Editorial 1 / Let’s cooperate
Editorial 2 / Ready for terror
The sheriff and his posse
Fifth Column / Two states with too many scandals
The view from Beijing
Document / Reaching out in a collaborative effort
Letters to the editor

The United States of America has much to be pleased about in the outcome of the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting at Shanghai. The joint statement by the leaders of the forum contains a well thought out plan of action to combat terrorism. This is particularly significant given that the 21-country grouping consists of several countries with significant Muslim populations, some of which have witnessed a fury of protests at the American use of force in Afghanistan. President George W. Bush will also be glad that one vital actor, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, has signalled his support for the military action. Russia’s support has come despite the continuing differences over American plans to construct a ballistic missile defence system, and Washington’s desire to scrap the anti-ballistic missile treaty that had been signed by the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The APEC meeting will undoubtedly go one step further in reinforcing the American claim that there is a real global coalition against international terrorism.

There are three aspects of the APEC declaration that warrant attention. First, the statement unequivocally declares that terrorist acts in all forms and manifestations, committed wherever, whenever and by whomsoever are a profound threat to the peace, prosperity and security of all people, of all faiths, of all nations. Moreover, terrorism is also viewed as a direct challenge to APEC’s vision of free, open and prosperous economies and to the fundamental values that its members hold. There is clearly a determination to ensure that the fight against international terrorism is not reduced to a clash of religions or indeed, civilizations. Second, the declaration seeks to ensure that that there is a multilateral partnership within the framework of the United Nations that will take the lead in the war against terrorism. The leaders committed themselves to preventing and suppressing all forms of terrorist acts in the future in accordance with the charter of the UN and UN security council resolutions on the subject. There was a strong call for an early signing and ratification of the international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism.

Finally, the grouping agreed unanimously to take specific measures to prevent terrorism. Most significant was the agreement to prevent the flow of funds to terrorists by accelerating work on combating financial crimes through the APEC finance ministers’ working group on fighting financial crime. No less important was the determination to strengthen APEC activities in the area of “critical sector protection”. Transport ministers of the member countries have been encouraged to actively take part in the discussions on enhancing airport, aircraft and port security. There was also agreement for the need to improve customs communication networks to ensure the expeditious development of a global integrated electronic customs network, which would allow customs authorities to better enforce laws while minimizing the impact on the flow of trade. Cooperation in developing electronic movement records systems that will enhance border security was also agreed on. There was a unanimous call to strengthen capacity-building, and cooperation to enable members to put into place effective counter-terrorism measures. The declaration is pioneering and unprecedented in its vision. The real challenge is to convert the vision into real international cooperation on the ground, even beyond the APEC countries.


West Bengal is getting tough. The oasis of peace is showing definite signs of acknowledging the unsavoury realities of organized crime. The state cabinet has approved a draft ordinance against organized crime, which will be brought as a bill before the next session of the assembly for its conversion into an act. The reach of this ordinance will be wide, covering organized crime, such as kidnapping and hijacking, as well as anti-national and subversive activities. The chief minister’s defence of the ordinance has recalled not only the recent kidnapping of Mr Parthapratim Roy Burman, but also violence on a larger scale, such as the killing of eight teachers in north Bengal by separatists belonging to the Kamtapur Liberation Organization. Like the Central ordinance on the prevention of terrorism, which is still awaiting the president’s approval, this will be a tougher law, not hesitating to think in terms of life imprisonment and even capital punishment to tackle organized crime. Certain procedural matters have also been tightened up — the police, for instance, will be able to detain an accused in custody without filing a chargesheet for 180 days instead of the normal 90 days.

The grim shadow of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act inevitably hangs over such legislation. It is equally inevitable that a functioning democracy will activate debate around such rethinkings, bringing up fears of human rights abuse, as has already been initiated by some elements within the Left Front. But grimmer realities are emerging in the state, ranging from organized crime with an international reach to insurgency networks operating across state and national borders. But improved legislation can only be an effective tool in combating this spectrum of violence when supported by alert and well-equipped policing, and by an efficient and state-of-the-art crime investigation department. The handling of the Khadim kidnapping has shown up serious inadequacies in both areas, which could not have been eliminated simply by tighter laws. Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will have to ensure progress in all these fronts in order to make proper use of this sadly necessary ordinance.


