Editorial 1/ On the list
Editorial 2/ Burnt out ends
A marketing story
Pal at the moment of crisis
Document/ From rigidity to dereservation
Fifth Column/ The way to go about doha
Letters to the editor

Expansion of the anti-terrorist programme is the only way to tackle the hydra-headed phenomenon. The United States of America’s lengthening of the list of banned organizations reinforces its stated aim of conducting a war against terrorism worldwide, although its immediate targets are al Qaida and Afghanistan. The timing of the expansion is perfect. Doubts about the US’s actual aims are becoming more vocal and some of the US’s allies in its fight against terrorism are a little restless. The longer list is a signal of the US’s seriousness of purpose. From that point of view, the inclusion of the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Toiba is of some importance to India. To accept that these two groups are of the same colour as al Qaida is also to accept that terrorism in the US and elsewhere in the West is no different from terrorism in Kashmir. It is equally significant that the list also mentions the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Babbar Khalsa and the International Sikh Youth Federation. While underlining the US’s good faith, this step is also part of the earlier strategy of choking off terrorist funds. Many of the terrorist groups based in the subcontinent are heavily funded by their supporters settled abroad. This two-pronged attack, if carried through, is likely to be extremely effective.

For India, all this is good news. It is a vindication of all its claims about the terrorist threat within the country, and a mild triumph just before the visit of the Indian prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to Washington. But again, this is just the beginning of the story. The external help that was needed seems to be forthcoming now, and it is for India to make the most of it. At the same time, state and Central governments must now take a clear and consensual stand to tackle terrorism internally. The new Central ordinance against terrorist activities has provoked some states, including West Bengal, and some parties, such as the Congress, into acting rather contrary. West Bengal has proposed an alternative ordinance against organized crime, although that too is unlikely to get through. In other words, the war against terrorism within the country is still in a bit of a mess. Any strict law against terrorism is bound to look draconian, because prevention is as important as penalty. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s credentials regarding minority communities being less than ideal, it is easy to block any ordinance it makes on grounds of potential discrimination. The point is, though, that global terrorism is too great and terrifying a phenomenon at the moment to block laws against it. The rights of suspected terrorists have to be weighed against the rights of endangered civilians. The choice is harsh, but it has to be made. This is the right moment to attack terrorism, because now a large part of the world is determinedly ranged against it. It is up to Indian politicians to make up their minds.


Smoking in public places will be forbidden soon in India. One does not have to be a hardcore cynic to think of the unlikeliness of such a wholesome scenario in actual terms. In urban India, public and personal health, civic sense and human rights — all of which are irrelevant to the issue — have had their official discourses in place for a while now. But this has had very little effect on real behaviour and attitudes. The Supreme Court’s recent directive to the country to issue orders banning smoking in public places will undoubtedly churn up this entire set of issues all over again. Yet, none of these approaches to the problem has succeeded in translating the Court’s and the Central or state governments’ attempts to change public opinion and behaviour regarding smoking. If the matter is brought down to its fundamental principles, then the definition of a public place in the ban leaves enough loopholes for it to not make much of a real difference. Leaving restaurants and roads outside such control has therefore managed to leave the major cigarette companies sounding quite unruffled. The directive could remain confined to controls in the realm of advertising, cultural and sports sponsorship and package design, and not transform anything remotely less superficial than these.

