Editorial 1 / On guard
Editorial 2 / Tricky partner
Stocks and starvation
Obituary / The real fiddler on the roof
Look ahead, not to the right
Document / Elementary educationis not universal yet
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / ON GUARD 
 
 
 
 
It is unfortunate that the United States of America has frozen the assets of only 27 terrorist organizations that are linked in some way to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida group, the outfit believed to be responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11. This list excludes most terrorist organizations operating in Jammu and Kashmir, except the Harkat-ul-Mujahedin. Not surprisingly, India has expressed the hope that the list will be expanded soon to include groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, both of which are known to have had close links with bin laden and the taliban. It is quite possible, for tactical reasons, that the US may have confined the list largely to a core of organizations that are not active in Kashmir. Its main priority, at the moment, clearly is to secure the wholehearted support of Pakistan. It would, however, be most shortsighted of Washington if, in the long term, it confined its campaign to a narrow list of organizations. Officials within the Bush administration have, in the last few days, made it clear that they are interested in draining the swamp that produces the venom of terrorism. Given this understanding, it should be clear that a partial or selective targeting of terrorist groups would be counter-productive. A small organization with a narrow sphere of operations, unless firmly dealt with, will acquire the global reach that will make it possible for it to mount the kind of devastating acts that were witnessed in New York and Washington.

It is becoming clear that no matter how strong the global coalition against terrorism, India cannot depend on others to fight its battle against militancy in Kashmir. New Delhi must continue to, therefore, exercise exceptional vigilance, and ensure that the security forces do not lower their guard. This is particularly necessary because there is a deceptive calm prevailing in Kashmir. Of late and especially since September 11, there have been few reports of violence in Kashmir and there are reports that many of the Afghan militants operating in the state have been recalled by the taliban leaders. Two factors make it essential to exercise greater caution. First, a recent militant-inspired bandh call in Kashmir, in support of Afghanistan and against US-led military action, achieved considerable success. This would not have been possible without the sponsorship of the terrorist organizations. Second, and far more important, elements within the Pakistani establishment, given their new relationship of cooperation with the US, may now acquire the confidence to up the ante in the valley. India should hope that south Asia will emerge a more stable region after the US-led campaign is over, but must remain prepared to fight a long lonely war against terrorism, if need be.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / TRICKY PARTNER 
 
 
 
 
Treading a lonely path in Tamil Nadu may not be the best option for the Congress. But with its ally, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, reluctant to come to seat-sharing agreements for the forthcoming local bodies elections, the Congress cannot but “go it alone”. This is not a happy solution. The Congress’s presence in Tamil Nadu is hardly remarkable. The party suffered its greatest blow in the state when G.K. Moopanar formed the breakaway Tamil Maanila Congress, in protest against the high command’s decision to align with Ms J. Jayalalithaa in 1996. Although the Congress had shared the AIADMK’s huge victory in the previous term, its alliance with this Dravida party since 1996 has brought it rather mixed fortunes. After the defeat in 1996, the Congress came to power with the AIADMK in 2001, but Ms Jayalalithaa’s chief ministership remained under a shadow until her ignominious dismissal by the Supreme Court. The whole affair makes the Congress look quite helpless, especially since the party had been obviously hoping to share seats with the AIADMK in the local elections.

Credibility is clearly not on the Congress’s mind. Its sole concern is a toehold in Tamil Nadu. In the age of coalition politics and the triumph of arithmetic, ideological credibility is never an issue. But the fact that the Congress is willing to tie the knot with a party which is led by a person convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act is a measure of the length it is prepared to go. Its nascent hopes that the TMC would soon come home to its parent party, thus giving to the Congress a substantial vote-bank, have waned with the death of Moopanar. The party is at the mercy of the whims of Ms Jayalalithaa. Neither is it ignorant of that experience. Ms Jayalalithaa picks up and drops her allies exactly as it suits her — on two counts. The priority is protection from court cases. The second count is victory in Tamil Nadu. She can drop the Congress, befriend the Bharatiya Janata Party, drop the latter and realign with the Congress within the duration of a few dizzying months, even if the Central government topples over in the process. What is really intriguing is the “national” parties’ urge to woo her. The combination of self-absorption, corruption and arrogance has evidently not diminished her charms as an electoral partner. But her star is in decline at the moment. The midnight arrest of the former chief minister, Mr M. Karunanidhi, did not turn out to be quite the triumph that she had expected. The Supreme Court’s dismissal cannot be wished away either. But Ms Jayalalithaa’s refusal to let the Congress into the seat-sharing agreement for the local bodies elections suggests that she has not lost any of her confidence. Unless the Congress decides to part ways with the AIADMK, it will just have to make do with the partner it has chosen.

