Editorial 1 / Total war
Editorial 2 / Mixed fortunes
Force is not nearly enough
Return of the state
Document / Saving them from the initiation rites
Letters to the editor

The message to terrorists from the president of the United States of America, Mr George W. Bush, is loud and clear: it is going to be war on all fronts. The terrorists will not only face a military onslaught but also an economic stranglehold. Mr Bush announced on Monday that assets and bank accounts of suspected terrorists were being frozen in the US. There were 27 entities which had their assets frozen. Among the 27 is one name which is of some importance to India. The name of Harkat ul Mujahideen is among the 27. This organization has been described by the state department as “an Islmaic militant group based in Pakistan which operates primarily in Kashmir.’’ This is a direct vindication of the position India has held and advocated for a large number of years. Simply put, this position says that the problem of violence in Kashmir is rooted in the activities of militant Islamic military groups based in Pakistan and receiving direct support from the Pakistan government. The first part of the above claim stands proved with the inclusion of Harkat ul Mujahideen in the list of 27. The second, and equally important part, stands a fair chance of being demonstrated if Pakistan can be persuaded by the US to open its books to investigators. Reports suggest that this might well be on the cards. A White House spokesman said that the US had discussed with Islamabad the issue of freezing Harkat’s assets in Pakistan and Islamabad had agreed to co-operate.

The issue is imbued with greater significance than India scoring points over Pakistan. There seems to be a realization in the corridors of power in Washington DC that terrorism is not a phenomenon that can be obliterated in piecemeal fashion. Terrorism is hydra-headed and overt destructive action like the attacks witnessed on September 11 is one of its manifestations. Its assets with ramifications in the world of banking, the stock market, traffic in drugs and arms deals are another manifestation. The US has rightly decided to attack the problem on the military and the economic fronts simultaneously. This follows the almost complete diplomatic isolation of the taliban, the group that is the principal and first target in the current battle against terrorism. The battle against the taliban will perhaps be won without too much difficulty. The war against terrorism across the world may not be that simple to resolve. Further, looking ahead, conditions will have to be created so that terrorism cannot rise again, Phoenix-like. This may demand review of banking practices, conditions of investment and so on. The US will have to acknowledge that tyrannical governments are most prone to terrorist activities since a tyranny by definition knows of no other law save violence. Such an acknowledgment, if it is forthcoming, must include a commitment not to to prop up tyrannical regimes even if they seem to serve short-term ideological and political aims.


“To generalize is to be an idiot”, a poet had written. This is particularly true for talking about byelection results in a number of Indian states. Although the mixed outcome for the individual parties brings out the hydra-headedness of the Indian polity, it is tempting to detect patterns of change. The picture in Gujarat is most startling. The saffron seems to be fading, with the Congress defeating the ruling Bharatiya Janata party in both the Sabarkantha Lok Sabha and the Sabarmati assembly seats. The latter happens to be part of the parliamentary constituency of the Union home minister, Mr L.K. Advani, who had carried it by 47,000 votes in the 1999 Lok Sabha election. However, this jolt to the prospects of the chief minister, Mr Keshubhai Patel, follows a series of defeats for the BJP last year in the district and taluka panchayat and municipal elections. Obviously, the sectarian card is not working any more – post-killer-quake and Madhavpura Bank scandal. With assembly elections two years away, it is ominous for the state BJP to have Congress leaders celebrating Ms Sonia Gandhi’s “moral victory”. Rising Congress and falling BJP has been the picture in Assam for some time. The grim consequences of the BJP’s tie-up with the scandal-struck Asom Gana Parishad is now clinched with the victory of the Congressman, Mr Tarun Gogoi. Mr Gogoi has now entered the assembly, securing his chief ministership.