The problems involving the implementation of this ban are obvious in a society like India. Globalized discourses of public awareness regarding health often fit uncomfortably on Indian realities. Ignorance, callousness, apathy, corruption and sheer scale make even the most desperate attempts at addressing more immediate health hazards fall on habitually deaf ears. Air pollution is the great and terrifying example here, and the Supreme Court’s struggles in this sphere are evidence of the resilience, or indifference, with which Indians could, actively and passively, court their own doom. This is reflected not only in civic behaviour, but also in governmental and bureaucratic sloth. An important context to the Supreme Court’s severity is the fate of the impossibly named cigarette and other tobacco products (prohibition of advertisement and regulation of trade and commerce, production, supply and distribution) bill. Introduced in Parliament in March 2001, it has been mired in the standing committee red-tape, in spite of anti-tobacco noises being made by relevant ministers from time to time. West Bengal has also tried getting the smoking ban off the ground since the middle of last year. Urged on by a World Health Organization report on the rise in smoking-related diseases, such attempts ignore such basic Indian specificities as the consumption of tobacco in forms other than cigarettes. Controlling chewing in public places would sound farcically Orwellian. It is laudable to try to stop people from ruining their lungs, but the attempt has to be less shallow than what has been thought of so far.


The Indian economy has since the Eighties moved out of the 3.5 per cent “Hindu” rate of growth of the Fifties and Sixties. But this growth tapered off after 1996-97. The economy started to slow down after 1996-97. In that year the growth was 7.8 per cent while in the next three years it was 4.8, 6.6 and 6.4 per cent. The slowing down was in both agriculture and industry. Services went the opposite way. But the rate of growth in agriculture was much lower, and the decline in growth was of a higher magnitude.

It is evident that the “slowdown” in the Indian economy now in its fifth year, is principally an outcome of the problems of Indian industry, which have reduced its rate of growth. The slowdown in agricultural growth must have had adverse consequences for rural purchasing power.

Within industry the contribution of manufacturing declined more sharply. From 1996-97 to 2000-01, annual average growth was 5.9 per cent for industry and 6.4 per cent for manufacturing. Within manufacturing, registered enterprises made an average annual contribution to the growth of gross domestic product in 1994-95 to 1996-97 of 1.39 per cent while the average between 1997-98 and 2000-01 was 0.43 per cent. The corresponding figures for unregistered enterprises were 0.48 and 0.30 per cent respectively.

Thus registered enterprises, primarily the organized sector, were the major contributors to growth among manufacturing industries, and their contribution to growth fell more sharply after 1996-97 than for unregistered enterprises, primarily small-scale and cottage enterprises. The peak growth of consumer goods production was in 1995-96 when the index showed a growth of 12.8 per cent, being much lower thereafter, though there was an uplift in the last two years. The recovery was primarily due to durables. Non-durables peaked in 1995-96 at 9.8 per cent and were thereafter at lower levels.

It is apparent that industrial growth was driven to a great extent by durables, though in the last year, non-durables seem to be recovering some impetus to growth. Through the Nineties, non-development expenditures of Central and state governments as a proportion of GDP kept rising while development expenditures were falling. This peaked in 1995-96 and has come down each year since. It has affected the growth of rural incomes and employment and the quality and efficiency of the infrastructure, leading to poor productivity growth in Indian industry.

The lack of investment has also adversely affected the generation of new incomes and demand growth in the economy. Capital formation in industry and particularly in manufacturing, drove economic growth in India till 1995-96, and then tapered off. Substantial additional capacity and modernization took place till 1995-96, and then slowed down. Many studies have shown that industrial capacity was expanded significantly up to that year and subsequent growth has come from using those capacities.

As a result, productivity in Indian industry went up in spasmodic phases. Little effort was made by Indian companies to improve their processes to reduce costs, to improve product design and innovate for differentiation. Research and development expenditures by companies grew between 1986 and 1991 by 7.6 per cent and remained at that rate in later years. As a proportion to sales, research and development expenditures were 0.73 per cent in 1986-91, and 0.70 per cent in 1991-95. Cost reduction through product, process and plant improvements were not a priority with most companies. Nor was there much effort at bold new product innovations. No wonder that margins have been under pressure.

The variations in sales tax rates between states, the high rates in some states, the entry tax or octroi in some important cities, the cascading of taxation at each point of processing and purchase, create massive opportunities for evasion and avoidance. Record keeping and procedures give considerable scope for harassment and corruption. These particularly hurt consumer products that have many more taxable transactions. Reservation for small-scale units is a competitive disadvantage since there are tax concessions available to them. The removal of quantitative restrictions on consumer products, even though customs duties remain high, has opened floodgates to imports that at times are excuses for selling smuggled products free of taxes. The application of various domestic laws to these products is many times not uniform.

