Editorial 1 / Diseased war
Editorial 2 / Time to Act
Heart of the money matter
A rich language, though unknown
Document / Action where it matters most
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / DISEASED WAR 
 
 
 
 
The danger of biological weapons being used by terrorist groups is no longer a figment of the imagination of science fiction writers. Growing evidence from the United States of America suggests that biological weapons are the latest instruments being used by extremists in their campaign of hate and terror. The most recent example is of a letter received by US senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, which had been infected by anthrax. Earlier, there have been reports of anthrax-related cases in three US states and at least one person has died in Florida. Anthrax spores were found even on the victim’s computer keyboard. Anthrax is not uncommon in the developing world, but there have been only eighteen recorded cases in the last hundred years in the US. In the backdrop of September 11, these cases have created a minor panic there. Indeed, US embassies have been ordered to stockpile the antibiotic Cipro-floxacin, which is believed to cure the disease if detected early enough. If these incidents are good evidence of the coming threat, the world and particularly democracies like the US and India must be prepared to face what could probably be the most dangerous form of unconventional warfare in recent times. Not only are biological warfare agents easy to produce, particularly with the advances in genetic engineering and biotechnology, they are even easier to deliver. And a small quantity of biological weapons can have a catastrophic effect. As one leading expert Kathleen Bailey has pointed out, the average size of these bacteria is about 0.2 by 0.5 microns and a cricket-ball sized container could hold enough bacteria to cause disease in a billion people, even if 99.9 per cent of the bacteria died during dissemination. Or consider that merely half a kilogram of salmonella could infect a drinking water reservoir of five million litres capacity.

The use of biological warfare agents, per se, is not new in the history of human civilization. European settlers gave blankets infected with smallpox to native Indian tribes. And while there is no conclusive proof, it is believed that biological weapons were used during the first and second world wars. It is believed that both the Japanese and the Germans experimented heavily on prisoners.

During recent years, however, despite notable exceptions, there has been a growing taboo against the use of biological weapons. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 was the first expression of the international community’s outrage at the use of these weapons. However, it is the 1972 Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons and their destruction that is the basis of the international regime against these weapons. Unfortunately, a verification protocol, so essential to give the Convention teeth, has still not been agreed upon despite prolonged negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament. The problem, however, is not just with nation states, but with non-state actors who are not party to any norm or regime. For countries like India, with non-existent civil defence mechanisms and weak public health systems, the challenge is greater. It is crucial therefore for the government not just to develop a contingency plan of action, but also carry out a mass awareness programme.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / TIME TO ACT 
 
 
 
 
Terrorists or militants are a constant threat even to a country where they have bases for their subversive activities. The al Qaida, which literally means “the base”, brought the message painfully home to the long-suffering people of Afghanistan. It is not difficult to understand why the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is anxious about the militants from India’s northeast operating from its soil. The small country has been saddled with as many as nine groups waging their insurrectionist battles in Assam and other parts of the northeast from their jungle bases in southern Bhutan. The Bhutanese national assembly’s “ultimatum” to these groups to leave the country reflects its growing impatience with the militants who are now seen threatening its sovereignty. That four of the nine groups have “agreed” to wind up their camps inside Bhutan by December should be cold comfort to the authorities because the country wants all of them out. Besides, outfits like the United Liberation Front of Asom and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland had earlier reneged on similar promises. The problem is that despite its anxieties and intentions, Bhutan may not be fully equipped to tackle the extremist menace and needs the help of Indian security agencies in flushing the militants out. The issue of Indian assistance, however, had been stuck earlier on the question of allowing India the right of hot pursuit inside Bhutan. The Bhutanese foreign minister, Mr Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley, has underscored the urgency of the entire issue, saying that he would like to discuss it with India’s foreign minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, and home minister, Mr L K Advani.

On its part, the Indian government should be eager to help because India too is worried about the northeastern militants setting up training camps in Bhutan, Bangladesh and earlier in Myanmar . All this has been a source of India’s diplomatic tension with these countries at different times. What is important in the latest Bhutanese position, however, is the realization that the presence of the militants and their camps on its soil could be dangerous for itself, even as it could irritate India. There is a lesson in this for Bangladesh which still has some camps from which militant groups strike in Tripura.

   

 
 
HEART OF THE MONEY MATTER 
 
 
BY K.P. NAYAR
 
 
A key missing link in India’s post-September 11 dealings with the Bush administration has been the will and the wherewithal to aggressively pursue joint efforts to cap the money trail from rich Islamic states to charities both in India and the United States of America which serve as a front for organizations and individuals promoting religious extremism.