Playing the role of the global sheriff, Washington has rounded up a vast international posse for its “war against terrorism”. The posse includes traditional adversaries such as the Arabs and Israel, as well as India and Pakistan. It is no easy task for the sheriff to hold together such a diverse posse and prevent its members from riding off in different directions or even engaging in a shoot-out between themselves.

Colin Powell’s visit to Pakistan and India was an exercise in holding together the coalition. Among the reasons for their signing up as members of the United States-led posse is the fact that both India and Pakistan hope to secure American support against each other. New Delhi wants the aims of the “war” to cover cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. Islamabad wants the aims confined to Afghanistan; it also hopes to involve the US in seeking a resolution of the Kashmir “dispute” on its terms. India and Pakistan have made conflicting demands on the US sheriff and each is keeping a jealous eye on Washington to make sure that its rival does not secure an advantage.

The end of the Cold War reduced Pakistan to strategic insignificance in a global context. As military and economic aid tapered off, Pakistan steadily descended into economic and political chaos. The new crisis in Afghanistan offers Pakistan at least temporary reprieve. Reverting to its familiar role of a “frontline state”, Pakistan has succeeded in obtaining substantial economic benefits as well as a promise of restoration of some military ties with the US. The gains have not come without a price. Pakistan has been obliged to sacrifice its own creation, the taliban, through which it had hoped to establish a client state in Afghanistan. It also had to rein in at least some of the domestic extremist groups that had served as assets in the terrorist campaign in Kashmir.

As a reward for these difficult decisions, Islamabad is pressing Washington to install a new pro-Pakistan regime in Kabul, including as many “liberal” taliban as possible. Pakistan is anxious to minimize the role of the Northern Alliance, believing it to be unduly friendly to India; make it clear that the “war against terrorism” does not extend to Pakistani actions in Kashmir; involve Washington fully in the Kashmir “dispute”; extend the scope of economic assistance and restore military supplies.

New Delhi, to which the US position during the Kargil episode had come as a pleasant surprise, prided itself on the new relationship it was forging with Washington. Partly for this reason and partly because it hoped to extend the scope of the “war against terrorism” to Kashmir, New Delhi was one of the first countries to offer the US military facilities on its soil. The initial euphoria in New Delhi gave way to concern when Pakistan joined the US-led coalition and was duly rewarded as an “indispensable ally”.

India’s wish list for Washington includes: reassurance that the US remains committed to a long-term strategic relationship with India; reassurance that the “war against terrorism” will extend to Kashmir; an assurance that the new regime in Kabul will not be dominated by pro-Pakistan elements and that its composition will reflect the role played by the Northern Alliance; no renewal of military aid to Pakistan.

Powell’s task was to reassure both his South Asian partners and, if possible, lower the level of tension between them. He displayed great diplomatic adroitness in addressing this task. He went through the motions of consulting both countries on the future of Afghanistan, without committing himself to any specific formula beyond the generally accepted principle that the new regime must be “broad-based”. Without saying anything new on Kashmir he managed to give his words a different spin in Islamabad and in New Delhi, catering to the requirements of his audience in each capital.

In Pakistan, Powell stated that ex-taliban elements would qualify for inclusion in a future broad-based Kabul regime. India was assured that the Northern Alliance would be duly represented. The task of forming a new government will be undertaken under UN auspices. In Islamabad, Powell pleased his Pakistani audience by his references to Kashmir’s “central importance”, the question of human rights in Kashmir and the need to take into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people. He also indicated that the US would be prepared to play a role in Kashmir but qualified this by making it subject to a request from both India and Pakistan.

In New Delhi, the secretary of state clarified that his statement on Kashmir had not been reported accurately and that he had only implied that Kashmir was an important issue. He confirmed that the US is concerned about terrorism in Kashmir and condemned the terrorist attack on the legislative assembly in Srinagar.

In Pakistan, Powell held out assurances of further aid and, in India, he reassured his audience about the importance that Washington continues to attach to its ties with New Delhi. In both capitals, Powell called for a resumption of the Indo-Pakistan dialogue. In effect he said nothing new in India or Pakistan but he largely succeeded in reassuring both sides about American intentions.

