there was a meeting of the economic advisory council. On top of this, there was the cabinet reshuffle. The crucial elements in the government’s attempt to trigger reforms are infrastructure, disinvestments, labour market reforms and agricultural reforms. Of these, infrastructure is long-term and agricultural sector reforms are stuck because of resistance by states. This leaves disinvestments and labour market reforms. The government’s disinvestment intentions explain Arun Shourie’s elevation and the shifting of Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan. And labour market reforms explain the shifting of S.N. Jatiya. The idea of labour market reforms has been harped on long enough. Other than the budget speech, there was the prime minister’s economic advisory council’s report a few days before the budget. The Montek Singh Ahluwalia task force on employment opportunities mentioned them, as did McKinsey’s 13-point action plan. In fact, McKinsey also quantifies this arguing that labour market rigidities and inadequate transport infrastructure account for a loss of 0.5 per cent in gross domestic product growth. At the heart of the problem are statutes on industrial relations — implying the Industrial Disputes Act, the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act and the Trade Unions Act.

Of these, amendments to the Trade Unions Act have been approved by the cabinet and have been pending for some time. Issues concerning the Industrial Disputes Act relate to chapter V-B. Ideally, chapter V-B is dysfunctional and ought to be scrapped. Instead, the government proposes to limit the applicability of chapter V-B to enterprises with more than 1000 employees and increase the retrenchment compensation. An industrial relations bill has been promised but faces resentment from the second labour commission, which believes its turf is being encroached upon, and from trade unions. Amendments to the Contract Labour Act are unclear. But something will have to be done about section 10, since the judgments of the courts have made the abolition of contract labour mandatory, rather than discretionary. Labour market rigidities are indeed a problem and explain the artificially high capital intensity in organized sector industry to which the bulk of labour legislation applies. Incidentally, less than 8 per cent of labour is employed in the organized sector and there is a trade-off between protecting the interests of the labour aristocracy that is presently employed in the organized sector and the broader interests of labour in the unorganized sector, since jobs are lost because of high capital intensity. Labour market rigidities also prevent the exit of companies, as opposed to the exit of labour. However, the opposition of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the induction of Sharad Yadav does not augur well for labour market reforms. Someone who blocked Air India disinvestments is likely to be equally adept at blocking changes here as well.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / MISSION POSSIBLE 
 
 
 
 
Peace is more important for people than governments that may come and go. A people’s initiative for peace, even if limited in scope, can have a more enduring appeal than complex official manoeuvres. The recent visit of an eight-member Naga delegation to Assam on what its leader called a “journey of conscience” was one such overture that could go a long way in healing old wounds in the Northeast. The inviting of the Naga group by a literary body, the Asam Sahitya Sabha, is a welcome non-governmental move for mutual understanding and goodwill in the region. The leader of the delegation and Naga Hoho president, Mr M. Vero, could therefore justifiably hope that the sabha would play a crucial role in the “regeneration” of the Northeast. Given the history of strains and misgivings between Assam and Nagaland over old boundary disputes and now over the extension of the Naga ceasefire, the visit could well be described as a journey of hope. Nagaland had long retained many of the old linguistic and cultural links with its parent state. Revived and nourished, these links could again help the people in both states understand each other better. Rebuilding such apolitical bridges could also help both the Assamese and the Nagas cope with the problems that decades of insurgency had brought upon them.

It is a measure of the visit’s impact that even the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom welcomed it. It is another matter that the outfit used the occasion to warn the people in the region against New Delhi’s “divide and rule policy”. It seemed that in doing this the ULFA missed the point of the visit. The idea behind it was to try and foster goodwill among neighbouring states beyond statecraft. Against the backdrop of recent violence in Manipur over the Naga ceasefire issue, such goodwill missions between the two states could be a major move forward toward peace and ethnic harmony. Meiteis and Nagas in Manipur need to shed the ceasefire-related mistrust to ensure peace before the next assembly polls. Ethnic disturbances have taken as heavy a toll in the Northeast as local insurgencies. The Naga Hoho’s journey was the first of its kind and would hopefully inspire others to join the walk.