The discussions between the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, and Indian leaders yesterday and today focussed primarily on the political, diplomatic and military aspects of the campaign to neutralize the taliban, get rid of Osama bin Laden and root out terror from its fountainhead in Afghanistan.

By all accounts, inadequate attention was paid to the financial web of terrorism, which poses as much of a threat to India as the militant activities of the Lashkar-e-Toiba or the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. The dividing line between religious extremism and terrorism, as bin Laden has demonstrated, is thin. And if New Delhi does not act swiftly to choke the funds flowing into the coffers of organizations within the country which promote religious disaffection, India will have to face the same regrets which Americans are now reflecting on for not having acted more perceptively in recent years to prevent terrorist attacks of the kind they faced last month.

One of the most perceptive statements made by the president, George W. Bush, since his campaign against terrorism acquired a new edge on September 11 may appear to be simplistic at the first glance. Yet, it is a factor in the fight against terror which governments, including the one in New Delhi, have so far ignored at their own peril.

Addressing his first formal press conference last week, Bush said “al Qaida organization cannot function without money”. Bush also claimed that a major drive was on “to reach out to willing nations to disrupt and seize assets of the al Qaida organization”. Two lists in recent days, one by the White House and another by the department of treasury, to freeze the money trail to terrorists may have given the impression to the outside world that the US is moving in dogged pursuit of terrorist funds.

Actually, such a claim falls far short of what is needed. The tragic events at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last month have, by no means, made the “establishment” any more flexible or reasonable. Conflicting interests within the administration continue unabated.

Thus, in the days before the treasury department announced its targets for the funds freeze last week which included Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Rabita Trust — there were bitter disagreements within the administration on who should be named in the list and how their assets were to be frozen.

The state department’s priority was to preserve the coalition which it was helping to build in the diplomatic campaign against bin Laden and the taliban. Naturally, it wanted Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to be treated with kid gloves.

Just as it knew that General Pervez Musharraf was a benefactor of the Rabita Trust, which had been taken over by bin Laden’s associates in recent years, the state department knew that the creme de la creme of Saudi society have been associated with charities which had funnelled large amounts of money to bin Laden.

The Muwafaq Foundation of Saudi Arabia is a case in point. Its head, Yasin al Qadi, is among those whose assets have been frozen in the treasury department’s order. So is Ayadi Chafiq bin Muhammad, a Bosnian linked to the foundation. Indeed, the treasury department acknowledges on record that the foundation has been giving millions of dollars to bin Laden.

Yet, the Muwafaq Foundation, as an organization, has got away without its assets being frozen. Indeed, unlike Rabita Trust and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, Muwafaq, whose name translates into “Blessed Relief”, has not been named in the list of organizations channelling money to terrorists.

Why? Because some of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful families are associated with the organization and naming it would have put the state department in a bind as it tries its best to bring round Saudi Arabia to meet US needs in its war against bin Laden.

For that matter Qadi himself has long had investments in the US, including a thriving stake in a diamond exploration company based in San Diego, California. Nor is this the first time that anti-terrorist agencies in the US have cited him. Some years ago, he sent $820,000 from a Swiss bank account for investment in the US. According to a case in which the US justice department froze the funds of an Illinois foundation, the Quranic Literacy Institute, some of this money went to buy weapons for the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.

Despite the administration’s kid gloves treatment of prominent Saudi families with clout in the al Saud clan, there is disappointment in Washington that Saudi Arabia has not measured up to American expectations in scrutinizing Islamic charities suspected to be linked to bin Laden’s network of terrorist financing.

Officials in the kingdom have told Washington that their search for the assets of those in the earlier White House list has not yielded worthwhile results. Officials in the treasury department have concluded that Saudi scrutiny of those accounts have been perfunctory. Even in cases where searches have turned up results, it is said that instructions to seize the assets were so slow that they have been salvaged by the owners, as in the case of the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Why is all this important for India in its fight against terrorism? A fact, which has been lamented in North Block by the home ministry, but largely ignored by the finance ministry, is that some of the very groups and individuals who have been cited in the two American lists have been funding religious activities in India wallowing in fundamentalism and bordering on terrorism.

Just as political expediency prevented New Delhi from banning the Students Islamic Movement of India until the events of September 11, the search for vote banks and secular credentials have prevented the government from starving religious fundamentalists of funds from abroad, which could find its way to subversion.