   

 
 
STOCKS AND STARVATION 
 
 
BY BHASKAR DUTTA
 
 
The Indian Constitution very clearly specifies separate roles for the judiciary, executive and legislative wings of the political system. Legislators are elected to make laws, which will then be implemented by the executive. Members of the judiciary are somewhat like umpires, and are supposed to interpret the laws. However, most Delhi residents will argue vociferously that the boundary between the judiciary and the executive has become increasingly hazy. As an example, they will cite the recent Supreme Court ruling decreeing that all public transport vehicles must use compressed natural gas rather than diesel or petrol in order to reduce air pollution.

An incompetent executive has not been able to ensure adequate supply of CNG, leading to long queues at the gas depots. There is no doubt that a sizeable fraction of the public transport system in Delhi will cease to be operational unless the Supreme Court reverses its earlier ruling. While no one has any sympathy for the executive, many are also questioning whether the judiciary has transgressed on the powers of the executive by issuing what they feel are “administrative” decisions.

The Supreme Court had been deliberating on another issue which may also bring it in confrontation with the executive. It had heard a public interest litigation which questioned how starvation deaths in the country can occur in the country at a time when the government granaries are overflowing with grain. While the government may deny that starvation deaths have actually occurred, it cannot dispute the fact that widespread malnutrition exists in the country. So, the Supreme Court issued orders directing the government to ensure that adequate grain reaches the poor.

Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Although there has been a fair amount of discussion about ways in which the excess food stocks can be delivered to the poor, there is really no obvious solution. Everyone has his or her own favourite mechanism, and no one agrees with what others propose.

There are problems with the “obvious” solution of lowering the price of food grains sold through the public distribution system to the poor and increasing their quota even further. First, there are many states in which the overwhelming majority of the poor are outside the ambit of the public distribution system. Except in states like Kerala, the public distribution system remains very much of an urban phenomenon. Since a majority of the poor live in the countryside, an expansion of the PDS may only have a marginal impact in so far as it will ensure delivery of food to a relatively small number of the poor. Second, there is a political reason for the government to resist attempts to expand the scope of the PDS. Once PDS prices are lowered or quotas increased, it will become extremely difficult for any government to reverse this in the future — it would be political suicide. This would be true even if a sudden drop in food grain production results in a sharp fall in food stocks. Hence, an action taken as a short-term corrective measure can become a problem in the long-term.

Another possibility which is often touted as an “ideal” solution is to channel a much larger volume of food grains in rural works programmes. The essential idea is to employ workers in the creation of rural infrastructure, using the excess food stocks to pay workers in kind. Rural works schemes of this kind are considered effective because they are said to incorporate a degree of targeting. This is because only the poor and needy will agree to work in such programmes in view of the inadequate remuneration.

Unfortunately, this solution also has some fundamental problems. If the main purpose of such schemes is to provide additional employment or simply to use up the excess food stocks, then the projects which can be carried out must be highly labour-intensive. This places a constraint on the kind of infrastructure or assets which can be created. Typically, these will be assets which are not particularly durable, roads which are washed away during the first monsoon being a good example. This obviously implies a waste of the non-labour inputs used up in the programmes. One might as well ask labourers to dig up holes and then fill them up.

On the other hand, if primacy is given to the creation of durable assets, then the projects which will be chosen cannot be very labour-intensive. So, for any given volume of non-food resources which the government is willing or able to deploy in the rural works programmes, only a small labour force can be employed. This will in turn imply that only a small fraction of the excess food stocks can be liquidated in rural works programmes, given the overall scarcity of non-food resources with the government.

The Supreme Court had deliberated on the issue of delivering food to the poor because two distinct (though seemingly related) problems had been brought to its attention. The first is the widespread prevalence of malnutrition, while the second is the phenomenon of food grains rotting in the warehouses of the Food Corpo-ration of India. Perhaps, proper solutions can only emerge if these are looked upon in isolation. After all, the government should ensure that malnutri-tion is abolished even when there is no excess of food stocks. On the other hand, even if people are fed adequately, it is a gross misallocation of resources to have food rotting in government warehouses.