   

 
 
TWO STANDARDS FOR TERROR 
 
 
BY K.P. NAYAR
 
 
As Jaswant Singh, the minister for external affairs and defence, flies to Washington shortly, he may well reflect on the words of Yosef Bodansky shortly after last week’s events in New York and Washington. Few people have studied the phenomenon of Osama bin Laden as thoroughly as Bodansky: he was until recently the director of the United States congressional task force on terrorism. His book on bin Laden is the most authoritative reference material on the individual who is best described by that book’s title — “The Man Who Declared War on America”.

Bodansky was asked in one of numerous interviews after last week’s attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon if there was anything the Americans could do to assuage bin Laden’s anger against the US. The reply that Bodansky gave to that question was chilling: “Pack up and live in another planet.” As President George W. Bush prepares for military action against bin Laden, and countries like India consider their options, Bodansky’s observation assumes relevance. His suggestion to Americans to pack up and leave this planet is not defeatist. Nor is it a criticism of the US, coming as it does from a formidable defender of the American establishment, and also a part of it.

Indeed, as the world’s only super-power prepares for war against the tiniest of its enemies in military terms, Bush and his advisers will have to consider several factors underlying Bodansky’s remark. The prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, will have to do this as well, if India is to play any active role in the coalition which Bush hopes to build against international terrorism.

It would be tempting for Bush in the coming weeks to get anyone on board his proposed anti-terrorist coalition, just the way his father built the world’s most improbable coalition against Saddam Hussein 11 years ago. That coalition included such implacable foes as Syria and Egypt, the US and Russia. The coming coalition, by the present reckoning, will have as its frontline state, the very country which created the taliban, namely Pakistan. In the current wave of solidarity with the US, which is sweeping the world, it may appear politically incorrect to discriminate against anyone who wants to join in the fight against global terror.

After all, never before, not even during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis did the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoke Chapter 5 of its charter which declares that an attack against one of its members is an attack on all of NATO. That this chapter of the charter was invoked at a time when America’s NATO partners are peeved about Bush’s insistence on building a national missile defence is evidence of the wide support which the US enjoys in the wake of the terror at the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

Yet, it would be short-sighted to build an alliance of convenience if America’s objective is to destroy what bin Laden stands for and not just to eliminate bin Laden, the individual. The latter course would merely compound the circumstances which have made Bodansky offer no choice to Americans other than to pack up and leave this planet to escape bin Laden and his band of followers.

A coalition of convenience will also merely attack the symptoms, not the cause, just as the alliance put together by father Bush did not arrive at a final solution to the problem of Saddam Hussein. It merely vacated the occupation of Kuwait and placed the small Gulf emirate permanently under the shadow of Hussein and dependent on the West for its security.

What Jaswant Singh and his counterparts from countries like Turkey, which have been victims of terror for many years, should impress upon Bush is that the US cannot any more afford to have two standards for terror. It cannot react one way, as it has done now, when its interests are hurt by acts of terrorism.

It cannot turn a blind eye to the menace of terrorism when the victims are elsewhere — in India, for instance, at the hands of the very forces which have now destroyed the most prominent symbol of New York. To say it now may seem improper and insensitive. But not to say it will be like nurturing the root and trunk of a tree while merely cutting its branches. The branches will grow again as the years pass.

There is no need for anyone in India to feel squeamish about doing some plainspeaking in Washington now because some of America’s close allies have been doing just that. For that matter, even the US congress has not been willing to give their president any unlimited powers to wage war. But its members — and the rest of the country — have united solidly behind Bush in this hour of crisis for America. Britain, which is its closest partner, has made it clear that NATO’s support for the US in its hour of need does not amount to a “blank cheque” for war. Other NATO members have expressed similar views. The Germans have gone so far as to insist that they are not confronted with any threat from terrorists as of now. Turkey, despite being America’s NATO partner, has not been forthcoming in the offer of either its bases or its air space for any action against Afghanistan.