What conclusions should we draw from the Powell visit? What tactics are best suited for advancing our national interests at the present juncture?

There has recently been some talk in New Delhi about “hot pursuit” operations across the line of control. It is clear from Powell’s public statements that the US would disapprove of any military escalation. The secretary of state called on both India and Pakistan to exercise restraint. Washington wants to contain differences between its coalition partners so that they do not flare up into open conflict. Nor can it afford to let down Pakistan, newly restored to the status of an ally, at least at the present stage. If Pakistan continues to send terrorists across the LoC, India should consider options for covert retaliation in order to “bring justice” to the terrorists enjoying sanctuary across the LoC. An essential condition for such operations is that they can be plausibly denied. Great care will have to be exercised since clandestine operations are never easy. On the other hand, they reduce the risks of military escalation and of international opprobrium.

New Delhi should not forget that the future orientation of an Afghan government will depend not only on its previous links with foreign agencies but also on its future sources of economic and military aid. India should insist that all aid to Afghanistan should either be channelled through the United Nations or given directly to Kabul by the donors. History shows that it would be disastrous to use Pakistan as a conduit for money or arms.

The author is former ambassador to China and the US


Even as the Rabri Devi government in Bihar was facing widespread mass protest because of deteriorating law and order in the state, the Supreme Court has dealt a blow to the Laloo Prasad Yadav-Rabri Devi duo by transferring 36 of the fodder scandal cases to Jharkhand. On October 5, the apex court ruled that the “sole determining factor regarding the court having jurisdiction is the place where the offence was committed”, and instructed the Patna high court that all cases originating in Jharkhand be transferred there.

The order of the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court came on the very day the National Democratic Alliance, the main opposition alliance in the state, was organizing a Bihar bandh to protest against the police firing in Muzaffarpur on September 26 that killed at least 11 persons. While Kapil Sibal, the senior counsel and veteran Congress leader appearing on behalf of Yadav, unsuccessfully opposed the transfer of the cases to the NDA-ruled Jharkhand on legal grounds, political observers in Patna hold that Yadav and his Rashtriya Janata Dal actually oppose the transfer for political reasons. Jharkhand, ruled by the NDA coalition, is seen as hostile territory where Yadav may face a number of problems.

Brave face

Predictably, the NDA constituents like the BJP, Samata Party, Janata Dal (United) and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janashakti are happy about the court ruling as it gives them a fresh opportunity to try to dislodge the Rabri Devi government. Yadav, however, has put up a brave face by saying that the court order “does not pose any threat to the Rabri Devi regime”.

The fact, however, is that Yadav faces imminent arrest in several fodder cases. Meanwhile the CBI has also sought the approval of the Bihar governor, V.C. Pande, for the prosecution of Yadav and Jagannath Mishra, both former Bihar chief ministers, in another fodder case relating to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs. 45.51 lakh from the Bhagalpur treasuries.

The Jharkhand government has already set up special CBI courts in Dumka, Ranchi and Chaibasa to try the various fodder cases. And Yadav, even when out of jail, will now be compelled to spend a lot of time attending court dates in these places. The NDA calculation is that in the process, Yadav’s grip over the Bihar government will be weakened, giving the opposition a chance to topple it by engineering defections in the ruling RJD. During his earlier prison terms, Yadav nominated his one-time close friend, Ranjan Prasad Yadav, as the RJD working president to look after the party and government affairs. But now Ranjan Prasad Yadav has rebelled against Yadav to form his own party.

Still winning

The RJD spokesperson, Shivanand Tiwari, alleges that after failing to defeat Yadav on the political front, the NDA leaders now want to settle scores by lodging him in a Jharkhand jail. The BJP and its allies have received severe drubbing in successive Bihar assembly polls and are now seeking revenge.

