Editorial 1 / Terror revisited
Editorial 2 / Begin at home
Life after the taliban
Fifth Column / Unseated, but not entirely undone
The Indian connection
Document / New heights for higher education
Letters to the editor

The terrorist attack on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly suggests that there is likely to be a rapid escalation of violence by terrorist groups operating in the state in the days to come. Indian security forces will have to rise to this new challenge posed by foreign desperados. It is also critical that New Delhi revitalize its international campaign against all forms of terrorism. A suicide squad of terrorists carried out the attack on the assembly in which many innocents, mostly Kashmiri Muslims, lost their lives. The terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, has taken responsibility for this terrible crime, and identified the terrorist who led the operation as one of its activists from the North West Frontier Province in Pakistan. It may be recalled that Jaish was set up little over a year ago by Mr Maulana Masood Azhar, the militant cleric who had earlier belonged to the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, and who was released from a prison in Jammu during the Kandahar hijacking. Indeed, Mr Azhar was provided with moral and material support by the leadership of the taliban regime in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s intelligence organizations. There is no doubt that Jaish is part of the terrorist network that carried out the attacks on the United States of America on September 11. And India is as much a target as the US.

The attack will revive concern about the policies of the Pakistani leadership. On the one hand, it is possible that elements within the Pakistani establishment, given their new relationship of cooperation with the US, may have now have acquired the reckless confidence to up the ante in the valley. Indeed, Pakistan’s military regime may have decided, in a dangerous game of brinkmanship, that pushing extremists into Kashmir would be a useful way of diverting the energies of terrorists at a point when there is mounting domestic criticism of Islamabad’s decision to cooperate with the US. On the other hand, Pakistan’s military establishment may have simply lost control over some of the terrorist organizations that it has, over the years, created and nourished. Either way, the terrorists seem to be determined to escalate violence in Jammu and Kashmir. It is critical that New Delhi emphasize to the US that the global war against terrorism cannot be waged successfully if it is limited only to targeting Mr Osama bin Laden and the al Qaida network. If indeed the swamp that produces terrorists has to be drained, the battle must include other groups that operate out of Pakistan and Kashmir. India must also signal its determination to eliminate terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir by strengthening the security apparatus in the state, and conveying to Islamabad, in the strongest possible terms, that its patience is not unlimited. If Pakistan’s military regime does not clamp down on the terrorist organizations, New Delhi may have to revisit the policy of restraint that it has so far exercised.


There is nobody more zealous, it is said, than a reformed rake. The truth of this observation is clear from the attitudes of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, to rallies and demonstrations that bring life to a standstill. The lightning road block, the endless procession that chokes traffic and the bandh that disrupts life — these have been the instruments the CPI(M) had used in the past to mark its road to power and to heighten the ideological consciousness of its cadre and supporters. The CPI(M), in its new incarnation under Mr Bhattacharjee, now wants to disown this past. The motive behind this is not difficult to locate. Mr Bhattacharjee and his party are eager to project to the rest of India and to the world that their regime is capital-friendly. They want to tell potential capitalists that in West Bengal, under left rule, strikes and demonstrations are not usual occurrences. Life moves smoothly, work is not disrupted, transport is not dislocated and investments are safe: this is the new image of West Bengal under the regime of what is increasingly being referred to as the new left. Mr Bhattacharjee is so enthusiastic about this new image that he called an all-party meeting to thrash out a consensus against strikes and protests.

The quest for a consensus, not surprisingly, has proved to be illusory. Some of the smaller parties within the Left Front have expressed their unwillingness to abandon what they think are legitimate instruments of struggle. Their hands have been strangthened by the position taken by the former chief minister, Mr Jyoti Basu. He advised workers not to surrender their rights to call strikes and bandhs. Mr Basu has obviously forgotten some of his own utterances as chief minister. If Mr Basu’s position is somewhat unexpected, that of the Trinamool Congress is not. Ms Mamata Banerjee did not allow her party to attend the all-party meeting. Having lost her bid to capture Writers Buildings, the only activity Ms Banerjee knows is disruption. She is trying to follow the path the CPI(M) took to power. What she overlooks, perhaps because her understanding of history is non-existent, is that times have changed. Stopping traffic, calling bandhs and burning trams and buses no longer capture the imagination. West Bengal, striken by struggle fatigue, yearns for peace, stability and development. Until Ms Banerjee understands this mood, she and her party will continue to face rejection from the people. There is also the inherent suspicion — and not entirely unjustified — that the CPI(M) is trying to stop dissent. Protests under the CPI(M) flag will be considered legitimate and those led by others will be ruled out. Mr Bhattacharjee, if he is at all serious, will have to ensure that his party takes the lead in putting an end to all rallies and strikes. Only then can he expect others to follow suit.