Malnutrition prevails in the country because the poor have inadequate purchasing power. So, the only durable and long-term solution to the problem of malnutrition is to increase the incomes of the poor. The Indian economy has now accumulated enough evidence to show that this is possible only if the overall rate of growth of the economy is stepped up considerably. In the short run, there are very few options apart from the PDS and schemes like the food-for-work programme.

But, it is important to keep in mind that these will be only partial solutions. What about the second problem of overfull granaries? This is, of course, partly because of the inadequate purchasing power of the poor. But, a major contributory factor has been the very high procurement prices at which the government buys grain from farmers. These prices now have no relation to supply and demand in the open market. A lower guaranteed price would force farmers to allocate their land in line with market demands, leading to diversification in favour of high-value products.

Over time, this would bring production in line with demand. In the immediate future, the government should unload a sizeable fraction of its stocks into the open market. Apart from liquidating a part of its huge stocks, this policy will also bring down the open market prices. At least that section of the poor who are dependent on open market purchases will benefit from this move.

The author is an economist at the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi

   

 
 
OBITUARY / THE REAL FIDDLER ON THE ROOF 
 
 
BY AVEEK SEN
 
 

Isaac Stern 1920-2001

The German baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, recalls a particularly “riotous” performance of the “Hallelujah chorus” from Handel’s Messiah on May 18, 1976. The venue was New York’s venerable Carnegie Hall. The conductor was Leonard Bernstein, and the soloists in the chorus, standing sheepishly along the stage apron, were none other than Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Vladimir Horowitz and the violinist, Isaac Stern. Fischer-Dieskau remembers being dragged out by stagehands to stand between Menuhin and Rostropovich, who, together with “Isaac and Lenny”, were singing their hearts out. “In all my life I have never heard so many wrong notes,” he remembers.

This was Stern’s show. He was president of Carnegie Hall, a post he held for several decades until his death on September 23. The hall was going to be sold off and demolished, and Stern had got together his most eminent musical colleagues for an appeal concert which finished with this mad and magnificent caprice. The Carnegie Hall remained, “not only a building”, as Stern put it later, but also “an idea”, “a necessary mythology about music”. As a legendary violinist, a dedicated teacher and a powerful shaper of the American national musical character, Isaac Stern is himself inseparable from this mythology.

Born in 1920 in what is now the Ukraine, Stern was a Russian Jew whose parents fled the revolution in 1921. They brought the infant Stern to San Francisco, where he got his first music lessons from his mother, trained to sing at the St Petersburg Conservatory. Among his early teachers at the San Francisco Conservatory was the concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony, Naoum Blinder. Later in New York, he was also taught by Menuhin’s revered teacher, Louis Persinger. In 1936, Stern made his orchestral debut under Pierre Monteux with the Bach Double Violin Concerto; Blinder was the other soloist. A few months later, he played the Tchaikovsky Concerto with Otto Klemperer and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Brahms Violin Concerto also became very much his own work. He kept returning to it, and to the rest of Brahms, throughout his career.

Stern’s rise, in America and in Europe, was spectacular. He broke political taboo in being the first American violinist to tour the Soviet Union in 1951, persuading Nikita Krushchev to reopen artistic exchanges between the Soviet Union and the West. An important focus of Stern’s musical life lay in Israel, where he set up the Jerusalem Music Centre in the Seventies. Stern, Bernstein and the Israel Philharmonic did a historic performance of the Mendelssohn Concerto on Mount Scopus soon after the Six Day War in 1967. He remained uncomfortable about performing in Germany, but did a series of master-classes in Cologne in 1999, declaring afterwards, “With my visit, I forgive nothing.”

The quality of Stern’s violin-playing and the nature of his musical collaborations were informed by this sense of a community, a shared destiny of displacement and election, in history and in music. His genius did not project itself like Herbert von Karajan’s, nor did it ever take on the kitsch Disneyism of his contemporary, Leopold Stokowski. Within the diaspora of excellence, Stern forged musical bonds which produced peerless recordings: the Schubert, Haydn and Mozart chamber works with the pianist, Eugene Istomin (another Russian-American), and the cellist, Leonard Rose, in the Sixties, and the immortal Brahms recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the Hungarian-born conductor, Eugene Ormandy.