The import of extremely low-priced products from China created panic for a while among domestic manufacturers. These products had reduced costs and prices by offering products obviously inferior to the higher priced ones sold in India. A pencil battery retailing for Rs 2 gave less life than ones selling for much higher prices made in India. Such low-value products do have a place in the Indian market. They are affordable and the consumer knows that they are not of the composition and quality of much higher priced products. But they enable satisfaction of the aspiration to consume of those who would not otherwise be able to.

Our manufacturers are brought up on the principle that you offer the consumer the best product and with the most frills. Price is not believed to be a constraint. While this may be true for households with high disposable incomes, it is not true for the majority of the Indian market, especially those I have categorized in defining the pyramid Indian market structure as destitute, aspirants and climbers. These are the huge potential mass markets and will over time graduate to higher quality and higher priced products. There are serious marketing challenges here. They need to be tackled.

The mindset of Indian companies was formed by over forty years of industrial licensing which limited production capacities. In addition there was the influence of multinational companies that brought their mindset that value was more important than price, and that product features would attract consumers more than low prices. This has limited application in markets in which prospective consumers in the mass market have severe limitations on the price they can pay per unit. Capacity limitations made premium products the appropriate response.

We find it difficult to consciously reduce features, and even value in products, so as to give the mass-market consumer what he can afford, even if it does not have the features and the life of more expensive alternative offerings.

There is also a churning going on among brands. The competition to take away shares from the leaders is fierce. What may be new since the mid-Nineties is the greater willingness of consumers to switch, and to do so more often. The consumer in India may be recognizing that what most brands offer in functionality is not very different from one another, and therefore they are willing to try another brand, especially when there is a tempting promotional offer.

However, consumer durables have been able to reverse the trend because of sound brand building, product redesign, cost reduction programmes, well-thought out pricing, special promotions and expanding reach into markets. Non-durable consumer goods have been at this for longer and enjoy higher levels of penetration into socio economic classes as well as into rural India. Even among fast moving consumer goods there are brands that have bucked the trend towards slowing down. Extending reach, intensifying usage and a strong brand identity are key factors leading to such success.

Promotions have become a common strategy. They usually have a defensive purpose to take away share from others or prevent them from taking away yours. Promotions could dilute brand identity. When consumers are prone to roam the market switching brands, brand building is most vital. Companies have to recognize the nature and composition of Indian markets and design products and marketing strategies to suit them. China seems to have done it successfully and may now be attempting to apply its lessons to countries like India.

The author is former director general, National Council for Applied Economic Research [email protected]


The years of indulgence towards Pakistan when it was the United States of America’s ally against the Evil Empire in Afghanistan has come back to haunt Washington. With Osama bin Laden declaring jihad against the Pakistani government and the growing suspicion about the loyalty of scientists in Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the George W. Bush administration is scrambling to contain the nuclear genie created by Pakistan during the years of anti-Soviet struggle.

During the Eighties, the administrations of Ronald Reagan and the senior George Bush turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s sustained effort to build nuclear weapons with fissile materials produced in its uranium enrichment plant in Kahuta. Under a congressional mandate the administration had to certify every year that Pakistan had not enriched uranium above five per cent (93 per cent enrichment is needed to make it weapons-grade). Year after year, despite leaked warnings from the Central Intelligence Agency about Pakistan’s growing capability, the White House gave Pakistan a certificate of good conduct and allowed military and economic aid to continue.