Looking beyond the impending war in Afghanistan, the international community must start planning for the political and economic reconstruction of that ill-starred country. This is imperative from a humanitarian as well as a realpolitik view-point. The war against terrorism will produce lasting results in Afghanistan only if it brings political stability and addresses the desperate economic problems which have made that country a breeding ground of narco-terrorism. Unless the Afghan economy is rehabilitated, al-Qaida and its taliban hosts will be succeeded by other terrorist malefactors.

It is now fairly clear that the advance on the battlefront of the forces of the Northern Alliance will be a prelude to American military action against the taliban. Russia has promised to maintain its military assistance to the Northern Alliance. It is possible that the United States of America will provide air support, seizing the opportunity to degrade or destroy the taliban’s air force, armour and heavy artillery. This scenario is consistent with reports that the US has obtained permission from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to use their air space as also certain airfield facilities. The Northern Alliance will provide the ground forces which the US is loath to commit in the conflict.

Pakistan has already voiced its apprehensions about such moves. “We fear any such decisions on the part of foreign powers to give assistance to one group or the other is a recipe for great suffering for the people of Afghanistan,” the foreign minister, Abdul Sattar declared on September 25.

Ever since the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan, the generals in Islamabad have pursued the chimera of a client state in Afghanistan. They have cherished the fanciful notion that this would provide “strategic depth” for Pakistan. The reality, of course, is that Pakistan’s close links with the taliban have proved to be more of a political embarrassment than a strategic asset. The collapse of its ambitions of exercising a dominant influence in Kabul will not cause any damage to Pakistan’s real interests.

Nevertheless, Islamabad is apprehensive that a government led by the Northern Alliance will lean towards its current benefactors, including India. These fears are as unfounded as Pakistan’s earlier hopes of domination. Political allegiance does not flow from recollection of past favours but from expectation of future benefits. A new regime in Kabul will hopefully maintain good relations with all countries of the neighbourhood — including India — but it will have to pay particular attention to its ties with the Western donors and its principal source of military aid, probably Russia.

President George W. Bush has disclaimed any interest in “nation-building” in Afghanistan and this is obviously not his primary objective. Yet it is difficult to see how the US — and the countries supporting it — can avoid involvement in assisting the emergence of a new centre of authority in Afghanistan. How else can they obtain Afghan cooperation for tracking down Osama bin Laden and his associates and for destroying the terrorist bases in the country?

While the Northern Alliance will play a central role in the initial task of freeing Afghanistan from the taliban’s stranglehold, it cannot by itself provide a stable regime for the entire country. Afghanistan is composed of diverse ethnic groups, among which the Pushtuns are the most numerous. The alliance is dominated by the Tajiks and Uzbeks of the northern areas. In order to create a more representative government, leaders from other ethnic groups will have to be inducted into the regime. In particular, adequate representation must be given to the Pushtuns. After the taliban have been removed from the scene, the government will have to be reconstituted if Afghanistan is to be given a chance for peace and stability.

One possibility is to bring back the 86-year old ex-king, Zahir Shah, as the titular head of a broad-based government. Press reports indicate that some Western governments and Afghan factions have already made initial contacts with Zahir Shah in Rome, where he has been living in exile since 1973.

A new Afghan regime will initially require substantial foreign aid not only for relief and reconstruction but also for consolidating its political control over the regional chieftains. Ever since it was founded in the 18th century, Afghanistan has been a loose tribal confederacy. Only through a combination of force and patronage has the central authority in Kabul been able to exercise a modicum of control over the provinces. The proliferation of automatic weapons has strengthened the centrifugal tendencies within the confederacy. It will take time for a new national government to build up unquestioned military superiority over the tribal warlords. Its hands will have to be strengthened by funneling foreign aid through the central government, thus endowing it with powers of financial patronage.

In any case, Afghanistan will require massive funds for relief and rehabilitation. United Nations agencies have warned of an impending humanitarian disaster unless relief measures are urgently taken in hand. Food and shelter must be provided to refugees returning from camps in Pakistan and Iran as well as to tens of thousands of displaced persons within Afghanistan. Relief arrangements must be in place before the onset of the bitterly cold Afghan winter.