The sweetness and warmth of Isaac Stern’s tone, produced on a beautiful Guarnerius, carried the musical line of an older school of “fiddling” (Stern’s favourite word) into contemporary virtuosity. Indomitably modern, yet rooted in his historical and musical origins, his repertoire stretching from Bach to the soundtrack of the Fiddler on the Roof, Stern inspired an entire generation of younger Jewish violinists like Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. The “Life in Music” series from Sony collects his entire range, from the passionate nobility of the Brahms concertos to the lucid melancholy of Schubert’s piano trios.

Karajan remembered Stern’s performances of the Beethoven Violin Concerto while rehearsing it with the brilliant young violinist, Anne-Sophie Mutter, in 1981: “You simply can’t play it like that any more. That’s over. The generation has passed where one kept going faster towards the end.”

   

 
 
LOOK AHEAD, NOT TO THE RIGHT 
 
 
BY MADHUSHREE C. BHOWMIK
 
 
Lakshman Oraon of Latehar district in Jharkhand is untouched by the global upheaval. The flames that licked the World Trade Center failed to singe his cloistered world. Oraon is a prisoner of narrow regional divides. His world is ruled by a band of “red’’ brigands. They collect taxes, impose whips and have even evolved a code of primitive justice dispensed at kangaroo courts — jan adalats — deep inside the forest.

The state machinery with its slow-moving cogs, both at the district and the block level, is no match for the fleet-footed guerrillas with superior fire and man power. The long arm of the police fails to reach the remote hamlets straddling the hills of Palamau, Latehar, Chandwa and Lohardagga in Jharkhand’s lush interior.

The outlawed Maoist Communist Centre runs a parallel administration in at least 14 villages in Palamau and in the neighbouring Latehar district. Land ceiling has been re-structured and the panchayats are governed by Maoist sympathizers. Even social mores have been scripted afresh by the outfit. Marriages are solemnized in true “communist’’ style, where the bride and the groom swear by the red book instead of the traditional Sarna or animist totems. Consequently, the rate of desertion is also high.

“For the past three years, we have been at the mercy of the MCC,’’ says 63-year-old Oroan. He pleads anonymity for his village, which is a “liberated” zone. It allows the rebels a free run.

Oraon is resigned to his fate. There is hardly any difference between the “block babus’’ and the “MCC dadas”, except for the fact that disputes are solved much faster now. Intimidation is a common tool, wielded earlier by the government officials and the local police and now by the gun-toting extremists. The tribals — mostly Hos, Oraons, Santhals, Mundas — and the scores of scheduled castes and Dalit sub-groups have no fear of death, or so they claim. “One either dies at the hands of a hostile government or in Naxalite violence,’’ says Oraon, who lost two of his sons in a landmine explosion during the last assembly polls. Violence is a way of life in the MCC territory or in the “Naxal raj.’’

Since the formation of Jharkhand in November last year and the subsequent installation of a hardcore “right-wing” government, clashes between the saffron and red brigade have been on the rise. The MCC, born in the forests of Palamau in the late Seventies as a sequel to the erstwhile Dakshin Desh — a breakaway faction of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) led by Kanai Chatterjee — has been assiduously nurturing a Dalit base in the forest fringes over the decades. The present set-up is now controlled by Mohanbabu, a close associate of Sitaramaiya, the founder of the People’s War Group.

So long, the outfit had been reaping “commercial harvests” from the coal mines and the lucrative kendu trade on the Bihar-Jharkhand corridor, but a class enemy at the seat of power in Ranchi has now given it the ideological grist to wage a war. Flush with funds and a wide grassroots network, the MCC is ready to take on the saffron might.

The situation is almost akin to the one which prevailed in undivided Madhya Pradesh during Sunderlal Patwa’s tenure in the mid-Nineties. The People’s War Group mounted a jihad in Chhatisgarh’s Bastar district, killing 44 securitymen in one go at Keshkal, a Naxalite stronghold. Bandhs and blockades were everyday affairs in PWG’s liberated turf bordering Dandakaranya. The dalams had a big stake in the timber trade.