Laloo insists that these are weak cases, but he has taken care to set up a core group of trustworthy RJD leaders to run the show in the event of his absence for a prolonged period. The NDA leadership may now have another opportunity to try and unseat the Rabri Devi regime by taking advantage of the legal setback suffered by Yadav. But it still lacks the required political support for the purpose. In the Bihar assembly, the RJD, with the support of a few independent members, enjoys an absolute majority. Besides, it has the backing of the Congress members of the legislative assembly. The left parties too, will never support the BJP-led NDA in its toppling game. The Rabri Devi government can be toppled only by organizing a massive defection of RJD MLAs.

Some NDA leaders, however, are optimistic that the requisite number of the RJD MLAs can be persuaded to change sides to defeat the government on the floor of the house. But going by the ground realities of Bihar politics, where Laloo’s social justice slogan still holds, such a possibility seems to be far-fetched. The recent panchayat election results have shown that the alliance of the scheduled caste, other backward classes and Muslims, cobbled together by Laloo Yadav still remains a winning combination.


The Osama bin Laden/al Qaida attack on the United States of America on September 11 was a mixed blessing for China. Upto September 11, the Bush administration had projected China as the major threat to Asia. The department of defence in a policy review felt that the Asia-Pacific was the centre of gravity or the geo-political centre for America. At the time, the assessment noted the shift away from Europe (the centre of gravity during the Cold War) and towards the Asia-Pacific.

This view changed on September 11, and now central Asia and Afghanistan represent the central point of friction between contending forces. It also confirmed that military strategy and geo-politics were kings, and global economics had not replaced international and regional power politics. For the US now, the Islamic terror network is a bigger problem than China, at least momentarily.

In George W. Bush’s meeting with the Chinese leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Shanghai forum, a number of complex Chinese calculations were at play. What does Beijing think about the Islamic threat? Is it an opportunity as well as a threat? Is Islam a problem for China or is it the emergent US-Russia relationship against terrorism in central Asia? The Chinese calculations revolve around the following factors.

The US and China cannot harm each other militarily. They can shadow-box as in the case of the spy plane last year in the South China seas. They can arms race each other. The US can continue with its plans for missile defence in the long run. But China cannot project naval and air power against the US and Taiwan because of limited capabilities. The US has no interests which require the application of force against China itself. Its military power is intended to deter or prevent Chinese aggressiveness. China accepts the logic of its military imbalance in relation to the US.

The two are major trading partners and each is a hostage for the other. China needs the US and if America cuts Chinese imports that is trouble for the Chinese economy. But then extensive American investments in China are a hostage in case Chinese economic and social conditions deteriorate. It is in the US’s interest to avoid chaos in China. The Chinese chaos also hurts Japanese business and it could bring down its banking sector. September 11 did not change the two factors. But it did throw up other factors into bilateral equation.

China’s big worry is about its internal stability, and the threats come from shaky economic and social conditions and separatist sentiment in China, especially in Islamic areas such as Xingiang, an important border province with a large Muslim population and an active separatist movement. This area is in the proximity of Afghanistan. Even before China closed its border with Afghanistan recently, it worried about Islamic fundamentalists entering the border areas from the Pakistan side. China worries about its fundamentalists getting help from outside, particularly from central Asia. The radicalization of the neighbourhood worries China.

So even as Beijing enjoys the US preoccupation with bin Laden’s network, and relishes the idea that now America is distracted from its pre-September 11 focus on China, Beijing has a dilemma. Will the US fail against al Qaida or win the anti-terror fight or will it become involved in a protracted struggle? If the US prevails with the Russian partnership in central Asia, that will bring the two major powers next door to China, which Beijing would rather avoid. Then the possibility of a Sino-Russian alignment against American hegemony is dead.

In the context of the current fight against terrorism, Moscow has tilted towards the US, and it will be rewarded for its quiet support in central Asia and through the sharing of its intelligence and military expertise with Washington. Moscow will be rewarded economically and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will be sensitive about Russian interests. And finally, the US is now sensitive about Russia’s international prestige. The US-Russia relationship will be in play, and more so if the US gets locked into a prolonged fight with international terrorism.