The longer term task of reconstruction will entail repairing or rebuilding the physical infrastructure of a country devastated by twelve years of war and civil strife. In the chaotic conditions existing at present, narco-terrorism offers the only source of gainful employment available to many Afghans. As a result, the badlands lying astride the Afghan-Pakistan border have overtaken the notorious Golden Triangle to become the world’s principal source of opium and heroin. They have also become a major breeding ground of terrorism, sending the so-called mujahedin to such far-flung theatres as Kashmir and north Africa, Chechnya and Xinjiang. There is often a close nexus between the drug smuggler and the terrorist since the revenues generated by the opium and heroin trade are one of the principal sources of financing terrorist activities.

Aid to Afghanistan will yield rich dividends for donor countries in terms of containing terrorism and the drug menace. By promoting internal stability it will also open up the commercial prospects of major gas and oil pipelines from central Asian fields to markets in Pakistan and India.

Nevertheless, it will be an uphill task to raise resources of the required order from international donors. During the Cold War era, East-West competition generated sizeable foreign aid outflows to the third world. Overseas development aid has registered a sharp decline since the end of the Cold War. Fashionable economists from affluent countries have provided ideological respectability for this phenomenon by pointing to the bracing remedies of free capital markets, shutting their eyes to the unfolding human tragedy in Africa and some parts of Asia.

The post-Cold War period has witnessed a wide mismatch between the threat perceptions of the great powers and the instruments they employ for defence against these threats. After the Cold War, non-military threats such as international terrorism, drug trafficking and refugee flows figure prominently in the list of security challenges identified by major powers. Yet military force continues to be the exclusive instrument of security policy, apart from diplomacy. The great powers have yet to fashion new instruments designed specifically to meet the security challenges of the 21st century. Economic aid and social engineering will be essential instruments for coping with the new threats to national security.

The need to supplement military means with these instruments is crystal clear in the case of Afghanistan. We must hope that Afghanistan will prove to be a turning-point in the evolution of a new and more sophisticated security doctrine for the Western powers.

The author is a former ambassador to China and the European Union


The dubious distinction of becoming the first chief minister to be removed from office by a court of law, goes to J. Jayalalithaa, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader. The Supreme Court’s landmark judgment was hailed as a golden day for democracy in Tamil Nadu.

Jayalalithaa’s swearing in as chief minister of Tamil Nadu on May 14, by the then governor, Fathima Beevi, following her party’s landslide victory in the assembly elections last May, was mired in controversy because of her involvement in corruption cases. The curtain came down, albeit temporarily, on her political career when she stepped down as chief minister following the verdict of the apex court, on September 21. Down but not out, Jayalalithaa showed a spirit of resilience and vowed to return as chief minister. She nominated O. Pannerselvam, her trusted lieutenant as her successor and stop-gap chief minister.

Fathima Beevi’s reaction to the Supreme Court judgement was predictable. She defended her action in appointing Jayalalithaa as chief minister, saying that the decision was based on considerations such as law and order in the state and the election results, giving a massive mandate to the AIADMK. The apex court held Jayalalithaa’s appointment as a clear infringement of a constitutional provision and rejected the idea that a popular mandate could override the Constitution.

Matters gubernatorial

Earlier P.R. Rao, Jayalalithaa’s counsel, argued that the discretion exercised by the governor under 164(4) of the Constitution in appointing Jayalalithaa as chief minister was final and the court could not intervene to determine the propriety of such an appointment. Reacting to the submission that the governor’s action could not be questioned in a court of law in view of the immunity under article 361 of the Constitution, the bench maintained that the immunity is only the governor’s and not the appointee’s.

The notion that gubernatorial discretion is a limited one to determine whether the person who staked a claim to form government enjoys the majority of the house has been proved wrong. The Supreme Court has widened the scope of the discretionary powers of the governors while appointing chief ministers. The governor cannot be totally deprived of the element of discretion in the performance of the duties of his office. This observation of the Supreme Court has reminded the governors that they are not duty bound to act as a rubber stamp to endorse the decision of the majority party if it is not a correct one. The will of the people cannot be in conflict with the rule of law.