The Jharkhand of Babulal Marandi is Patwa’s Bastar re-visited. The Maoists are within striking distance of his throne, which totters under the onslaught of diverse pulls and strains. The raging row over 73 per cent reservation is the foremost among them, trailing a close second to the Naxalite menace.

Violence erupted early this month when the MCC clamped down a 72-hour bandh. It was a bandh with a difference. For the first time, the outfit planted landmines on highways connecting three districts — Latehar, Palamau and Chandwa — and targeted civilians. This deviation from norm sent alarm bells ringing in Ranchi. Earlier, police pickets were at the receiving end of the outfit’s hit-and-run raids, primarily for arms. The bandh assumed significance in context of its casualties, too. A priest, his driver and a nun were among those killed in the backlash. The MCC opened indiscriminate fire on vehicles at the Palamau-Latehar border.

However, the biggest strike was last Sunday’s ambush in Giridih. Eleven securitymen, allegedly used as human shields came in the MCC line of fire and fell like nine pins. It was followed by an attempt on the life of the Giridih superintendent of police.

Unfortunately, the Jharkhand government is busy trading charges. A stand-off between the grossly ill-equipped Jharkhand police and the Central Reserve Police Force clouds constructive attempts at counter insurgency. While the state police chief goes all out to defend his brave boys, the Centre pays lip service to the cause with high-level security meetings. Strategies abound, but the will to act is amiss.

Is it just poor police-preparedness or lack of insight of a “rookie” government that is the cause for such a mess? The poser merits serious thought.

Jharkhand has always been a victim of unplanned progress. Industrialization bequeathed its bounty on select urban pockets and mineral reserves. The southern part of the state — Chhotanagpur, dubbed the country’s mineral repository, prospered while the verdant hills of the north Santhal Parganas and Palamau were plundered. Economic disparity paved the way for ultra-left inroads. The concept of transferring power to the people, or in this case, the marginalized ethnic groups, won instant support and the radical outfits became heroes of sorts overnight.

Coupled with lopsided growth was large-scale displacement. Reckless mining, forestry, industrialization and power projects displaced thousands of tribals. Vast tracts of rayati land were usurped by the government in the name of development. With each new foundation stone, the ground gave way from beneath the feet of the tribals and compensation packages remained pipe-dreams. The homeless sought solace in the lawless, who promised to set right the historical wrong.

The past should be a pointer to Marandi, blundering on an uncharted path of progress. For instance, the proposed north Utitri Karanpura thermal project near Hazaribagh may well go the Subarnarekha or the Koel Karo way. Thousands of Subarnarekha oustees still await compensation. The rehabilitation sites have long disappeared and the dams have aggravated floods in Singhbhum and neighbouring Orissa. The World Bank has pulled out of the Bihar plateau development project in the Santhal Parganas hills and acres of barren hills near Ranchi bear witness to human avarice. The impediments cited by the World Bank include money laundering and tardy implementation.

The roots of the social turmoil in Jharkhand lie not in the short supply of arms or poor policing, but in an all-pervasive popular inertia. There can be no counter-insurgency without psychological motivation. The resistance has to come from within — well up from the recesses of the MCC-controlled zones. It is the people who alone can turn the tide, eschew blood for peace, not Marandi or any other north block mandarin who decides to trek down to the back of beyond for a change of climes .

Marandi can only be a catalyst to a change but not the miracle himself. The recipe for change has to be radical — a balanced people-oriented growth, not a National Democratic Alliance report card.’

An ancient refrain in the dense foliage of Chhotanagpur’s Saranda forest perhaps sums it up: “Only venom can neutralize venom.’’ Marandi’s panacea for the travails of Jharkhand has to be as revolutionary as the MCC itself.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / ELEMENTARY EDUCATIONIS NOT UNIVERSAL YET 
 
 
 
 
The National Policy of Education, 1986 (as updated in 1992) and the Programme of Action, 1992 reaffirm the national commitment to universalisation of elementary education (UEE). Para 5.12 of NPE resolves that free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality should be provided to all children up to 14 years of age before we enter the 21st century. The NPE also specifies in para 5.5 that UEE has three aspects: (i) universal access and enrolment; (ii) universal retention of children up to 14 years of age; and (iii) a substantial improvement in quality of education to enable all children to achieve essential levels of learning.