There are piles of files in the home ministry linking Islamic charities in west Asia to subversive activity across India. But the finance ministry is feeling complacent that its archaic rules and legislations have been adequate to deal with the problem. Actually, this reflects a lack of understanding of the challenge. Legislation in India governing foreign contributions has, ironically, prevented good work in the areas of charity and human development from being undertaken: but it has not prevented money from going into subversion.

It is unrealistic to expect the government to initiate any legislation in this regard when national elections are less than three years away. Yet the problem is serious enough to warrant action.

The only practical way India can be shielded from terrorist financing, therefore, is for New Delhi to take advantage of the climate created in the US following the September 11 outrage and work with the US in shutting down charities in west Asia which are financing terrorist activities against the US as well as India.

The meeting between Powell and Indian leaders is the third high level exchange between the two countries in the month since bin Laden’s attacks against the US. That is proof against the argument that India is marginal to the current US-led campaign against global terrorism.

But the meetings which the national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, and the external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, had in Washington DC focussed on the broader issues of the fight against global terror. The same is largely true of Powell’s meetings in New Delhi.

Any joint Indo-US operations against the financing of terrorism, therefore, remains a missing link in the efforts by Washington and New Delhi to find common ground in their campaign against terror.

The Indo-US joint working group on counter-terrorism is to meet shortly. India ought to press at this forum for action against the financing of terrorism, an aspect which has received less attention than the politico-military aspects of counter-terrorism so far.

This is necessary for practical reasons as well. Because New Delhi will be handicapped for secular reasons from legislating or even acting within the bounds of law against subversive funds flowing into the country from west Asia, the best option for the government would be to choke the funds at their source. This can be done only by enlisting the US’s cooperation by joining Washington’s campaign against terrorist financing.

India has ample evidence about the nature of terrorist financing. Since New Delhi is already sharing intelligence on the taliban and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism with the US, it ought to expand such cooperation by sharing information about terrorist financing networks in India as well.

Now that the counter-terrorism set up in the administration has been expanded well beyond the state department and conventional agencies, India ought to reach out to other agencies and lobby for a comprehensive campaign against religious charities in west Asia. This will have the definite effect of starving subversives in India of funds.

   

 
 
A RICH LANGUAGE, THOUGH UNKNOWN 
 
 
BY SUDHIR KUMAR MISHRA
 
 
After Jharkhand, the neglect of Maithili and Mithilanchal once again seems have become a major political issue, not only in Bihar, but also in Jharkhand. Even in Jharkhand, the protagonist of the Mithilanchal movement held a series of meetings across the state to build up mass consciousness. Several Jharkhand ministers publicly announced that they would extend wholehearted support to the cause. In fact, during the coming days, this issue may become a major political plank. As the demand for more new states grows across the country, the Mithilanchal movement too will gradually gain momentum.

Inclusion of the Maithili language in the eighth schedule of the Constitution has been in demand for a long time. Although most of the leaders have agreed that such expectations were not unjustified, the “unidentified rich” language has often been a victim of conspiracies. The reasons are apparent. The Maithili movement was never been backed by violent protests. Perhaps violence does not run in the blood of Mithila.

The Vishnupurana says that after the Mahabharata war, sages across the whole of Aryavarta were not able to find a suitable place to perform their spiritual and religious exercises, because no part of this land had remained unaffected by bloodshed. Brahma then advised the sages to go to Mithila as it was the only place which had retained its “sanctity”.

Maithili is a living language, currently spoken by over 300 million people, in north Bihar and Nepal, in particular. Maithili-speaking people are spread all over the world. It is not a dialect, as it is often thought to be. It has its own script, grammar and a rich literature. The Sahitya Akademi gives awards every year for outstanding contributions in the field of Maithili literature. A Maithili book exhibition was inaugurated by the then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in the national capital in 1963. At the closing ceremony of the book exhibition, Nehru had remarked, “I was happy to inaugurate yesterday the Maithili Book Exhibition and was happy to see the large collection of books and manuscripts in Maithili. This demonstrated that Maithili has been for a long time and is today a living language among the people of that area. The language deserves encouragement and this can best be done by good books being written in it.”

Maithili secured a place in the Sahitya Akademi in 1965 at the recommendation of an expert committee comprising veterans like Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, S.M. Kane, Hazari Prasad Dwiwedi and Subhadra Jha. The Maithili script, Mithilakshar, is atleast 1,300 years old. Today Maithili books appear in the Devnagari script. But, that is only because of lack of printing facilities in Mithilakshar.