Unpleasant stay

The Constitution bench was not satisfied with Jayalalithaa’s submission that a quo warranto writ should not be issued, as the six-month period of article 164(4) ends on November 13. She should get elected to the state legislature before the deadline. Jayalalithaa’s return to power depends on her steering clear of all legal hurdles and getting her acquittal in the Tansi land deal and the Pleasant Stay hotel cases pending before the Madras high court.

Both the critics and admirers of Jayalalithaa are unanimous on one point. Being an astute politician, she should have reined in her passion for power and not rushed to seize the chief minister’s chair. A wise and timely decision would have spared Tamil Nadu its present ordeal, and its chief minister the humiliation of being unseated from office by the apex court.

During Jayalalithaa’s four-month regime, the state’s relations with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance took a nose dive. It, however, remains to be seen how far the AIADMK government will cash in on the impact of the verdict. Donning the mantle of a victim of conspiracy will create a wave of public sympathy for Jayalalithaa.

It is a matter of concern that corruption in public life has taken strong roots and stalks the corridors of power. Jayalalithaa’s appointment as chief minister, despite her disqualification on corruption charges, gave a new impetus to the Supreme Court’s crusade against corruption. Thus the nexus between elective politics and corruption should be broken in order to restore a healthy tradition of parliamentary democracy.


Convergence, to an Indian in the villages, is something that applies to the rich living in big cities. To urban Indians, it is a bill which has been under discussion for some time and something that may eventually bring about changes like the cellular phones did. And to those who use modern forms of communication, it is a welcome relief from the slow connections of ordinary telephone lines. They feel that once convergence comes it will revolutionize the way we get entertained, communicate or even do business. Some are less enthusiastic, fearing it might hamper their interests. Interestingly, all the apparent divergent views are justified.

Take the not-so-privileged and therefore the cynics, first. For many of them even an ordinary voice phone is elusive. More than two lakh villages in the country have not seen a telephone yet. In many, telephones rarely ring. Even in cities, telephones are sometimes dead, bills are inflated and customer service is bad. Yet what most urbanites want is their phone to be repaired on the same day; a steady dial tone, not music or broadband. They are happy with the local cable operator charging Rs 125 a month for some 50 odd channels. They don’t want a computer for net surfing. They need a telephone, an ordinary one, to keep in touch with others.

Then there are the minorities, those who had been waiting eagerly for broadband and convergence. Many of them possess a computer at home. They surf the net, look for the latest headlines, subscribe to adult pages at night and download music. To them the speed at which pictures or music get downloaded is painfully slow. Often, lines get disconnected in between. Many of them have tasted the fruits of leased lines at office and want similar speed at home. They are aware that Japanese will soon allow their subscribers to have video on their handsets — a dream Indians want to fulfil at least on their desktops. But this has to wait till the convergence bill becomes an act.

In between the two above categories sits the Indian middle class. It, too, wants music and video on net and finds the current rate of data transmission painfully slow. But this class is also concerned about the cost of such services. It will lap it up, provided the cost of the new services does not push up the family budget substantially. An average householder spends about Rs 125 a month for cable television and Rs 500 per month for telephone. The cost is slightly more for those who have a computer at home. In any case, for communication and entertainment the average family spends Rs 1,000 a month or less. They might be interested in the broadband services coming with convergence only if the costs are fixed at or less than this amount. Unless the broadband operator manages to tap this market, the business will not be viable.

One giant industrial concern in India which seems to be a serious player in the broadband business has plans to charge a monthly rental of Rs 1,000 from its high net worth subscribers. It has assumed three categories of subscribers: corporate, rich households and ordinary households. Corporate subscribers will be required to pay a registration fee of Rs 25,000 and a monthly subscription of Rs 2,500. They will receive 155 megabytes per second capability as a result. For high net worth clients the one time registration charge will be Rs 2,500. They will receive at Rs 1,000 per month a capability of 2 mbps, good enough for cable TV and high speed internet access. Ordinary households may access cable TV and telephony by paying Rs 500 as one time registration fee and a monthly rental of Rs 150.

The proposed service compares favourably with that available in the United States of America. By high-speed connection, the Federal Communications Commission of the US means infrastructure capable of delivering a speed of 200 kilobytes per second in either direction. This is one-tenth of what the Indian industrial house proposes to offer to its subscribers. at the higher end. Also, if one looks at the lowest category of services, the cost works out to be cheaper than what it now costs to an ordinary household. Even the rental for telephones is nearly double the amount that is being proposed by the Indian business concern.