The point is that Russia can help the US against bin Laden because of its knowledge of his terror network in central Asia and, particularly, Chechnya but China can only offer soothing words and limited cooperation in southeast Asia. However, Russian help, which is critical, comes with a price — which is to acknowledge Russia’s strategic interests in central Asia. Now Russia and America are intelligence, diplomatic and military partners. Russia is now the geo-political bridge that links the US and Europe to central Asia and Afghanistan. In the Shanghai communiqué of 1972, when Richard Nixon visited Mao Zedong, the US and China created an alignment against Russia. Now the alignment is reversed.

What are the consequences for Beijing if the the US fight against bin Laden is stalled or prolonged? This can unleash uncontrolled forces in Pakistan, China’s special ally. The US can, no doubt, supply money and arms to Pervez Musharraf, but it cannot stabilize the street in Pakistan and the Arab world, or within China’s border areas, or in China’s underbelly in southeast Asia, places like Indonesia, Malaysia, Phillipines where Islamic militancy has strong and growing roots.

An American political failure in Afghanistan or a military outcome which takes out bin Laden but fails to uproot the entire al Qaida network in Egypt, Sudan, Afghanistan (where moderate taliban are supposed to present Pakistani interests in the future), Pakistan and the United Kingdom, and in other places where al Qaida has links, as with the Abbu Sayyag group in the Phillipines, would be bad news for Beijing just as Moscow’s failure in the Eighties in the Afghan war gave the Arab and Pakistani Islamic forces a lift in central Asia and in Afghanistan.

Following the Soviet failure in 1988, Islamic militancy became an expansionist force, and an uncontrollable one in the crucial Afghanistan-central Asian pivot. It consolidated its position in west Asia and now it is expanding into southeast Asia and in parts of India and the northeast provinces. So Beijing faces the prospect of uncontrolled and uncontrollable Islamic militancy as a dangerous force on three Chinese fronts — the first is Afghanistan-Pakistan; the second is central Asia in the west, and the third is southeast Asia in the south.

The first two impact on China directly in the immediate future, say in a five year time frame, which is precisely when China may have growing internal difficulties. The third one will tone down Sino-American rivalry in southeast Asia by making the two into partners in the fight against terrorism. However, the rivalry will continue because the US knows that the Chinese interest in partnering with it on the terrorism front is to learn about American approach and methods to fight terrorism.

Beijing’s problem is not with the pro-Pakistani “moderate taliban” in Afghanistan. China’s special ally, Pakistan, can manage this through control over its financing, training and rations as it did during the Eighties as the agency for American and Chinese and Egyptian aid to the mujahedin. Beijing’s concern is with extremism and separatism, which at times has the character of a tidal wave, like the peasant revolts in China which were deemed to remove the divine mandate from the emperor. Neither the US nor its coalition can stop such a tidal wave or the “clash of civilizations”.

The dilemma of both the US and China is that “terrorists”, like the North Vietnamese in the Sixties and the Chinese communists in the civil war with the Kuomintang, win psychologically and militarily if they do not lose, and a protracted struggle gives the “terrorist” a psychological edge. Strategy is a mind game, not one of hi-tech explosives. And as the famous British writer, John Le Carré, wrote recently, the West has already lost.

M.L. Sondhi is co-chairperson, Centre for the Study of National Security,Jawaharlal Nehru University Ashok Kapur is chairman, department of political science, University of Waterloo, Canada


For increased participation of men in planned parenthood, focus attention on them in the information and education campaigns to promote the small family norm, and to raise awareness by emphasizing the significant benefits of fewer children, better spacing, better health and ...better education.

Currently, over 97 per cent of the sterilizations are tubectomies. Repopularize vasectomies, in particular the no-scalpel vasectomy, as a safe, simple, painless procedure, more convenient and acceptable to men.

In the continuing education and training at all levels, there is need to ensure that the no-scalpel vasectomy, and all such emerging techniques...are included in the syllabi, together with abundant practical training. Medical graduates, and all those participating in “in-service” continuing education and training, will be equipped to handle this intervention.

At district and sub-district levels, maintain block-wise database of private medical practitioners whose credentials may be certified by the Indian Medical Association. Explore the possibility of accrediting these private practitioners for a year at a time, and assign to each a satellite population, not exceeding 5,000..., for whom they may provide reproductive and child health services. The private practitioners would be compensated for the services rendered through designated agencies. Renewal of contracts after one year may be guided by client satisfaction. This will serve as an incentive to expand the coverage and outreach of high quality healthcare...