Such sane, if uncomfortable, advice has also been coming from those who are not exactly America’s allies, but only friends. The national security adviser to Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, put it bluntly to the Americans during a visit to Washington last weekend, “If bin Laden is punished and the war in Afghanistan is not stopped, another bin Laden will appear.” He gave the Bush team a blueprint for progress on Afghanistan, instead of merely advocating revenge for last week’s terror attacks.

So, why should India rush in where America’s own allies fear to tread? While expressing sympathy and support, which America richly deserves now, New Delhi should not lose sight of the undercurrents in Washington during this crisis, which will have ramifications for American policy-making long after it is over. The crisis triggered by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington has forced the secretary of state, Colin Powell, to finally emerge from the shadows and be his charismatic and influential self.

This has overcome stinging criticism of Powell in recent weeks and charges that he has been marginalized at a personal level by the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and at an ideological level by the trio of the vice-president, Dick Cheney, Rice and the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. After being pushed around in policy-making by the conservative trio on issues such as NMD, the environment and north Korea, the conservatives had to give in to Powell last week. Powell played probably the most important role in persuading NATO to invoke Chapter 5 in support of the US. To a large extent, Powell’s diplomatic successes last week were the result of his wide personal contacts made during the years when he was chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff under father Bush.

The current president is severely handicapped by the absence of such contacts, which his father had in abundance thanks to his assignments prior to presidency, the least important of which was his stewardship of the Central Intelligence Agency. Powell has been a lone advocate of multilateralism within the current foreign policy-making group in the White House. His rivals for influence in the administration all favour unilateralism.

America needs multilateral support now if it is to strike back against the terrorists in Afghanistan. Powell is best suited to build such support. From India’s point of view, the obverse of Powell’s rising influence under the present circumstances is his proximity to the men in power in Rawalpindi. America’s army men have all along had a close relationship with their counterparts at the army general headquarters in Rawalpindi. Powell is now using his influence in Rawalpindi to America’s advantage in the biggest challenge yet faced by the infant Bush presidency. And he seems to be winning. Powell has already paid glowing tributes to Pakistan in public.

What these tributes translate into after the crisis is over is worth watching and waiting for. India is right in maintaining that the problem of terrorism should not be trivialized on Indo-Pakistan terms and that a civilizational approach is called for. But it is one thing to take the high moral road and yet another to succumb to realpolitik the way Washington is veering round to in its dealings with Islamabad.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / ARIEL SHARON’S PROBLEM 
 
 
BY GWYNNE DYER
 
 
“From the perspective of the Jews, it is the most important public relations act ever committed in our favour,” said the Israeli counter-terrorism expert, Ehud Sprintzak, the day after Islamic terrorists took at least 5,000 lives in the United States on 11 September. “The pictures are terrible, but better than 1,000 ambassadors trying to explain how dangerous Islamic terror is.” The mass-circulation daily, Yediot Ahronot, declared on September 12 that “from now on the world will be divided between those who support terror...and those who stand against it. The freedom of action for those who fight terror will be, in the eyes of the Americans, almost absolute.”

The prime minister, Ariel Sharon, clearly believes that, and has spent the past week hammering the Palestinians while issuing frequent statements that equate the Palestinian Authority chairman, Yasser Arafat, with the Afghan-based terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden. “Everyone has his own bin Laden. Arafat is our bin Laden,” he recently told the US secretary of state, Colin Powell.

But the analogy between bin Laden and Arafat is obviously false, the blank cheque Sharon imagines he has lacks a signature, and he may expect to feel a sharp jerk on the reins any moment now.

False analogy

The analogy is false because while bin Laden is a stateless terrorist dedicated to driving all non-believers from Muslim lands (including Israel) by force, Arafat is a head of state in all but name. He recognises Israel’s right to exist, and has spent the past eight years trying to negotiate a peace agreement with various Israeli governments.