While judging by the cost factor, the forthcoming high speed networks seem to be an exciting offer for urban Indians, some doubts remain. The most important question for a consumer is what are the channels he may access once he joins the network. In other words, he must be assured that he will continue to receive his favourite and not-so-favourite channels that he can now watch from his friendly-neighbourhood cable operator. If one merely looks at the capability of the network proposed to be laid by the bandwidth operators, one should not nurture any doubt on this count. Capacity of an optic fibre cable is mind-boggling and depends on the equipment installed at both ends. Today’s technology allows such a cable to carry 1.6 terabytes per second. Large amounts of information is sent through a cable encoding many separate streams of data as pulses of lights of different colours. These streams travel along the fibre without interfering with each other. A fibre can carry 160 such streams, each stream with a capacity of 10 gigabytes. Put simply, a subscriber may watch 280 channels on his screen. This is more than what a cable operator now offers.

There are still a few nagging issues. First and most crucial for a consumer is whether his current television set will be compatible with the new network. If not, whether this can be made compatible by the use of a set top box? And what will be the cost of such a box? Nobody will junk his TV set unless he had been planning to do so in order to buy a new one. The bandwidth provider has to find a good reason to entice the potential consumers to join their services with a new hardware. Second, and no less important, will be the kind of channels they will carry. The bandwidth provider must beam the standard fare available with the local cable operators. It will, therefore, be advantageous if the bandwidth provider also happens to be a broadcaster.

Third and equally crucial for an operator, will be service at the consumer’s doorstep. Telephone companies are notorious with fault rectification in India. If the new operators, too, fall in the rut, no consumer will like to banish the friendly cable operator where service is instantaneous. This may not be easy to offer for a bandwidth provider given the various uncertainties like digging of roads, equipment faults and so on.

Survival of a bandwidth operator will depend on these three factors. Assuming that there are no major hiccups on these counts, the Indian industrial concern interested in the project hopes to win 2.5 lakh customers in the first year, 15.4 lakh in the second year and 37.6 lakh in the third year. One reason for the expected pattern of increase in the initial years could be because the project would take time to spread to the identified centers. In the US at the end of 2000, there had been 71 lakh subscribers. It was a mere 3.75 lakh at the end of 1998. During 1999, the number grew to 28 lakh and in 2000 there was a further 158 per cent growth. Clearly, the initial three years are crucial for spreading the network.

In India, this period will be even more crucial due to a number of factors. India has just liberalized its licensing norms for the national long distance service. The bandwidth provider, if it also acquires an NLD licence, will be in a position to offer calls across the subcontinent at a cutthroat rate. Second, a new service which is about to be freed is the international voice telephony. It is slated to open by April 2002. The process of issuing licences may take a few more months. But any bandwidth provider can offer internet link directory service also subject to meeting the terms and conditions. The third new service such providers may be in a position to offer will be internet telephony. Already the Indian regulator — Telecom Regulatory Authority of India — has been busy working on these. In short, the bandwidth provider may look for more exciting business than was projected say two years back.

But the good news may not look as good to the cynics. What will happen, they may ask, to the vast majority of Indians living away from the less than 100 urban centers or the route connecting these? Will they continue to be denied the facilities?

The answer is no. Because of competition, all telephone companies will have to grow at a fast rate. This means they have to take services to the doorsteps of those hitherto not covered. True, such service must have to be cost effective. Given the option available, like the use of wireless phones, the cost of basic telephony to distant rural areas can be made affordable. Competition and the urge to survive will force telecom operators to try and bridge the digital divide.

Exciting times lie ahead for consumers — both for those looking for high bandwidth and those satisfied with an ordinary telephone. But for that Indians look forward to the passage of the convergence bill, which will allow a single operator to offer multiple services. Only then can the divergent benefits be bundled in a service offered by a single operator. Convergence looks exciting even in a divergent economy.


Universities as centres of learning and research have an important role in expanding the horizons of knowledge and providing intellectual leadership to society. Unfortunately, many of them have become mere examination-conducting bodies today. Steps should be taken to restore the universities to the original role expected of them. A few concrete suggestions:

Gradual dispensing with the system of affiliation; giving a fair trial to the concept of autonomous colleges...