But Rajasthan makes it difficult to generalize about the Congress’s return, the party having been rather ignominously defeated by the BJP in the Tonk Lok Sabha seat. Although Tonk had never really been a Congress-friendly constituency, the Jat electorate seems to have deserted the party. The Muslims have also voted for them in lesser numbers after the inaction following the demolition of the Asind mosque. The Gujjar community seems to have turned away too. This will certainly affect the power sector reforms initiated by the chief minister, Mr Ashok Gehlot. And the steady advance in Assam is still not enough to compensate for this blow to the security of Mr Gehlot’s status in Rajasthan, where the Congress has ruled, more or less happily and undisputedly, for three years now. Moving south from the BJP versus Congress equations, Andhra Pradesh has seen the placing of an advocate of the Telengana cause in the legislature. The victory, from Siddipet, of Mr Chandrasekhara Rao of the Telengana Rashtra Samiti over the Telegu Desam Party again ousts a ruling-party candidate. It was the Telengana agenda, obviously still alive and well, that had made Mr Rao break away from Mr Chandrababu Naidu and the TDP, and to give up his position as deputy speaker in the state assembly. The configurations in these four states present an interestingly shifting picture, but definitely elude unifying prophecies.


A war on terrorism must be fought on many fronts, using every tool at governments’ disposal: diplomacy, intelligence and, when we identify the perpetrator, military strikes. But force is not nearly enough. Our goal should be to drain the swamps where extremists thrive, and that implies a combination of measures: stopping the flow of money to these groups, intelligence cooperation and military force. But most important, it implies understanding that failed and failing states are important sanctuaries as well as sources of recruits for extremist movements. When we talk about Pearl Harbor, we should also be thinking of a Marshall Plan.

The desire for revenge at a moment like this is perfectly understandable. We are traumatized as a nation. But our goal must be to prevent future strikes by our enemies. We cannot afford to allow an emotional desire for quick retribution to override our long-term national security interests. It would not be difficult to make things worse rather than better — through hasty, emotional or ill-planned military reaction or even through bellicose rhetoric.

We should be careful about rhetoric. We should avoid calling this battle against terrorism a crusade. The word crusade implies a war against Islam. Other than those who were killed in the strikes and their loved ones, the victims hit hardest in last week’s attacks are peace-loving Muslims around the world. Through rhetoric of this kind, we could turn ordinary Afghans into taliban fighters; and heretofore peaceful Islamists into terrorists. Already the religious parties in Pakistan are calling for a jihad against both Pakistan and the United States.

Several surprising facts about Osama bin Laden’s group came to light during the trials of the men involved in the 1998 attack against US embassies in Africa. And those facts reveal how well organized, sophisticated and elusive a network we’re up against. US government officials estimate that bin Laden’s organization, Al Qaida, has thousands of operatives who are active, or suspected to be active, in 34 countries, including the US. But the threat doesn’t come from bin Laden’s group alone. Many groups, such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Algerian Islamic Group, are closely affiliated with Al Qaida. They train at his camps and carry out his objectives. Bin Laden is probably correct that if the US government kills him, hundreds of “Osamas” are prepared to take his place.

The Al Qaida organization, and others like it that I’ve studied, have wings that handle finance, documents, public relations and intelligence. They run businesses. They conduct surveillance of enemy targets. They cultivate journalists to ensure favourable coverage in the press. They have sophisticated websites for both fund-raising and recruiting. Clerics teach operatives that killing civilians is allowed. A former member of Al Qaida explained how a charismatic teacher taught him not to fear killing non-combatants. If the innocent victim is “a good person,” his teacher said, “he go to paradise.” If he’s a bad person, “he go to hell”.

Like any conventional business, the group includes both skilled and unskilled labour. A former Sudanese member of Al Qaida, Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl, said that he was paid a monthly salary of $ 500, while Egyptian members of the group were earning up to three times as much. He said that he received a $ 10,000 bonus for arranging a deal to purchase uranium. Still, his anger about his monthly compensation led him to steal $ 110,000 from the organization and eventually, to become a witness for the US government in the trial against the embassy bombers.

When he complained to bin Laden about the Egyptians’ higher salaries, Al-Fadl said that bin Laden told him that the Egyptians travelled more, worked harder and had alternative employers in their own country. “That’s why he try to make them happy and give them more money,” he said. In other words, bin Laden paid operatives based in part on their earning power in alternative positions.

Like other business managers, bin Laden also needed to recruit unskilled labour. K.K. Mohamed, for example, received no monetary compensation for his efforts, which involved acquiring a truck and grinding explosives, and given his role in the embassy bombing in Tanzania, will spend the rest of his life in an American prison. Other operatives reported undergoing training in engineering or to pilot planes. One talked about purchasing a plane with the goal of transporting equipment, including stinger missiles, from Peshawar to Khartoum.