The US government is well aware of that, whatever the state of American public opinion. It also knows that the outbreak of the second intifada was a largely spontaneous event, and that Arafat has little or no control over the Palestinian organizations — primarily Hamas and Islamic Jihad — that are making the suicide attacks in Israel. Nor is there any suggestion that these outfits would be foolish enough to strike directly at anybody but their immediate Israeli enemy.

Indeed, there is a clear understanding at senior levels of the US government that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with its dreary daily toll of shootings and beatings, suicide bombs and gunship attacks, is an encysted quarrel which can and should be treated as a separate case from global Islamic terrorism. There is an equally clear understanding that the heat must be turned down on this quarrel if Washington is to succeed in building the global coalition that President George W. Bush has promised to the American people.

Entry into Jerusalem

At street level throughout the west Asia and as far away as Pakistan, the key issue influencing public opinion is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So long as Palestinians are being killed by Israelis every day — the current death toll in nearly a year of violence is 629 Palestinians and 173 Israelis — it will be very dangerous for the governments of Muslim-majority countries to take an active role in Washington’s anti-terrorist coalition. So Israel is going to be told to lay off.

This is what happened ten years ago, when George W. Bush’s father was building another coalition of Western and west Asian countries to deal with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. To ease the domestic problems of friendly Arab leaders, Israel was ordered not to retaliate directly against Iraq even if Saddam Hussein attacked it with missiles (as he did). The US also promised a major effort at a comprehensive peace settlement after the immediate problem was dealt with.

It is always a problem for Jerusalem when the US has to weigh its sympathy for Israel against calculations of its own national interest. This is such a time, and Israel is already starting to feel the heat. “The United States is trying to establish a coalition against terrorism and wants Muslim elements to be in that coalition, also Arab elements,” the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, has said. “If it is possible to push the Palestinian issue aside or to solve it in a positive way, that is important to them because (the Palestinian issue) can hinder the establishment of that coalition.”

Peres, a relative dove in the present Israeli government, may secretly welcome this American pressure for a truce and a deal with the Palestinians, but Ariel Sharon is going to hate it.

   

 
 
A STATUTE OF LIBERTY 
 
 
BY ANSU DATTA
 
 
Given the disagreement between delegate countries and their respective situations, Durban’s action plan will be difficult to implement, writes By Ansu Datta The curtain came down on the stage in Durban which hosted the world conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance — 24 hours after the scheduled time and only after further deliberations were cut short by blocking votes. Unending bickering fatigued many, including interpreters, who reportedly made themselves scarce at the end. Even the imminent risk of having electric lights dismantled at the end of the meet did not diminish the ardour of debaters — an indication of the contemporary relevance of the subject matter.

If this shows the complexity of the issues the conference set before itself, it also shows the tenacity and the passionate commitment of organizers and participants alike. They all knew that to agree to disagree would be disastrous. Perhaps this is what saved the conference from collapse more than once in eight days.

Durban has earned the distinction of hosting the largest world conference which tried to address the issue of discrimination. There were 2,300 representatives from 163 countries, including 16 heads of state. NGOs from around the world sent about 4,000 representatives, while more than 1,100 journalists were accredited.

The final session voted for a declaration of principles on racial discrimination and allied issues. It also adopted a 27-page action plan to combat discrimination, committing member states of the United Nations to undertake a wide range of measures to combat racism and discrimination “at the international, regional and national levels”. The 163 participating countries agreed to implement the programme of action.

The conference recognized that race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origins may constitute grounds for discrimination and that other sources may include language, sex, religion, political or other opinion, social origin, property, birth or status determined by other criteria.

An issue that brought the conference on the verge of collapse was the Palestine question. It caused the early withdrawal of Israeli and American delegates from the meeting as Arab states intended to condemn Israel as a racist state. Finally, expressing concern about the plight of the Palestinian people “under foreign occupation”, the conference recognized their “inalienable right” to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent state.