Revive the earlier system of the licensed medical practitioners who, after appropriate certification from the IMA, may participate in the provision of clinical services.

Involve the non-medical fraternity in counselling and advocacy so as to demystify the national family welfare effort, such as retired defence personnel, retired school teachers and other persons who are active and willing to get involved.

Modify the under/post-graduate medical, nursing, and paramedical professional course syllabi and curricula, in consultation with the Medical Council of India, the Councils of ISMH, and the Indian Nursing Council, in order to reflect on the concepts and implementation strategies of the reproductive and child health program and the national population policy. This will also be applied to all in-service training and educational curricula.

Ensure the efficient functioning of the FRUs, that is, 30 bed hospitals at block levels which provide emergency obstetric and child healthcare, to bring about reductions in maternal mortality ratio and infant mortality rate. In many states, these first referral units are not operational on account of an acute shortage of specialists, that is gynaecologist/ obstetrician, anaesthetist and paediatrician. Augment the availability of specialists in these three disciplines by increasing seats in medical institutions, and simultaneously enable and facilitate the acquisition of in-service post-graduate qualifications through the national board of medical examination and open universities like Indira Gandhi National Open University in larger numbers. As an incentive, seats will be reserved for those in-service medical graduates who are willing to abide by a bond to serve for 5 years at FRUs after completion of the course. States would need to sanction posts of Specialists at the FRUs. Further, these specialists should be provided with clear promotion channels. There remain innumerable hurdles that inhibit genuine long-term collaboration between the government and non-government sectors. A forum of representatives from government, the non-government organizations and the private sector may identify these hurdles and prepare guidelines that will facilitate and promote collaborative arrangements.

Collaboration with and commitments from NGOs to augment advocacy, counselling and clinical services, while accessing village levels. This will require increased clinic outlets as well as mobile clinics.

Collaboration between the voluntary sector and the NGOs will facilitate dissemination of efficient service delivery to village levels. The guidelines could articulate the role and responsibility of each sector.

Encourage the voluntary sector to motivate village-level self-help groups to participate in community activities.

Specific collaboration with the non-government sector in the social marketing of contraceptives to reach village levels will be encouraged.

To be concluded



Gangster’s paradise

Sir — The latest incident to shake Bollywood out of its slumber was the attempt to kill the popular actor, Aamir Khan (“Absent Aamir on hit list”, Oct 14). Khan was apparently on the hit list of criminals who were said to have links with the notorious Abu Salem gang. Luckily, Khan was absent from the scene of action on the fateful day. This brings to light the obvious fact that filmstars who have a “clean” image are extremely unpopular with the underworld of Mumbai. The stereotypical idea that the film industry is all about glamour and glitz is also not true because threats of murder and extortion by gangsters are rampant. This is not to say that the entire Bollywood is victim to the underworld. It is a well-known fact that there exists a criminal-movie star nexus in the financial capital of India. The alleged involvement of a reputed actor in the Bombay blast case is a case in point. It would be heartening to see the film industry snapping all ties with the criminal world, thereby bringing relief to themselves and the police.

Yours faithfully,
Sromona Chatterjee, via email

Dishonest ways

Sir — The prime minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, seems to have lost all his authority and control over the sangh parivar. This is amply proved by the forceful entry of around 30 Vishwa Hindu Parishad supporters into the disputed site at Ayodhya (“Ayodhya temple troops march in”, Oct 18). As the Uttar Pradesh elections are approaching, Vajpayee, in order to safeguard his chair, is playing all his cards to retain his hold over UP.

As expected, he has ordered an inquiry into the incident without even trying to book and punish the vandals responsible for igniting religious tension. One suspects a sudden desperation on part of the prime minister to woo back Hindu voters in UP to consolidate his party’s position. What example is our “honest” prime minister setting for us?

Vajpayee’s support for fighting terrorism and injustice to humanity are not honest promises. Had it been so, he would not have allowed the intrusion into the Babri Masjid site. The VHP and the Bajrang Dal have emerged as monitors of the “national sentiment” and credit for this goes to Vajpayee.