Now with the American war in Afghanistan evoking anger and, with it, the fear of instability in Pakistan, the safety of Pakistan’s 24 nuclear weapons and kilogrammes of fissile material is a burning issue. A revealing account by the US’s top investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, in an article in the New Yorker, shows the dramatic turning of the wheel. Hersh quotes current and former officials to say that the crisis [of September 11] may bring into play the elite unit, operating under Pentagon control with CIA assistance, whose mission it is to destroy nuclear facilities.

Many experts say that indeed such a risky move is among the scenarios that the administration has to consider. George Perkovich, author of the authoritative book, India’s Nuclear Bomb, said, of course, the US would want to do contingency planning in seeing if they could develop enough intelligence to imagine being able to take out Pakistan’s nuclear capability in the event of change of government. He says it would be irresponsible for a government not to think about such possibilities.

But the question is whether and how you could do that. Ever since the Israeli attack on the Iraqi reactor in 1981, the idea of a preemptive strike has been considered by India. As Perkovich revealed in his book in June 1981, the Indian air force considered the possibility of attacking Pakistan’s uranium enrichment plant in Kahuta but concluded it was too risky. While the Khan Research Laboratory at that stage had little radioactive material to endanger population, a Pakistani retaliation against the Indian nuclear facility in Trombay would have released a massive amount of radiation over a densely populated area.

The situation in Pakistan now is even trickier. Analysts believe that lack of knowledge about exactly where all the 24 or so bombs that Pakistan is believed to have are stored would mean that you would open the door to nuclear retaliation in case you didn’t get everything you are likely to be hit with a nuclear weapon. Is that worth the risk? asks Perkovich. He points out that despite their concern about North Korea’s nuclear build up, military action has been ruled out precisely for the same reason. Pakistan has a much more advanced capability.

In addition to the possibility that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of extremists in the event of a coup, Washington has also been studying other scenarios: both inside job as well as assault on the nuclear installations by the home-grown group and their taliban friends. The US has been considering options to counter the possibility that fundamentalist or corrupt scientists and officers could collude to spirit out weapons or components from the research laboratories.

One obvious means to prevent misuse of nuclear assets would be to provide Pakistan with the sophisticated locking mechanism called permissive action link which requires multiple input to arm and detonate a nuclear weapon. However, that has been ruled out because it would not only violate international treaty obligations and US laws but, as one nuclear expert says, it might have the opposite effect of increasing the risk.

Currently both Pakistan and India are believed to keep the fissile core and the non-nuclear part of the weapon separately. The administration fears that providing Pakistan sophisticated safety mechanisms against accidental or unauthorized detonation may actually encourage it to be bolder and keep weapons in a more advanced state of combat readiness. The administration also would not like to antagonize India by offering nuclear technology to Pakistan.

Although the Bush administration has decided to lift sanctions against India and Pakistan for their nuclear tests, Washington still hopes to encourage both to exercise restraint in their deployment. The fear is that giving them nuclear weapons technology in violation of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, even for the sake of safety, would undercut Washington’s attempt to discourage Russia and China from selling nuclear technology to undesirable countries.

All these concerns, however, are likely to be theoretical as Pakistan is unlikely to share with the US information about its weapons system and their location. Perkovich says the Pakistani military guards its nuclear assets like crown jewels. It would be hard to imagine that Pakistan’s suspicious military would allow American engineers access to their weapons in order to safeguard them against hostile seizure or accidental firing.

Under the circumstances the only course that Washington could realistically consider is to offer Pakistan some generic safety device and security management system — in other words, a means of putting another padlock on the nuclear warhead. This is better than the system of “pal” which makes it easier for the authorities to unlock them in a crisis. Robert Einhorn, a longtime troubleshooter of the state department on nonproliferation issues, and now with a Washington thinktank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, says, “We should be careful in the kind of assistance we offer to Pakistan. I think we should offer assistance to ensure physical protection of its nuclear assets.” He says that it should not be specifically for nuclear assets but applicable to any sensitive items that Pakistan may wish to secure.