The conference also put on record the full enormity of the slave trade — another issue that proved equally intractable. “Slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so”, solemnly announced the conference. Yet it stopped short of insisting on a formal apology from those that benefited from it and noted that “some states have taken the initiative of regretting or expressing remorse or presenting apologies, and called on all those who have not yet contributed to restoring the dignity of the victims to find appropriate ways to do so.” Countries such as the United Kingdom were reportedly against such a step for the fear that a full admission of guilt might lead to litigation and demands for compensation from Africa and African-Americans. To make up for this, the meeting announced that the world owes the victims of the slave trade support and help to restore their dignity and repair the damage slavery did to them.

The final documents dealt with some other vexed issues. It emphasized that cultural diversity should be valued. It also supported the idea that the children of minority groups should be taught their own culture and educated in their own language.

The conference urged countries to address racial discrimination in their criminal justice systems. It additionally asked them not to discriminate between migrants and asylum-seekers on grounds of race. It further called on governments to take appropriate action on a variety of issues, for example, to ensure that gypsies enjoy equal right to education, that people with AIDS have access to medical services, and that government agencies do not engage in racial or ethnic profiling.

It would, however, be necessary to point out that the issue of caste was not mentioned in the final documents. Some reporters have attributed this to the effective lobbying of the representatives of the government of India. This has proved a source of great disappointment to the Dalit activists who went to Durban. Nevertheless, many of them think that the conference created international awareness about the caste issue. As one of them remarked: “We are feeling connected. We are not alone”.

Reactions to the outcome of the conference are as diverse as the sartorial outfits of the delegates and the activists. Predictably, to the organizers, the conference was a success. On the other hand, a spokesman of the United States, said, the US had no second thoughts about leaving the conference earlier than intended. A statement issued by the Israeli foreign ministry said that the final document was “not the best”. The Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, was more blunt. He regretted that what took place in Durban “was a scandal”. Taking a dig at his adversaries, he remarked that this happened because “a majority of non-democratic countries tried to give democracy lessons to democratic countries.”

A number of Western nations, too, were not satisfied with the reference to west Asia in the final document. This despite the fact that “the right to security for all states in the region, including Israel was recognized”, along with “the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent state”. Immediately after the adoption of this paragraph, Canada and Australia disassociated themselves from the conference.

Many black delegates thought that the paragraph on slavery was inadequate. But there was some satisfaction that the injustice and inhumanity of slavery was recognized for the first time at such an international forum. Referring to the resolution on slavery and slave trade, Kenyan representative, Amina Mohamed, said, “for the first time, the dignity of the black man has been recognized”.

Given the enormity of the harm done to Africa because of the slave trade, it is indeed surprising that this issue was never addressed in like manner. According to an estimate, from 1450 to 1850 at least 12 million Africans were taken as slaves across the Atlantic — mainly to colonies in the New World. It is often forgotten that the commercial and industrial growth of western Europe owes in a significant measure to the slave trade and that the trade in humans laid the foundation of cities such as Liverpool and Amsterdam. Attempts are now being made in the US to find out how much of the country’s wealth was generated by slave labour. Estimates vary from 10 per cent to 20 per cent.

The assessment of the outcome of the conference could not be better summed up than in the words of Dina Kraft, a journalist. The conference, she said, “ended … as tumultuously as it began, with a declaration and programme of action that was immediately cited as groundbreaking and momentous, hurtful and disastrous, and everything in between.”

There are many countries in the world where implementation of the conference’s plan of action would mean a radical change of official policy and practice. Since the documents are not legally binding, and given the enormity of social prejudice in many countries, one wonders how much one can hope for. The UN will set up a panel of five experts to help countries execute the plan and to monitor progress. However, without a time-bound framework, this becomes uncertain.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / WATCHDOGS TO GUARD PROPERTY 
 
 
 
 
The protection of intellectual property rights in India continues to be strengthened. There is a well-established statutory, administrative and judicial framework to safeguard rights, whether they relate to patents, trademarks, copyright or industrial designs. Well-known international trademarks have been protected in India even when they were not registered in India. The Indian Trademarks Law has been extended through court decisions to service marks in addition to trade marks for goods. Computer software companies have successfully curtailed piracy through court orders. Computer databases have been protected...