This group and others like it that I have studied, has thought carefully about evading law enforcement detection. A manual that came to light in the trial instructed operatives living in enemy territory to dress in such a way that they could not be identified as Muslims. They were told to shave their beards, to rent apartments in newly developed areas where people do not know one another; and not to chat too much, especially to cab drivers. The manual says that destroying the places of amusement and sin is less important than attacking embassies and vital economic centres.

Not surprisingly, what we know of last Tuesday’s hijackers is that they followed these general instructions. They had no beards. They wore Western clothing. One business traveller, Roger Quirion, who flew on the first leg of a flight with two of the hijackers, told a Washington Post reporter that the “two men struck him as clean-cut, wearing slacks, dress shoes and casual shirts, and carrying dark shoulder bags. Their hair was closely cropped. They had no facial hair. In short, they looked like typical businessmen.”

These hijackers also spoke little to their neighbours and moved frequently. Neighbours noticed only one thing unusual about them: meetings in the middle of the night involving up to a dozen participants.

The most important aspect of training these militants is actually mental training. It takes relatively little time and effort to learn to fly a plane; many people can do that. But training someone mentally to carry out suicide mass-casualty attacks is more difficult. The taliban was actually borne out of extremist madrassahs in Pakistan. These schools function as orphanages. Families that cannot afford to feed their children send them to these schools where they are not only educated but also clothed and fed.

In the most extreme of these schools, which Pakistani officials estimate to comprise 10 to 15 per cent of its religious schools, children are taught a distorted version of jihad. A child should be taught that jihad means doing your homework, helping the poor and purifying the self. At these schools, children are taught about hate. Madrassahs I have visited had children from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Chechnya, Kuwait, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. In a school that purportedly offered a broad curriculum, a teacher I questioned could not multiply seven times eight.

Children that graduate from these schools are trained to be mullahs, but many of them can’t find jobs. They are thus susceptible to their teachers’ message that the best way to fulfil their religious duty is to fight on behalf of the taliban or to join so-called jihadi groups. The children are also taught that Osama bin Laden is a hero.

Pakistan is prepared to assist the international coalition on the basis of principle; it does not expect a quid pro quo, according to its officials. But still, now would be a good time to offer assistance — because it is in US national security interests to do so. If we inadvertently turn Pakistan into a second Afghanistan, the results would be disastrous not only for India but also for the entire world.

How can we help Pakistan? Pakistan has long been seeking market access for its textiles. Opening our markets would translate into $ 300 to 400 million , according to the Pakistan embassy, which could make a crucial difference to Pakistan’s economy.

We should also be considering debt relief. We need to help Pakistan especially in the areas of healthcare and education. Extremist religious parties and jihadi groups are already mobilized to fight the Pakistani government. It may make sense to make some of these efforts visible. The extremist groups are unlikely to change their minds, but we can reduce their ability to mobilize others.

The situation in Afghanistan is even worse. According to a United Nations report issued in April, “The life expectancy is less than 43 years, the literacy rate is around 25 per cent, the mortality rate is the highest in the world and the gross domestic product per head is estimated to be less than $ 700. Only a small minority of Afghans has access to safe water, sanitation, healthcare, and education. In addition, Afghanistan is one of the most mine-infested countries in the world.” Things have got worse since then, in part because of the worst drought in 30 years. If we attack Afghanistan, the situation is bound to get worse.

How can we fight this scourge, which is now spread, in tiny packets of fury and pain, around the world? Military might alone cannot win this war because we are fighting a movement, not a state, not even just a network. We may discover that bin Laden is not directly responsible, but instead, one of the groups he funds or inspires, perhaps together with a state or states. Thousands of so-called mujahedin have trained in Afghanistan, and they are now spread throughout the world. For example, 100 mujahedin from Afghanistan recently joined Laskar Jihad, a new jihadi group fighting in Indonesia. What is the target list in a situation like this?