Right from independence, India has persevered with the goal of UEE; even though substantial progress has been achieved, the goal still remains elusive. The additional participation in elementary education has to come from social strata and regions which are more difficult to reach. Therefore, the path that lies ahead in the march to UEE is more arduous; the journey ahead is a marathon calling for a higher intensity of effort and more systematic planning and implementation.

National experience with the pursuit of UEE had established the following: (i) UEE is contextual. The contextuality varies widely across the country. Even in states like Kerala where participation is near-universal, much requires to be done with respect to quality and achievement. In such states the pursuit of UEE would be mainly in the areas of quality, facilities and achievement. In other states participation and demand aspects need more attention.

(ii) Contextuality entails local area-planning with disaggregated targets and decentralized planning and management. Planning for UEE had hitherto been mainly at the national and state-level. Barring some states and Union territories, these entities are too large and heterogeneous for effective planning; they cannot provide contextuality. Ideally, the planning should be from below, right from the village upwards. But given the objective conditions, a beginning has to be made with the district as the unit of planning. The district plans are to be prepared through an intensive process of interaction with the local bodies, teachers and NGOs so that it is “owned” by all who are to be associated in implementation and it reflects the ground-level realities.

(iii) Resources are an important but not sufficient condition for achieving UEE. A host of measures, both financial and non-financial, both on the supply side and on the demand side, need to complement higher allocation of resources.

(iv) The strategies for UEE have hitherto emphasized, mainly access in terms of construction of classrooms and appointment of teachers. This has been inadequate and needs to be augmented by: (a) a holistic planning and management approach which goes beyond implementation of a disjointed set of individual schemes, perceives the task of UEE in its totality, integrates all the measures needed to achieving UEE in the specific context of the district; (b) this holistic planning should incorporate a gender perspective in all aspects of the planning and implementation process and be an integral part of all measures needed to achieve UEE; (c) addressing the more difficult aspects of access, particularly access to girls, disadvantaged groups and out-of-school children; (d) improving school effectiveness; (e) strengthening the alternatives to schooling, particularly the non-formal education system; (f) stressing the participative processes whereby the local community facilitates participation, achievement and school effectiveness; (g) toning up teacher competence, training and motivation; (h) stressing learning competence and achievement; (i) stressing the need for improved teaching/learning materials; (j) streamlining of planning and management with respect to both routine and innovative areas; and (k) convergence of elementary education and related services like ECCE and school health.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Sticky position

Sir— The news report, “Pak warns US on topple bid” (Sept 26) may well have summed up the United States’s dilemma, and Pakistan’s growing bargaining power in international politics since the events on September 11 forced the US to seriously reconsider its ties with India’s neighbour. While India was only too quick to offer the US all kinds of help in the fight against terrorism even without being asked to do so, Pakistan took time to plan a well thought out response to the crisis. Contrary to Indian claims, Pakistan seems to have emerged a winner with the US waiving the Pressler agreement that had forbidden the sale of arms and military equipment to Islamabad. Not only will this enable the US to flood Pakistan’s markets with arms, it will also help Pakistan carry on with its pet project — offering support to the pro-jihadi forces and thus further destabilizing Kashmir. The US’s desire to nab Osama bin Laden has placed it in an uncomfortable position. It may get bin Laden but it will not be able to overthrow the taliban regime.

Yours faithfully,
Aparna Guha, via email

Making history

Sir — Is this the end of the road for the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief, J. Jayalalithaa? The Supreme Court’s landmark judgment dismissing her as chief minister of Tamil Nadu would so suggest. By declaring Jayalalithaa’s appointment “not legal and valid”, the apex court has set a precedent. While most political observers expected the court to nullify her appointment, very few expected the resilient Amma to give up. Instead of being perturbed by the apex court’s judgment, the puratchi thalaivi responded by announcing the name of her successor, O. Pannerselvam, and thus turned her defeat into victory.

Given that the Indian Constitution is silent on the appointment of a convicted person to the post of chief minister, the Supreme Court’s judgment assumes significance. The verdict has ensured that politicians like Jayalalithaa do not exploit the law for selfish ends. The Supreme Court has also tried to put politicians in their place by asserting that lawmakers are not above the laws of the land. The people’s verdict is supreme in a democracy. But any such verdict must be in accordance with the laws of the land and the principles of public morality. The court’s verdict also lays down a possible course of action for the governor of a state who finds himself in the position of Fathima Beevi.