A well known international literary organization, PEN, recognizes Maithili as a literary language. It has been recognized as a subject of study and research by all the universities in Bihar. Several other universities, too, award degrees of highest level for outstanding works in the field. The University of Calcutta has been awarding such degrees since 1919 and the Benaras Hindu University since 1932. Maithili is also being taught in Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

The first Maithili grammar book was written way back in 1881 by G.A. Grierson. Since then there has been a long tradition of writing books on Maithili grammar and compiling dictionaries. Grierson in his book, Maithili Grammar, wrote, “Maithili is a language and not a dialect. It is the native language of millions of people who can speak either Hindi or Urdu without great difficulty”. Again, Ramavtar Yadav, a citizen of Nepal, wrote A Reference Grammar of Maithili. The grammar book was published in New York. The Kalyani Foundation published the Kalyani Dictionary. It was edited by Kameshwar Singh of Darbhangaj.

Maithili’s literary tradition is at least one thousand years old. This would be clear from a reference to Siddh Sahitya — Chhaya Pad and Doha Kosh. Jyotireshwar’s prose piece, “Varnaratnakar”, written in the 13th century and Vidyapati’s verses composed in the 14th century are now being taught in all the leading universities across the world.

Maithili speaking people are uniformly spread all over the world, not to speak of India or Bihar alone. This fact was even admitted by the former Bihar chief minister, Karpoori Thakur, in his note to the Centre while recommending the inclusion of Maithili language in the eighth schedule. Maithili was the first non-scheduled language that was recognized by the Sahitya Akademi. Dignitaries like Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Humayun Kabir, R.R. Diwakar and D.K. Barua, too, had supported the cause of the Maithili language from time to time.

All India Radio and Doordarshan regularly air programmes in this language. Till recently, it had a place in the syllabus of the competitive examinations conducted by the Bihar Public Service Commission. Maithili’s miseries began after Laloo Prasad Yadav came to power in 1990. In 1993, he got Maithili struck off from the BPSC list, arguing that being a language of the upper castes it was responsible for brahminical dominance in the state bureaucracy. The matter is still pending before the Patna high court. Later on, Yadav passed a legislation in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha and enabled Maithili to become a medium for answering BPSC examination questions.

A cultural organization, Surabhi, organized a literary seminar in September 1994, and unanimously passed a resolution, recommending the inclusion of Maithili in the eighth schedule along with Dogari and Rajasthani.

During the 1996 Lok Sabha election campaigns, the then prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, had assured the inclusion of Mathili in the eighth schedule. His predecessors, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, too, had given similar assurances in the past. The issue is very much there on the agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Samata Party and other leading political parties. Still, when it comes to decision making, all are guided by their own whims and fancies.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / ACTION WHERE IT MATTERS MOST 
 
 
 
 
Support community activities such as dissemination of IEC material, including leaflets and posters, and promotion of folk jatras, songs and dances to promote healthy mother and healthy baby messages, along with good management practices to ensure safe motherhood, including early recognition of danger signs.

Programme development, comprising: Partnership in family health and nutrition. The aanganwadi worker will identify women and children in the villages who suffer from malnutrition and/or micro-nutritional deficiencies, including iron, vitamin A, and iodine deficiency; provide nutritional supplements and monitor nutritional status.

Convergence, strengthening, and universalization of the nutritional programmes of the Department of Family Welfare and the Integrated Child Development Scheme run by the Department of Women and Child Development, ensuring training and timely supply of food supplements and medicines.

Include STD/RTI and HIV/AIDS prevention, screening and management, in maternal and child health services.

Provide quality care in family planning, including information, increased contraceptive choices for both spacing and terminal methods, increase access to good quality and affordable contraceptive supplies and services at diverse delivery points, counselling about the safety, efficacy and possible side effects of each method, and appropriate follow-up.

Develop a health package for adolescents.

Expand the availability of safe abortion care. Abortion is legal, but there are barriers limiting women’s access to safe abortion services. Some operational strategies are: Community-level education campaigns should target women, household decision makers and adolescents about the availability of safe abortion services and the dangers of unsafe abortion.

Make safe and legal abortion services more attractive to women and household decision makers by increasing geographic spread; enhancing affordability; ensuring confidentiality and providing compassionate abortion care, including post-abortion counselling.