India is availing of the transition period available under article 65 of the TRIPs agreement to meet her obligations under the seven areas covered by the agreement. India’s achievements in this field have been in the passing of TRIPs plus legislation in the field of copyright law. The 1994 amendment to the Act of 1957 provides protection to all original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, cinematography films and sound recordings. The most recent changes bring sectors such as satellite broadcasting, computer software and digital techno-logy under Indian copyright protection...

The International Intellectual Property Association has mentioned...raids against pirates. It, however, has also mentioned a number of enforcement problems, including the increase in mobility of pirate wholesalers and retailers as enforcement has increased, occasional leaks of information from enforcement authorities to pirate operators, and the slow progress of cases through the courts. The government of India has also greatly intensified anti-piracy operations.

The government has also taken a number of measures to strengthen the enforcement of copyright law... Measures taken by the department of education, ministry of human resource development, for strengthening the enforcement of the copyright and neighboring rights include the constitution of a copyright enforcement advisory council, creation of separate cells in state police headquarters, encouraging setting up of collective administration societies and organization of seminars and workshops to cre- ate greater awareness about copyright law...

The CEAC is reconstituted from time to time to review periodically the progress of enforcement of the Copyright Act and to advise the government on measures for improving the enforcement... The CEAC members include representatives of copyright industry organizations and chiefs of state police forces. The CEAC meet at least twice every year...

Special cells for copyright enforcement have so far been set up in the following 23 states and Union territories: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Andaman and NicobarIslands, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Due, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Orissa, Pondicherry, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal. States have also been advised to designate a nodal officer for copyright enforcement to facilitate easy interaction by copyright industry organizations and copyright owners.

For collective administration of copyright, copyright societies are set up for different classes of work. At present there are three such societies — Society for Copyright Regulations of Indian Producers of Films & Television for cinematography films, Indian Performing Rights Society Limited for musical works and Phonographic Performance Limited for sound recordings.

The government also initiates a number of seminars on copyright issues. The participants in these include the police as well as representatives of industry organizations. The ministry is also proposing to have a few new schemes... These provide for extending financial assistance to the states for setting up/strengthening the special copyright enforcement cells,... for encouraging study of intellectual property rights in the educational system, besides modernizing the copyright office...

The IIPA has also suggested that a central body be set up at the federal level to coordinate enforcement. For the time being, the government of India is working on strengthening the copyright enforcement cells at the state level.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Second among equals

Sir — Hats off to Mira Nair for bagging the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice international film festival, the world’s oldest film fare, for her film Monsoon Wedding. The picture of her receiving the award, which graced the front page of The Telegraph (Sept 10), was a fitting tribute to an Indian director who has consistently made a mark in the international film circuit with almost each and every one of her films. What caught my eye was the caption accompanying this photograph. The caption claimed that Nair is the first Indian and the first woman to win this honour at the festival. While she might be the first woman to have won this award, she is definitely not the first Indian to have done so. Another Indian director, Satyajit Ray, had won the same award in 1957 for his film, Aparajito. Incorrect information such as this, and that too on the front page, only helps draw the reader’s attention away from the news and focus on the glaring discrepancy made by the daily.

Yours faithfully,
Sreela Gupta, Calcutta

Past follies

Sir — The editorial, “Call of the past” (Sept 9), elicited one of the major reasons why most investors have lost interest in West Bengal, although the state desperately needs to resurrect its industrial sector. Despite the presence of the West Bengal industrial development corporation and the efforts of the former chief minister, Jyoti Basu, very few investments have flowed into the state. Many industrialists who started business in the state are now investing elsewhere. The state government sponsored Raichak hotel venture, which invited a host of investors, proved to be a futile exercise. The rosy reports prepared by Arthur D. Little and McKinsey have also proved false. The “agitational practices” of the left in the state has created an unfriendly atmosphere for business ventures. Worse, while Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee hopes to change the scenario, his colleagues, Biman Bose and Anil Biswas, still spew anti-industrialist venom.