The author is director of publications at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and with Strobe Talbott, co-editor of the forthcoming book, The Age of Terror: America and the World After September 11


For providing a more hospitable environment for foreign direct investment, by discriminating between core and non-core FDI, India’s access to global production networks and intra-firm trade was severely restricted. In 1995, for example, almost one-third of world exports were accounted for by foreign affiliates. US data, if extrapolated to the rest of the world, suggests that more than a third of world exports are between affiliated firms. A recent econometric study for 52 countries suggests that there is a positive and significant correlation between FDI and manufactured export performance. In China, foreign affiliates’ share in total exports rose from 17 per cent in 1991 to 41 per cent in 1997. In India, foreign affiliates have played a much smaller role — in 1996, FDI inflows accounted for only 2.9 per cent of GFCF in India against China’s 17 per cent, and the FDI stock to GDP ratios were 2.6 per cent and 24.7 per cent respectively. This has meant that India has lost out on potential labour-intensive and other exports, as well as opportunities for far greater spread of technology and, thus, increase in productivity.

FDI is also deterred by the very poor state of infrastructure (including ports, roads, phones and power) where India ranked the lowest among 53 countries in the 1998 Global Competitiveness Report. Apart from infrastructure, post-approval implementation in India remains slow, which deters investment and the conversion of approvals into inflows. Other deterrents to FDI in India are its rigid labour laws and poor industrial relations. India is attempting to tackle some of these problems, for example, by seeking to attract FDI in infrastructure. However, the expected changes in infrastructure regulation have been slow in coming…, which has been a factor in the worrisome slowdown in FDI…

For unshackling the small-scale sector: the Small-Scale Industry sector successfully produces labour-intensive export items, and provides the second highest employment after agriculture (roughly 50 million in 1996-97). In 1997-98, there were over 3 million SSI units in India which accounted for about 40 per cent of the total production of the manufacturing sector, 35 per cent of exports and 80 per cent of additional employment in manufacturing (16.8 million people). However, in trying to promote the growth of SSI firms, Indian policy has not had the desired effect, and instead has given rise to a number of negative outcomes.

The Abid Husain Committee Report and the commerce minister’s speech have argued for the phase-out of reservation for the SSI sector. Reservation has led to capacity fragmentation, and sub-optimal production scales in many cases, and reduced exports and, hence, employment. Many key export products for India such as garments, shoes and leather products, and potentially key ones like toys are on the reserved list. This, along with labour rigidity, has been a major export constraint for India and allowed China, for example, to outperform India in these sectors. In spite of de-reservation of a few products (such as seed drills, reapers, some agricultural machinery and sole leather crowbars) in February 1999, recent policy moves have been against the spirit of liberalization. As feared in the World Bank’s 1998 Macroeconomic update, the Cabinet in February 1999 decided to lower the investment ceiling for small scale industry from Rs 30 million to Rs 10 million (notified by the government in December 1999), which will constrain further the already constrained firms. Moreover, the latest exim policy announced on March 31, 1999, has added about 159 items to the existing list of about 563 items that were on the reserved list but also freely importable (making a total of 722 out of a total of about 1040 reserved items that are freely importable), further skewing the playing field against large domestic firms — while large domestic firms continue to be barred, large foreign firms will enter via imports and compete with small Indian firms, which is both inequitable and inefficient. This inequity adds to the already powerful case for de-reservation, which is now essential if India is to successfully compete in both the export and domestic markets...


The World Trade Organization ministerial meet at Doha next month is an opportunity for developing countries to seize the initiative and make development a basic framework in global trade negotiations Often the WTO is seen as a platform where the developed world dangles carrots to the third world and reaps benefits such as unrestricted access to third world markets, outflow of capital, among other iniquitous phenomena.

That the developed world has been able to make the WTO its playground is partly because of dissipation in the ranks of the developing countries. Instead of holding their own, developing countries have allowed WTO’s agenda to be set by the developed countries, as was the case in Seattle last year. The meet at Doha gives developing countries a chance to invoke development as central to their concerns and a powerful framework for all trade negotiations.