Adopt updated and simple technologies that are safe and easy, e.g. manual vacuum extraction not necessarily dependant upon anaesthesia, or non-surgical techniques which are non-invasive.

Promote collaborative arrangements with private sector health professionals, NGOs and the public sector, to increase the availability and coverage of safe abortion services, including training of mid-level providers.

Eliminate the current cumbersome procedures for registration of abortion clinics. Simplify and facilitate the establishment of additional training centres for safe abortions in the public, private, and NGO sectors. Train health care providers in provision of clinical services for safe abortions.

Formulate and notify standards for abortion services. Strengthen enforcement mechanisms at district and sub-district levels to ensure that these norms are followed.

Follow norms-based registration of service provision centres, and thereby switch the onus of meticulous observance of standards onto the provider.

Provide competent post-abortion care, including management of complications and identification of other health needs of post-abortion patients, and linking with appropriate services. As part of post-abortion care, physicians may be trained to provide family planning counselling and services such as sterilization, and reversible modern methods such as IUDs, as well as oral contraceptives and condoms.

Modify syllabus and curricula for medical graduates, as well as for continuing education and in-house learning, to provide for practical training in the newer procedures.

Ensure services for termination of pregnancy at primary health centres and at community health centres.

To be Concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

The centre of half the attention

Sir — So Laura Bush has woken up to the needs of the time and is performing a “larger role” than expected (“First Lady lends a hand in time of tragedy”, Oct 15). Does that mean we should stand up and congratulate the first lady for her initiative? Probably not. Because much of the role the first lady plays nowadays is written out by her press advisors who know exactly what people want and how much they want it. There are first ladies who sometimes supersede that role, acting on their own volition to achieve their own specific ambitions. Most, however, fall in line with the role that is prescribed for them. Laura Bush is no different. If she had few public appearances before the September 11 tragedy it is possibly because her media managers thought the public deserved a break from first lady shows or because her husband was yet to find his political footing. The aftermath of the tragedy dictated that the president grow in stature and with him the first lady. As George W. Bush took to rabble-rousing, his lady was required to soothe nerves within the country and assume a role she must have expected before stepping into the White House. The tragedy has merely changed the intensity of the spotlight.

Yours faithfully,
J. Sen, Calcutta

Self-interested

Sir — The report, “Strong voices rise for George return” (Oct 15), is good news for those who want George Fernandes back in the cabinet. Former minister for defence, Fernandes, had quit his post on emotional grounds soon after tehelka.com revealed how corrupt politicians and military personnel influenced and undertook defence deals. However, the corruption was admitted to be deeprooted within the defence establishment itself, which meant that the National Democratic Alliance, nor its defence minister had created it. Also, no corruption cases were slapped on Fernandes related to tehelka. The obvious question that follows is, was it then necessary to keep Fernandes out of the ministry for so long and for no fault of his?

The country is facing a high security risk. There is constant threat from Pakistan and the situation in Kashmir is also alarming. India now needs an able defence minister like Fernandes to take charge of the situation. The Congress and left outburst against his re-induction is illogical and unjustified. When the country is facing a severe internal security problem, the opposition parties should cooperate with the government instead of aggravating the problem.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir — It’s an “honest” decision to take George Fernandes back into the Central cabinet without caring to wait for the K. Venkataswami commission findings. It is an irony that Atal Bihari Vajpayee should be described as an “honest” man. There are several gems in his ministry, including Yashwant Sinha, who is tomtommed as the “greatest economic reformer” despite his dismal performance and the sorry economic situation. There have also been times when the NDA government has claimed that allegations of corruption and inefficiency are intended to dislodge the government.

The re-induction of Fernandes is Vajpayee’s attempt to remain safe in his kursi. Similarly, the appointment of Bangaru Laxman to his earlier position in the Rajya Sabha is an attempt to retain the Dalit votes in Uttar Pradesh. Can we really doubt the “honest” intentions of the prime minister?

Yours faithfully,
Kantilal Dugar, Tinsukia, Assam

Sir — Atal Bihari Vajpayee shall never again find such an opportunity to scuttle democratic norms and bulldoze his wishes (“Signal of Fernandes return to ministry”, Oct 13). When the world is waging a war against terrorism, Vajpayee chooses to fortify his chair by re-inducting George Fernandes in the Central cabinet and reinstating the disgraced Bharatiya Janata Party president, Bangaru Laxman, in the honourable public office of Parliament. Vajpayee knows no one will dare question the government’s decision when a war is going on in the neighbourhood. It is likely that the Justice Venkataswami commission’s findings will never see the light of day.