It is essential that the Constitution review committee examines the loopholes in our Constitution and suggests remedial measures. The Representation of the People’s Act too must be reviewed and inconsistencies ironed out.

Yours faithfully,
B. Ganesh, Bangalore

Sir — If the events of the past few years are any indication, Jayalalithaa will find a way out of her present predicament and back to the seat of power (“Amma vows to return”, Sept 22). For the time being though, the AIADMK chief will have to be content with running the Tamil Nadu government through her successor, O. Pannerselvam. Given Jayalalithaa’s flair for drama, she will in all probability try to whip up public sentiment over her dismissal by the Supreme Court and thus try to consolidate her position even further.

For those of us who still believe in the supremacy of the Constitution and in the sanctity of the judicial process, the Supreme Court’s judgment is a vindication of the fact that the law cannot always be misused by corrupt politicians. It is important that politicians are held accountable for their actions.

The new chief minister, Pannerselvam, has made his allegiance to Jayalalithaa clear. His elevation to the post of chief minister is therefore only a stop-gap measure till such time that the AIADMK chief can stage a comeback. This may prove to be difficult as Jayalalithaa would first have to get the courts to set aside her conviction and then seek elections to the assembly before she can come back to power.

The loopholes in the Constitution worked to Jayalalithaa’s advantage. Her dismissal from the post of chief minister is bound to provoke a debate regarding the supremacy of the people’s verdict vis-à-vis the rule of law. For the ordinary citizen, her dismissal is symptomatic of the beginning of a more proactive role for the judiciary.

Yours faithfully
K.K. Singh, Calcutta

Sir— The dismissal of Jayalalithaa as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu could well signal a new era of judicial activism in our country. It would be interesting to see whether the wily Amma is able to bounce back. One hopes that the Centre will withdraw the z-category security that she has been provided with.

Yours faithfully,
Manu Bhattacharya, via email

Sir — One cannot help but laud the historic judgment of the Supreme Court. The court should now go a step further to enforce probity in public life. Jayalalithaa’s appointment to the post of chief minister had exposed the ineffectiveness of the existing laws against corruption in public life. Politicians must be forced to accept responsibility for their actions, just like ordinary citizens. Any public figure convicted in a scandal involving a sum of $ 1 billion should be sentenced for a period of 20 years. The judiciary will have to ensure that no corrupt politician is elected to a higher post in the government. It would not be a bad idea to introduce a law that would compel politicians to furnish some sort of a character certificate before assuming office.

Yours faithfully,
M. Singh via, email

Airy ideas

Sir — The article, “Castles in the air” (Aug 29), rightly points out the need for the overhauling of the defence forces. While one agrees with the writer that the airforce is an indispensable part of the defence system, one is also tempted to suggest that it is the army which plays a bigger role during war. It is the armed forces which take the vital decisions and are provided tactical and logistical support by the navy as well as the airforce.

The special appeal that the airforce holds for ordinary citizens is owing to the glamour that is associated with it. In fact, the predominance of the airforce reminds us of the old adage, that whoever is the master of the skies, will find victory. This can be best exemplified by the six-day war, which broke out between Israel and the Arab states. The pre-emptive strike by the Israeli airforce destroyed the air defence of both Egypt and Syria within a few hours. This air strike had helped the army to move ahead and achieve an emphatic victory.

It is time for the ministry of defence to remodel the entire defence system by using innovative ideas and thereby promote better coordination between the different departments of the defence forces.

Yours faithfully,
A.K. Srivastava, Salboni

Sir — There is a bias towards the airforce in the article, “Castles in the air”. There can be no denying the fact that the airforce is a vital wing of the defence system, but it makes more sense to have an integrated defence system that would be good for the security of any country. If the three wings of the armed forces were to work together, they would share a better understanding that would in turn help in developing a strong defence for India.

However, in such a scenario, the ministry of defence would have to ensure that there is no rift between the three wings so that the security concerns of India are not undermined owing to the ego clashes of individual officers. There are innumerable instances in the history of war where the operations of an integrated armed force have guaranteed success.

Yours faithfully,
S. Mukherjee, via email

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