Applied and meaningful research that directly addresses the questions relevant to community needs... Though we have a large system of higher education with around 240 universities and 9,000 colleges, nearly 40 per cent of the colleges are reported to be non-viable...With a large number of students receiving substandard education in ill-equipped colleges, we cannot expect to produce man power capable of meeting the challenges in different fields. Immediate steps need to be taken to improve the conditions of the colleges.

Feasibility of community system of higher education combining formal and non-formal systems and providing for horizontal and vertical mobility within the academic framework must be examined.

The new technological revolution particularly in the field of information technology has made a tremendous impact on the field of education at all levels...It has brought about a total paradigm shift with regard to the role of the teacher, the method of the pedagogy and the character of the educational institutions. How to adapt the new technology to our needs and conditions without allowing it to damage our values and identity is also a matter which deserves serious consideration.

One of the negative impacts of the invasion of new technology is the relegation of the basic sciences and humanities to the background. Both of them have great significance from the point of view of original research in different spheres of knowledge as well as from the point of view of quality of social and cultural life. Care should be taken to protect and promote these disciplines in a meaningful way.

Higher education is of crucial importance for the developmental process. Strengthening the system is the need of the hour...The argument that higher education is getting a greater share at the cost of primary education has little justification. Each has its own importance. Primary education must get all the due attention; but neglecting higher education would be disastrous.

Private agencies do have an important role in the field of education. However, leaving the field open to the market forces in the name of privatization is a self-defeating proposition. Commercialization will not only denude education of all the noble values and ideals associated with it, it will also lead to widening the gap of social disparity. Therefore, commercialization of education needs to be curbed in the larger interest of education.

Expenditure on education is an investment for the future... Determined and time-bound efforts will have to be made to move towards reaching the target of 6 per cent of the gross domestic product on education. While the non-government efforts can play a supporting role in this behalf, the major responsibility rests with the government.

The examination system should be thoroughly revised to make it a comprehensive system of evaluating the abilities and achievements of the students. It should cease to be a fault-finding and mechanical exercise. Teacher-training at all levels needs to be seriously considered for reformation. It is important that the teacher is equipped and motivated for the central role that he/she is expected to play in a meaningful educational system.

Special educational rights to the minorities must be properly defined so as to prevent such educational institutions from becoming insulated entities leading to a duality in the system. Inter-relationship between autonomy and government monitoring of such minority-managed educational institutions should be clearly defined. The duality between private and the state-owned educational institutions must also be debated within the broad perspective of national culture and national spirit.

The need for an independent and autonomous agency on the lines of the judiciary or the Election Commission, which will guide, co-ordinate and monitor the implementation of educational policies, has been voiced by several organizations and educational experts. This agency shall also be responsible for assessing and auditing the performance of educational institutions at all levels. Creation of such an agency will be a major step towards educational reform.

The purpose of this paper is not to provide any detailed plan of educational reform... What is attempted here is only to indicate some important areas where immediate action is needed. It is hoped that a wider debate on these issues will provide the necessary road map for future policy and concrete action. As it was correctly pointed out in the Kothari commission report, “no report, however good, can be a substitute for action”. It is hoped that this occasion of introspection will also turn out to be a starting point for appropriate action.



Games behind the game

Sir — The hottest sporting rivalry in the country, strangely, is between two non-sportsmen: Jagmohan Dalmiya and Raj Singh Dungarpur (“Of drama, tension and success”, Sept 30). Although the race for the post of the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India was ostensibly between Dalmiya and A.C. Muthaiah, the real battle, behind the curtains, was between Dalmiya and Dungarpur. Dungarpur insisted on washing the dirty linen in public by predicting Dalmiya’s defeat in the annual general meeting. Besides swallowing his words following the elections, the Rajput had to face an unceremonious removal from the chairmanship of the National Cricket Academy. That the game of oneupmanship in the top rungs of the BCCI influences the performance of the cricket team is evident from the tussle between Dungarpur and Dalmiya over Sourav Ganguly. Given the sorry state Indian cricket is in at the moment, a similar rivalry on the field might just yield better dividends.

Yours faithfully,
Sunetra Sikdar, Calcutta

Haldia’s yet to happen

Sir — The condition put forward by the Indian Oil Corporation before the government of West Bengal, prior to confirming its participation in the Rs 5,170 crore Haldia Petrochemicals project, is a tough one (“Purnendu or us: IOC”, Sept 8). The IOC’s demand of a 26 per cent stake in the project could be accommodated by diluting the existing composition of the 43 per cent holdings of the Chatterjee group and the state government, keeping the 14 per cent share of the Tatas undisturbed.