Yours faithfully,
Shanta Kumar, Calcutta

Sir — The prime minister’s recent decision shows that an autocrat is in power. Atal Bihari Vajpayee showed little respect for judicial commissions or democratic bindings while reinstating Bangaru Laxman and George Fernandes in their earlier positions. There was no resistance to the choice from his coalition partners, thanks to their respective “home-truths”. The truth is Indian political leaders want power to achieve personal interests and they conveniently use the pretext of “national interest”. Interestingly, even after such a long period of non-governance, Vajpayee is still adored by a section of the media.

Yours faithfully,
Sagarika Das Gupta, Calcutta

Alternate rule

Sir — There have been several reports in the media comparing the two years of the S.M. Krishna government in Karnataka with the previous J.H. Patel government. One thing that should be kept in mind is that the former government had already completed half the fiscal year, when Krishna assumed charge. From day one, Krishna has shown seriousness, decency and the urgency to steer Karnataka towards rapid economic progress. The state’s revenue deficit, which had shot up between 1998-99, reduced drastically between 1999-2001. Revenue receipts also increased considerably during the two years of Krishna’s rule. Capital expenditure — the barometer to assess the government’s will to invest in the future — got a substantial push in these two years. Karnataka’s fiscal deficit has reduced from 4.08 per cent to 3.45 per cent.

However, there are still some important issues which Krishna needs to address urgently. Fictitious expenditure eats into the vitals of government funds. Despite Krishna’s repeated public assurances, the problem continues. Rumours of corruption are doing the rounds. Sickness among small units is now endemic, destroying entrepreneurial spirit with devastating consequences. Of the 2,69,225 registered small units, half are closed and the rest are struggling to survive. The government must urgently constitute a task force to come out with a solution.

Yours faithfully,
N. Narasimhan, Bangalore

Sir — S.M. Krishna has successfully completed two years of rule despite facing a number of problems like the kidnappings by Veerappan, the Cauvery water crisis and charges of corruption against the president of the state Congress There are four important things that should take place during Krishna’s tenure. First, the shifting of the high court bench in northern Karnataka. Second, shifting the railway divisional office to Hubli. This will ease the congestion, problems associated with water and power supply in the region. Third, as in other states, the Central Bureau of Investigation should be given a free hand to investigate into cases on the basis of priority. Since poverty, poor quality work, finance deficit and cost of living is very much connected with corruption, it is essential to permit the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate into cases of corruption. Last, since the number of pending cases in the court is enormous, it is essential to expand the judiciary in the state. The steps would help reduce poverty and introduce better governance.

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore

WHO’s talking

Sir — The report, “WHO rings alarm bell on mental disorder” (Oct 6), should be a warning to the government of India. Statistics reveal a stark truth about mental disorders in India. According to the World Health Organization reports, “stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders”. This is unfortunate. The available medicines, hospital infrastructure and the number of qualified psychiatrists to treat mental illness in India are inadequate. In third world countries, an individual with any kind of psychological disorder dies a social death first. The recent horrific incident where 27 chained inmates of a home for the mental patients were charred to death is shocking. This event brought to the fore the problems plaguing mental hospitals here. As suggested by the WHO, one effective device to tackle the problem would be to “integrate mental health into the primary health care services.” Australia has benefited by following this method. India should also follow the WHO report for its own benefit.

Yours faithfully,
Phani Bhusan Saha, Calcutta

Sir — My experience as a medical practitioner for over two decades in the United Kingdom allows me to state that the WHO’s report on mental health and the instructions written should be carefully followed. People all over the world should be on guard while using psychotropic drugs for mental disorders. This is because such drugs cause distress and disturbances to the involuntary muscle movements and other related problems.

Hopefully, psychiatrists and health practitioners would be careful not to administer these drugs to the mentally challenged.

Yours faithfully,
Suhash Chandra Ray, Calcutta

Sir — The increase in the number of suicides in the last few years and the government’s inability to find a solution to the problem goes to prove that in India mental health is the last thing the department of health has in mind. Often mental illness in the forms of depression, schizophrenia and even epilepsy goes unnoticed, resulting in further complications. The social taboo associated with mental disorder results in alienation of the patient from the rest of the society. It is interesting to note that although rapid progress is being made in the case of other diseases, not much is being achieved in this realm. It is time the authorities acted in this sphere.

Yours faithfully,
K. Singh, Calcutta

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