The September 11 incidents make clear that we can no longer afford to allow states to fail and conflicts to fester. Extremists thrive when the state is no longer able to provide basic services, such as healthcare, education, and law and order. They also thrive on lingering conflicts, such as those in the west Asia, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Kashmir. We need to think about how to undermine these groups’ appeal. Islam strictly prohibits targeting innocent civilians. Religious scholars need to get out the message loud and clear that bin Laden’s version of Islam is a grotesque distortion of their faith. Those scholars should be speaking out, not just in America, but all over the world.

It is also important for religious leaders to come to terms with the fact that religion has often been used to justify conflicts. Religion has two sides. One is spiritual. It unifies people, transcending national and religious boundaries and promotes tolerance. The other side is all about boundaries: to be Catholic is to be not Protestant, to be Christian is to be non-Muslim, to be Muslim is to be not Jewish. Us versus Them. Religious leaders should also come forward to make clear that respect for human life is the most important aspect of religion. Extremists focus on the divisive aspect of religion, on the parts that divide us one from another, ignoring the spiritual, universalist aspects. Let’s not fall into the same trap by calling for crusades.

Finally, we have to learn to dictate less and listen more, as Joseph Nye argues in a forthcoming book on America’s soft power. We have a stake in the welfare of other peoples and need to devote a much higher priority to health, education and economic development, or new Osamas will continue to arise.

The author teaches at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and has written The Ultimate Terrorists (Harvard University Press, 1999)


The events of September 11, 2001 constitute a defining moment in the economic history of the modern world, especially because of their serious effects on the United States economy, which has been an engine of growth for the world. The terrorist strike on the World Trade Center was literally an attack on the heart of the US financial system. It is remarkable how the leaders of the US finance, both the US treasury secretary and the chairman, Federal Reserve, took immediate and focussed action.

Observers of the events have commented on the single-minded emphasis of US authorities on opening the financial markets quickly. The Federal Reserve pumped in liquidity to the extent of $ 100 billion, so that the markets were not affected by the seizures of the payment system. Above all, its chairman reduced interest rates by half a per cent. He also organized corresponding measures by other central banks, including the European Central Bank.

The business of New York is financial business and the priority given to restoration of the stock markets was timely. Within a few days the stock markets resumed activity — a tribute to the quick response of the US authorities. What happened on September 11 has changed the attitude of the US administration to fundamental issues, such as the role of the state in the economy. It appears self-evident that when a disaster of this magnitude strikes, it is the state, and not the market forces, which can intervene effectively. The state is bound to regain dominance.

Typically, the US administration has already initiated steps to bail-out the US airlines industry, estimated to cost up to $ 8 billion — a classic bail-out, which commits the government to give cash support to the airlines, crippled due to the now depleted occupancy and danger of increased law suits for damages from affected customers. The US administration has also been quick to act on other areas of disaster relief. It has won authorization from the congress for nearly $ 40 billion for reconstruction, besides the expenses for bailouts and security measures. No longer does the administration hold its budget balance as sacred. The congress seems to have agreed even to a proposal to use the social security funds, considered sacred, to bridge the budgetary gap.

Granted that well before Black Tuesday, the US economy was stalling. The over-investment in certain sectors and the sudden reduction of demand had led to a recession-type situation. Hopes were, however, placed on the tax refund package of the president which was expected to increase consumer spending. These hopes may be misplaced now.

One of the inevitable, but paradoxical, consequences of Black Tuesday’s events is a boost to public spending. Observers recall that it was a similar boost in public expenditure following US entry into World War II that reversed the recessionary trend of the Thirties. War is admittedly too cruel an instrument to solve economic problems. But, considering the state of the global economy, one unintended consequence of the US administration’s changed outlook towards increased public expenditure may well be the early reversal of a threatened global recession.

Much of the impact of the US administration’s proposed expenditure will, of course, depend on its detailed profile. It also depends very much on the shape and structure of the retaliatory measures which the US is expected to take. One thing is clear — the decade of the Nineties, which saw the peace dividend to the US following the collapse of communism, is over. Defence spending will predominate in the immediate future. Inflationary consequences are bound to follow. Particularly, this is true in respect of strategic commodities, such as metals and petroleum products.