In the late Nineties, Basu had tried to introduce an improved work culture among the state’s labour force. But he failed to instil work ethics even among the employees in the Writer’s Buildings. The fulminations of Bhattacharjee and Nirupam Sen about improving the situation in Bengal do not sound very convincing. Labour unionism is still strident, as evidenced from the ugly incidents at the Baranagar and the Howrah Jute Mills. The poor law and order situation is obvious from the frequent abductions of various businessmen in the state. None of these, leave alone the frequent bandhs and rallies, will encourage investment.

Yours faithfully,
M. Das, Jamshedpur

Sir — The editorial, “Call of the past”, has rightly highlighted the past misdeeds of the left and their indulgence in reckless demonstrations, as if this was their democratic right. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee might be singing a different tune now, but this has been prompted by his bitter experience of having his train blockaded by the Students Federation of India. As the editorial notes, the SFI, the students’ wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) takes the cue from the mother organization. Gheraoes, arson, and bandhs, some of which extended to 72 hours, have been the signature of the left. Bhattacharjee may rant against this modus operandi, but unfortunately, his party members think it is still relevant. And despite his pious wishes, Bhattacharjee may ultimately have to toe the line of his party.

Yours faithfully,
Govinda Bakshi, Budge Budge

Return of the prodigal

Sir — The editorial, “The Fall” (Aug29), is most apt while commenting on the return of Mamata Banerjee to the National Democratic Alliance. This incident goes on to prove the grim state of India’s politics. Not only was her re-induction a case of shameless opportunism, but the whole fiasco of George Fernandes ensuring it is ironical. During the Tehelka scandal, it was Banerjee who had asked for the removal of Fernandes on grounds of corruption.

Banerjee’s political cunningness and manipulation were also evident during the recent elections in West Bengal. Fortunately, the people of this state did not allow themselves to be fooled. They re-elected the Left Front government as their best available choice. The Pattali Makkal Katchi led by S. Ramadoss acted similarly. Not surprisingly, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has welcomed the return of both the parties into the NDA fold.

Banerjee, for now, is hailing the re-entry into the NDA as her victory. But she should realize that not everyone in the NDA has been happy about her return. Senior leaders like L.K. Advani had opposed the move. So her stint in the government might not turn out to be a pleasant one entirely. Already, there is dissension about her return to the railway ministry.

Yours faithfully,
S.K. Basu, via email

Sir — The Trinamool Congress has reduced itself to a shuttle cork. Mamata Banerjee’s return to the NDA only reflects the hollowness of her rhetoric. It is a pity that the Indian political scenario is controlled by such opportunists. The recent pay hike of parliamentarians has quite naturally pleased the Trinamool Congress leader. But it is fortunate that we still have parliamentarians like Somnath Chatterjee, who has opposed the pay hike.

Yours faithfully,
Nilanjan Biswas, Malda

Sir — Mamata Banerjee is a key member of the NDA. So the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, could not have afforded to lose her from the alliance. He has been keeping an eye on the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh polls and therefore it was necessary for him to strengthen the NDA team. Vajpayee has also kept the door open for new entrants into its fold, particularly if they come from the third front.

Yours faithfully,
Dhaneswar Banerjee, Bolpur

Parting shot

Sir — Visitors are not allowed to enter both the domestic and international terminals of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport for security reasons. Those who accompany passengers to the airport often have to stand outside in the intense heat if flight arrivals and departures are delayed. There are no public toilets nearby and the people waiting often use the pavement for the purpose. The airport authorities should look into the matter and provide restrooms for the visitors.

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh N. Shah, Calcutta

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
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Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
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