All trade-related deliberations should be guided by the ultimate goal of sustainable economic development. This is not to say that developing countries can shirk domestic reform, but that the North’s raising tariff and non-tariff barriers means far more to the South than is the case vice-versa. International trading and financial condition must be conducive for developing countries to realize their potential, and they must be able to exploit the global market for exporting goods and services that they have comparative advantage in.

Broad alliances

Second, tariff and non-tariff barriers affect economic performance of developing countries as they stifle natural structural transformation, thereby limiting or completely stopping the relocation of industries and activities to regions and countries having cost advantages. The impact of this slow structural transformation is severe in developing countries because of the smaller size of the economy, the dependence on advanced countries for finance, technology and human resources.

One way to go about Doha would be to form broad alliances of developing countries and interests within these countries. Here a cue can be taken from the North. The transatlantic economic partnership and transatlantic business dialogue, for example, are trying to bridge the gap between the US and the European Union on trade-related issues. Under the auspices of the TEP, an “early warning mechanism” gives officials on both sides a “heads-up” when potentially sensitive legislation is being considered that might have negative impact on bilateral trade. There is no such forum among the developing countries.

Another major problem area for developing countries is that of the so-called “new issues”. These issues, as stated in the Singapore, Geneva and draft Seattle ministerial declarations, include trade and competition policy, transparency in government procurement, trade and investment, electronic commerce and trade facilitation.

Contentious areas

For example, on the issue of linking child labour and environment with trade, one needs to be mindful of the magnitude of the problem. Many economists have indicated that the WTO is not the right forum to discuss many of these issues. It is not something that can be eliminated as long as poverty is a major problem. Child labour problem is very much a developmental issue.

The two areas where negotiations are delicately poised are talks on agriculture and services. While the South is being pressurized to open its markets to all agricultural products and abandon subsidies, the record of developed countries suggests that they have substantially deviated from their commitment to provide market access to developing countries and reducing domestic subsidies.

The other contentious area is services. Several countries have expressed apprehension about the way liberalization of services proceeded. Market access commitments made by high income countries tend to be restrictive with respect to activities where developing countries have comparative advantage. In the area of professional services, entry is restricted to specialists and higher-level management, effectively limiting the scope for cross-border trade in services.

Development needs of developing countries must be made the centre-stage of WTO trade negotiations. All trade proposals have to be evaluated in this context.



All they can do is fumble

Sir — It has been a nightmarish fortnight for the Indian home ministry (“Delhi’s bungles, Abu to Nadeem”, Oct 31). Not that anyone else can be blamed for the bad time. The incompetence of the government was proved by the drama involving the alleged detention of the Mumbai don, Abu Salem, in a Sharjah hotel. The only excuse our government could think of is that the United Arab Emirates was not co-operative. This does not hold water because this farce clearly shows that New Delhi has chosen to keep silent on this issue. They failed to give ample evidence to make a case for Salem’s arrest, wanted for several heinous crimes, including the Mumbai blasts. To make matters worse, a London court has directed the Indian government to pay a huge compensation to Nadeem, believed to have links with Salem. These embarrassing events could have been avoided if the authorities had put diplomatic pressure on the respective foreign governments. However, committing a faux pas is not new with New Delhi: the Kandahar episode says it all.
Yours faithfully,
U. Saha, via email

Wrong service

Sir — The boycott of goods and services has been an age-old form of protest in any democratic society, and India is no exception. This is a permissible means of protest and is not illegal. The unfortunate event in Malegaon, involving the policemen who tried to stop Muslim demonstrators from distributing some anti-American leaflets is outrageous (“Anti-US bloodspill in India”, Oct 28). This should be condemned.More so, when the sangh parivar can get away with not just boycotting but physically attacking American-owned firms such as Pepsi and McDonald’s.