Crude oil prices were expected to range around $ 25 per barrel in a year’s time. It has already risen to $ 28 per barrel. Although the organization of the petroleum exporting countries has promised good behaviour, in the sense it will increase supplies in oil to meet the demands, a rise in petroleum prices cannot be ruled out. In the event of outbreak of war, transport constraints might further affect the availability and price of petroleum products. This has an immediate consequence on the balance of payments of India, as also the fiscal situation with its likely impact on the oil pool account. India may have no option but to raise prices of petroleum products if it is to avoid strain on the already fragile fiscal system.

It is good news that the US financial and stock markets have reopened. But, they are still volatile. A number of US corporates are forecasting lower profit figures. Unemployment is on the rise. Foreign institutional investors, who are important to India’s BoP, may feel the pressure of this volatility. Whether, in the circumstances, their appetite for Indian securities market will continue to be as strong as before is a billion-dollar question.

Black Tuesday will also have an impact on one important sector of India’s BoP — software earnings. Some believe that Black Tuesday’s outcome might actually increase US’s outsourcing of software services. At a minimum, the direct consequence of the decline of the US gross domestic product is bound to be a competi- tive situation facing India’s software industry.

Leaving aside the software sector, there is also the overall question of exports to the US and the rest of the world. In a global recession, export prospects are bound to be affected adversely. Sensitive areas will be garments, gems, jewellery and chemicals. The increasing tendency of the US government to look inward may also affect adversely its current stance in favour of the opening of US markets. The government of India will have to take pro-active steps to ensure that any adverse consequences are mitigated at the earliest, if necessary, through fiscal measures and liberal credit to exporters.

One unfortunate consequence of global uncertainty is the increase in the attractiveness of gold as an avenue for saving. Already, we are spending nearly $ 7 billion per year on the import of gold. Increasing uncertainty in the global financial markets and reduced attractiveness to alternative avenues of saving may increase the lure for gold being imported through legal and illegal means. It is time that the government of India takes steps to evolve concrete measures to provide gold substitutes in the form of financial products, which will yield a safe return, and at the same time be linked to the price of gold.

The events of September 11 have a philosophical significance far beyond what the terrorists intended. They indicate an end to the complacency which has entered the mindset of Western policy-makers that the markets are predominant and that the state should not expand. Black Tuesday has made it clear that the state and its services do matter in a world threatened by terrorism and war. Already, the UK has provided a state-sponsored insurance cover against risks of terrorism. Indeed, the insurance industry of the world is facing an almost unbearable burden because of the magnitude of the likely claims from airlines and corporates, besides affected buildings. The state is, after all, the insurer of the last resort and it is an irony that in these days of private insurance, the state is being asked to help out the ailing insurance grants in the mecca of capitalism.

Black Tuesday has, above all, resulted in a radical introspection of political and economic policies by all countries. While the geopolitical fallout of the US action is of immediate relevance, what is of significance to us is the widespread economic consequence of the event. One of the unintended geopolitical impacts has of course been the lifting of US sanctions on both Pakistan and India. Its immediate effects on the Indian economy are not likely to be significant, except in respect of technological imports from the US for the military and space organizations. Overall, the Indian economy cannot escape the economic fallout of Black Tuesday. I hope and trust that the government of India takes steps to prepare and implement a pro-active plant to deal with the consequences of the terrorists’ attack on the bastion of global financial capital.

The author is former governor, Reserve Bank of India


The first case of AIDS in Thailand was detected in 1984. Early cases were found among male homosexuals; thereafter the disease spread rapidly among injecting drug users in 1987 and 1988, and then to sex workers and their clients. It has now extended beyond those groups to the general population. The sentinel sero-prevalence survey reveals that HIV has increased among all groups since 1989. In that time, the HIV prevalence rate for sex workers has risen rapidly, from 3.5 per cent to 29 per cent in 1996...

...A high rate of HIV infection among sex workers means that it is not only the women involved in sex work themselves who are at high risk, but also their clients and others with whom they come into sexual contact. The problem is particularly severe in northern Thailand, where the rate of HIV infection among sex workers is alarming...In addition, the risk of young girls contracting HIV/AIDS is higher than that of adults, and especially for those girls entering the sex industry...