Yours faithfully,
G.K. Reddy, Kharagpur

Sir — Evidently, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s political instinct has overidden his morality. He is taking the world for a ride by insisting that India is against terrorism. Yet, what his VHP brethren have done at Ayodhya can also be called terrorism which was, invariably, passed off as an expression of national sentiment. Vajpayee’s government has been singularly responsible for sowing the seeds of communal disharmony in India. There is a lurking fear that the coming elections in UP may witness communal carnage in its worst form. And this might just be the beginning of more tension and bloodshed, given that the sangh parivar has promised to build the Ram mandir by March next year.

Yours faithfully,
Sagarika Dasgupta, Calcutta

Sir — The coming elections in UP has brought out the man behind the mask. Seemingly, the projected success rate for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state is not making Vajpayee comfortable. So the sangh parivar has resorted to the easiest and most effective way out and one which comes naturally to it — whip up religious sentiment to divide the people and reap benefit from it. The ongoing war in Afghanistan and the jihad declared by some Islamic organizations against the United States of America has only made this task easier since passions are already inflamed.

The VHP’s dastardly act also highlights another sordid reality — the law of the land is not respected by the sangh. The hoodlums have violated the directive of the apex court of India by storming into the arena of the disputed structure. India seems to be heading towards chaos. It is disappointing to find the UP electorate fall prey to the communal card without thinking of the serious consequences that lie ahead.

Yours faithfully,
Shanta Kumar, Calcutta

Research victims

Sir — The report, “Winter bill to monitor medical research rules” (Sept 29), will bring relief to the “victims” of medical research who are often left physically impaired by the illegal experiments carried out on them by scientists. The horrifying revelation with respect to the Regional Cancer Research Centre of Thiruvananthapuram led the Centre to plan for the introduction of a bill to monitor guidelines in medical research institutes. If the bill is passed, the government will be able to put a check on illegal and unauthorized research. The government’s prompt decision against such nefarious activities is laudable. It should continue to administer with an iron hand to ensure that there is no further violation of medical ethics.

Yours faithfully,
Maloy Saha, Santiniketan

Sir — The incident at the research centre in Thiruvananthapuram has brought the subject of medical ethics and procedural norms to the forefront. It is unfortunate that the ministry of health is taking action after the harm has already been done to those who were the guinea pigs of this unethical research. The Centre, in order to prevent further tainting of its image, should make it compulsory for all medical research centres to seek permission of a screening committee before the initiation of any experiment.

The involvement of a reputed international university in the recent controversy at Thiruvananthapuram also shows that foreign researchers are not concerned about harming the individuals subjected to their research, especially if they come from the third world. We just hope that the passing of the bill will prevent illegal activities and the wastage of funds in the name of conducting research.

Yours faithfully,
Ramen Sarkar, Calcutta

Now trouble spots

Sir — It is a shock to note that not only are hoteliers and travel agencies being affected by the United States of America’s air strikes. But, like many other regions, the beach paradise of Goa would also face an off-season for the second time (“Terror clouds over Goa”, Sept 27). With the ongoing war in Afghanistan, foreign tourists are not willing to take any risk.

If a thriving tourist spot like Goa is facing a crisis of this nature, we can well understand the fate of other tourist spots in the rest of the country. For example, Calcutta, once a gay and exciting place, has been wiped off from the tourist map. This is because the city has witnessed a lot of labour unrest, closure of industries and corporate offices, which has compelled some of the well-known hotels in the city to shut down.

It is time the authorities concerned tried to bring West Bengal back on the tourist map by reviving its former glory. This would also help in solving the unemployment problem, particularly for those who take hotel management courses.

Yours faithfully,
P.K. Mazoomdar, Calcutta

Sir — Western tourists are giving it a second thought before travelling to countries like India, Nepal and others down south. The sooner the war comes to an end, the better for the tourism industry.

Yours faithfully,
S. Chatterjee, Calcutta

Sir — Barring the Madhya Pradesh tourism development corporation and the Garhwal Nigam, there are hardly any other efficient tourism departments in the other states. Shouldn’t the states pay tourism more attention?

Yours faithfully,
Jaisurya Sanyal, Calcutta

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