It may be objectionable to distribute leaflets carrying the pictures of Osama bin Laden but this does not justify the killing of seven civilians by the police. The police are accountable to the people for inciting a riot. The state government should take note of this and severe punishment should be swiftly meted out against the culprits to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

Yours faithfully,
Biswapriya Purkayastha, via email

Sir — The Malegaon incident shows the partisan attitude of the army and the police towards the minority communities in India. If the police had dealt with the protestors in a more sensible way then the riot could have been easily prevented. Surprisingly, protestors belonging to the organizations of the Bajrang Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh do not face the same degree of persecution as their Muslim counterparts.

The interesting point is that demonstrators belonging to different communities are determined to lash out at multinational companies owned by the United States of America and Britain. Be it the sangh parivar or the Muslim organizations, their goal is the same — to strike a blow at the economy of the Western powers. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is questionable.

Yours faithfully,
Saikat Majumdar, Calcutta

Sir — It is disappointing to see that Indians cannot take an objective point of view on such a sensitive issue as communalism. They are either trying to prove that there is no fault with the Hindu fundamentalists or that all faults lie solely with them. The alleged deletion of names of voters from the minority voters’ list in Uttar Pradesh was severely criticized by the media. But the alleged harassment of the Hindus in Bangladesh is not finding enough coverage. Although the Indian government occasionally undertakes strategies to appease the minorities, it often overlooks incidents such as the one in Malegaon. One should be bold enough to call a spade a spade, be it Afghanistan, Kashmir, or Bangladesh.

Yours faithfully,
M. Dasgupta, via email

Arts of destruction

Sir — I was horrified to hear of the destruction of part of the cenotaph monument by a speeding bus (“Fallen soldier’s head retrieved”, Nov 3) . The statue of the soldier is, though built by the British, also a tribute to our own soldiers who died in World War I. The episode is a potent symbol of our disrespect for our history and architectural heritage, and its encroachment by a mindless and dangerous contemporaneity. Cannot something be done to make our roads safe and our buildings and monuments secure? The Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s heritage board should prosecute whoever is guilty of this destruction.
Yours faithfully,
Manosh Gupta, via email

Sir — Two acquaintances of mine from Assam visited Calcutta recently, and went to see the University of Calcutta and Presidency College. Many leaders of Assam studied in these two seats of learning. Many from my state still respect them as sacred alma maters. It was a shock to my acqaintances to find these famous sites of learning in the congested shambles of College Street. The once soothing College Square Park has been turned virtually into a jail yard, walled in on all sides by hawkers.

I can only agree with the disgust that was expressed in a recent editorial about the condition in and around our roads (“Driven to death,” Oct 1). Spitting straight on the road, gossiping on the pathways blocking movement, haphazard parking, arrogance of bus conductors, of rickshaw pullers, of Howrah porters or of the office babus, and hawkers creeping up the sides of buildings, are some of the many symptoms of decline appearing everywhere in the city.

Yours faithfully,
A.T. Chakraverty, Calcutta

Sir — I recently visited the restoration project being carried out by the Ramakrishna Mission on Vivekananda’s house. The work suggests a future for the older buildings of Calcutta, even those that seem beyond repair, when money is sensitively spent. It was a pleasure to see craftsmen using Indian construction techniques. I was not so impressed, however, by the large modern building the mission has commissioned on adjacent land, which can be seen towering over Vivekananda’s house from its courtyard. Is this perhaps to suggest the ironic foil of monstrous modern construction, against the art used in restoring old buildings?

Yours faithfully,
Ramol Sarker, South 24 Parganas

Parting shot

Sir — If the poor Afghans are dying because of the US-led bombing, so are the Kashmiris, as a result of the so-called jihad being waged for the past decade. The women of Kashmir are one of the worst victims of this. Even children are not spared from rape. It is surprising to see clerics and spiritual leaders sanctify such activities by other names. Sadly, Kashmir has ceased to be a paradise any more.
Yours faithfully,
Neha Chowdhury, Chandannagore

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