Guest (1994) used an estimation technique to identify potential risk of becoming a sex worker, designating three levels of risk: no risk, low risk, and high risk. Factors considered were area of current residence, migration, co-residence and school attendance. Those children who live in rural areas, are non-migrants, are living with family members and are attending school are identified as the no risk group. Those children seen as the high risk group are migrant children who live in an urban area apart from their families and are not attending school. The middle category, the low risk group, are those who have some, but not all, of the four risk factors. Based on an estimation of these factors, Guest placed 1.7 per cent of the female population aged 11 to 17 in the high risk group, 68 per cent in the low risk group, and 30.3 per cent in the no risk group. Guest estimated there were 30,000 to 100,000 female child sex workers...

In 1992, a national effort was launched to eradicate child prostitution and to assist those at risk of entering the sex industry. At that time, the problem of child prostitution became a high priority for the government, with several strategies implemented, including prevention, suppression, assistance, rehabilitation and legal measures to eliminate entry into the sex industry by children under 18. Preventive measures were viewed as best practice, in that they could substantially reduce the children’s risk of exploitation or of contracting a fatal disease. Some of the key strategies were these:

All children should receive nine years of quality basic education. Those impoverished children with no opportunity for further education need access to education and vocational training.

The quality of education must be improved to enable a child to think and uphold moral principles, and be able to choose a way of life with human dignity. The educational curriculum and vocational training must be relevant to the local environment and conditions, as well as to the demands of the labour market.

Girls and boys must have the same access to both formal and non-formal education.

Counselling and guidance services for solving family and youth problems and job selection must be provided in every school and to out-of-school children.

Recreational and social services should be provided so that children and young people can spend their leisure time appropriately.

Campaigns to raise awareness about child prostitution should be conducted to foster correct attitudes among parents, guardians, teachers and the general public.

Co-ordination with neighbouring countries... about prevention and feasible solutions to problems related to the sex industry...

An inspection surveillance system should be set up to prevent coercion or deception of children into becoming prostitutes.

In response to the national policy, several projects have been implemented, of which education and vocational training are seen as among the best strategies to prevent young girls from entering the sex industry.



Can’t be kept under cover for too long

Sir — It’s straight out of a spy thriller, minus the expected quota of thrills. Who would have thought that the bored wife of a British diplomat could become the legendary M of James Bond (“Delhi discovery of Bond’s boss”, Sept 11)? As the soon-to-be-released autobiography of Stella Rimington, Open Secret, reveals, a job at the much-romanticized MI5 might amount to little else other than typing. For those who considered Ian Fleming’s choice of a woman as Bond’s boss nothing short of revolutionary, the disclosure that it was not a figment of the writer’s imagination will be even more fun for Bond addicts. In fact, feminists might just be able to cull from Rimington’s memoirs new insights into power equations in the workplace. But perhaps a more interesting thought would be to inquire into the lady’s pre-MI5 life. For, not every bored wife of a diplomat — and one would think that a large number of them are bored — ends up at the head of her country’s central intelligence organization. Many of them live their lives organizing cocktail parties for their husbands, the more ambitious among them sometimes hauling themselves from their legendary ennui up for a fashion show.

Yours faithfully,
Simki Surana, Bhopal

Quotable quotes

Sir — General Pervez Musharraf has been asking for a quid pro quo on Kashmir to mollify Islamic hardliners at home in return for forcing Afghanistan to hand over Osama bin Laden to the United States. Pakistan has sought to turn the crisis into an opportunity by first creating the structure of terror and now using it as a lever to extract concessions. The price has been the easing of US sanctions, the demand to write off its $30 billion debt and keeping India and Israel out of the operations against the taliban. The US president, George W. Bush, would perhaps never have acceded to Pakistan’s haggling under ordinary circumstances, but at present he is under political compulsion to deliver on his pledge to “hunt down” the forces behind the carnage on the Black Tuesday.

Pakistan’s volte face in accepting the US demands to declare war against terrorism and the taliban, with a string of demands attached, is symptomatic of the loose talk that Pakistan has been indulging in all this while. It is now trying to prove that it has never had anything to do with terrorism, or else, it would never have agreed to help the US. But one point should not be missed. It is its association with the taliban that prompted the US to solicit its help in the first place. And a worldwide campaign against terrorism would not spare countries that harbour terrorists. Pakistan’s wish list should not be entertained at any cost. If it has to provide support to the movement against terrorism, it must do so unconditionally.