Ever since the Haldia Petrochemicals was “dedicated to the nation” on April 2, 2000, ostensibly symbolizing the turnaround of the industrial scenario of the state, it has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons: anomalies in its partnership pattern, management control, interest burden and restructuring of the debt-equity imbalance.

The Tata group, after fiddling with the idea of pulling out, has finally decided to stay on. The decision of the giant cash-surplus organization, IOC, to participate in the state’s showpiece industrial venture, and the positive inclination of the banks and other financial institutions to lend at 10-11 per cent rates of interest rather than the earlier 17.5 per cent, seemed to set the ball rolling for the Haldia Petrochemicals.

Add to this, the dynamic image of the chief minister, the initiatives taken by the new commerce and industry minister, and the cooperative trade union led by Lakshman Seth, and there seems to be no reason why the project should not be a success.

Yours faithfully,
Phani Bhusan Saha, Balurghat

Sir — In the wake of the employment opportunities generated by the production potential of the Haldia Petrochemicals, one cannot help feeling that the state government has not done the groundwork properly, through technical education and all-out campaigns. Had this been done, and had the environment in the state been investment-friendly, industries, small and large, could have grown up based on the Haldia products.

But there is a serious lack of education and awareness regarding polymers in the state. Neither does the state government try to boost entrepreneurship in this area. Very few students in the state know that like civil, mechanical and chemical engineering, polymer is also a branch of engineering, and a very promising one. Polymer technology is not included among the courses in the state polytechnics and undergraduate engineering colleges, though it is popular in several other states.

One of the objectives of the project — to create employment opportunities — is also at stake. Inviting Japanese companies is surely not a solution. The government should concentrate on training young people to make them fit for utilizing the state’s own produce. Otherwise, Haldia will remain an evidence of lost opportunities in Bengal.

Yours faithfully,
Srikrishna Roy, Calcutta

Lifted sanctions

Sir — The sanctions imposed on India by the United States of America following India’s nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1998 have been waived (“Bush opens arsenal for friend Pak”, Sept 24). So have those imposed on Pakistan on similar grounds. Although India and Pakistan are sovereign countries, the US still wanted to punish them for carrying out nuclear tests. After falling prey to terrorist attacks on September 11, the US has changed its mind and lifted the sanctions.

As far as India is concerned, the sanctions did not translate into a great deal of damage. In fact, India has benefited from the sanctions. Technological research accelerated during this period. Pakistan, on the other hand, suffered because the sanctions meant that it could not borrow money from the International Monetary Fund. With the Pakistani exchequer drying out completely, the lifting of the sanctions must have come as a great relief.

It seems that the US was more interested in granting favours to Pakistan to gain its cooperation in the war against Afghanistan. And since the sanctions imposed on India were on grounds identical to that of Pakistan, it would be politically incorrect to not waive the sanctions on India too.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir — The lifting of sanctions imposed by the US on India will not really help the Indian economy on a macro level, as India has already passed the worst phase of the sanctions, and without too much difficulty. But this is good news for companies like the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, Godrej, Larsen & Toubro and Kirloskar, as they can now freely import technologies worth millions of dollars. Also, the nuclear missile programmes will be able to procure high-tech equipment from the US. However, the lifting of the sanctions has happened when the US is at its most vulnerable. It remains to be seen whether the US stance on sanctions changes once it feels less threatened.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — Owing to the economic policies of the Central government, retired persons who do not receive pensions have to face a great deal of hardship. They have no choice but to invest their savings in monthly income schemes in the post office. Despite the fact that we have witnessed a decade of economic reforms and now have access to superior technology as well as the internet, our post offices continue to function in an old-fashioned manner.

Senior citizens (and 40 per cent of them are women) have to stand in long queues for hours before they are attended to. In fact, they have to frequent the post office several times a month to collect the monthly interest that is doled out to them.

The Centre remains indifferent to their plight as is obvious from the lowering of bank interests. It would not be a bad idea for the government to introduce some kind of social security for retired persons that would make them less dependent on bank interests and postal savings schemes. Cheques could also be issued to senior citizens at the beginning of the year so that they are spared the trouble of frequenting the post office several times a week.

Yours faithfully,
Priyabrata Mukherjee, Calcutta

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