Yours faithfully,
Harmeet Singh Chawla, Haldia

Sir — The recent address of Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, to the nation was just an excuse for venting his anger on India (“Pervez whips India to woo Pakistan”, Sept 19). This is evident from the number of words he spent on India in a speech which was ostensibly delivered to motivate the people of Pakistan to support his decision to cooperate with the United States. He even accused India of giving Islam a bad name. The emphases in his speech were enough to show that his greatest concern is not terrorism but Kashmir.

Yours faithfully
Zaki Mubarki, via email

Sir — I fail to understand how the US is thinking of crushing terrorism holding Pakistan’s hand. Pakistan, as we all know, is one of the most active sponsors of terrorism in south Asia. And it is unlikely that Bush has no knowledge of the goings on in the region, given the efficiency of American intelligence.

Yours faithfully,
Rakhi Sharma, Calcutta

Sir — Pervez Musharraf, in his address to the nation, has alleged that India is working against Pakistan and Islam. He further charged India of conspiring to install an anti-Pakistan government in Afghanistan. Not only is this a figment of his imagination, but also a device to shift world attention from the subversive activities of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence in different parts of India.

India should take this opportunity to ask for the extradition of Dawood Ibrahim — the prime accused in the Mumbai blasts of 1993 — allegedly living a lavish life in Karachi. In fact, there is more clinching evidence about Ibrahim’s involvement in the Mumbai blasts than there is of Osama bin Laden’s complicity in the World Trade Center attacks. India’s soft approach must be changed to suit the present political conditions.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

The grain from the chaff

Sir — The report, “Full granary, empty pockets” (Sept 4) was shocking. Against a minimum food buffer stock of 243 lakh tonnes, our country has 616.71 lakh tonnes of food grains in storage. Despite this, starvation deaths are still being reported. It is also amazing that despite the rate of foodgrain production being lower than the rate of population growth, there is still a surplus stock. China has apparently been contemplating reinforcing measures aimed at controlling population growth even further. Since overpopulation is a major problem in India, it is obvious that if the departments of health and family welfare and food and civil supplies functioned together, a favourable result could be achieved. States can identify below the poverty line families, and foodgrain at highly subsidized rates can be allotted through the public distribution system only to those families who have resorted to family planning methods. This would enable the state to deal with the problem of starvation and enforce family planning at the same time.

Yours faithfully,
Krishna Ray, Calcutta

Sir — An inegalitarian pattern of income has made our market non-competitive and has also compelled a substantial portion of the population to live in a permanent state of poverty and starvation. This deprivation has created an opportunity for government agencies to intervene in the so-called surplus market and buy up foodgrain for their buffer stocks at a procurement price that exceeds the market price. This has resulted in larger producers being favoured more than their smaller counterparts. Had this overzealous procurement policy not existed, foodgrain prices would have been much lower. The poor would have benefited and widespread starvation could have been avoided. To better the situation, judicious income generating programmes for the poor should be coupled with food subsidy for them.

Yours faithfully,
Jaydev Jana, Calcutta

Sir — After being severely admonished by the Supreme Court, the Central government has made efforts to revamp the public distribution system. The new order passed by the court vests a sta-tutory status on fair price shops and mandatory punitive action can now be taken against all those who ignore this status.

With this new law, the government has washed its hands off any responsibility to redeem the situation where hunger coexists with mountains of rotting foodgrain. It is tempting to think that the government has initiated some measures to remedy the situation. But without the supervisory role of the apex court it is doubtful any measures would have been taken at all.

While the above the poverty line segment has deserted the PDS after prices were raised by the government, those below the poverty line do not have the purchasing power to take advantage of the highly subsidized prices. So any attempt to help them has to go hand in hand with providing them employment. The food-for-work programme has collapsed despite the Centre gifting over two million tonnes of free grain. The Antyodya scheme has turned out to be a non-starter with many states yet to identify the beneficiaries. India has a long way in order to fulfil the ideals of a welfare state.

Yours faithfully,
D.V.Vamsee Krishna, Bhubaneswar

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