Editorial 1/ Still Engaged
Editorial 2/ School Report
The secret enemy
Fifth Column/ Looking again at white powders
All the idols have clay feet
Document/ Denied access to natural resources
Letters to the editor

The first summit meeting between the prime minis ter, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the American president, Mr George W. Bush, in Washington, is likely to provide further momentum to bilateral rela tions. Although the meeting did not by itself yield any spectacular dividends, it was held at an extraordinary time in a spirit of friendship and mutual goodwill. It is becoming increasingly clear that India’s relations with the United States of America are firmly on track and can- not easily be derailed by shortterm differences, particu larly over Washington’s relationship with Islamabad. While the external affairs minister,Mr Jaswant Singh, and the national security advisor, Mr Brajesh Mishra, have had the opportunity, in the past, to interact with Mr Bush and key members of his administration, this was the first meeting between the Indian prime minister and the American president. Clearly, international terror ism, the regional fallout of the attacks on September 11 and the nature of a future government in Afghanistan were the key issues that were discussed at the meetings. In terms of tangible achievements, the US and India have agreed to launch a joint initiative to combat cyber terrorism within the umbrella of the existing joint work ing group on terrorism, which has been working very well. There also seems to be a growing convergence be tween Washington and New Delhi that the posttaliban regime in Kabul should be broad based, with representa tives from all the main ethnic groups, and be able to main tain friendly relations with all neighbouring countries. It does seem that Washington is no longer willing to accept the myth, sought to be perpetuated by Pakistan, that there are moderate groups within the taliban who could join a fresh coalition government. Indeed, the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif to the Northern Alliance suggests that a change of regime in Kabul may not take as long as many had feared.

Significantly, the Bush administration is now more forthrightly asserting that the fight against terrorism is not going to be limited to just fighting individuals or or- ganizations responsible for the attacks of September 11. The clearest exposition of this view was in Mr Bush’s speech to the United Nations general assembly. The pres ident warned that nations which harboured and support ed terrorists would pay a heavy price for this and de- manded a comprehensive commitment from members of the UN to oppose all terrorists .not just some of them.. Not surprisingly,Mr Bush’s words are being interpreted as a thinly veiled warning to Mr Pervez Musharraf. It must be some matter of satisfaction to New Delhi that the US president’s words echoed much of what Mr Vajpayee had said. While, in the past, US officials had made it clear that they were interested in draining the swamp that pro duces the venom of terrorism, rather than merely deal with symptoms, the president’s statement adds convic tion and clarity. The Vajpayee-Bush summit has also, it seems, paved the way for the removal of US restrictions on the sale of military supplies to India. It is expected that US military sanctions imposed on India will be lifted during a US-India bilateral defence meeting next month in New Delhi. In sum, engagement rather than estrange ment is continuing to define relations between the world’s two largest democracies.


Learning to live with the grim realities of primary education in the state comes naturally to West Bengal. But being reminded of some of these by Bengal’s most renowned economist ought to provoke more than the usual reaction. Mr Amartya Sen has re cently released a report based on a survey of primary schools and Shishu Shiksha Kendras in Midnapore, Birb hum and Purulia. This is one of the first fruits of the trust set up by Mr Sen, and focuses exclusively on the problem of illiteracy in the state. The parameters of the survey appear to be economic as well as sociological, looking at a wide range of factors, from social class to nu trition, determining the quality of primary education imparted in these districts. Some of the findings high lighted by Mr Sen foreground the unfortunate paradoxes inherent in the situation.This is most sharply illustrated in the case of private tuition,which, according to this re port, is not simply an urban problem. Alarmingly for Mr Sen, private tuition appears to have become a necessary evil in these districts. In most of these schools, achieving minimal literacy skills seems to be linked to the students availing themselves of private tuition. This indicates the failure of these schools to provide the most basic servic es. And guardians seem to be aware of this, since the re port shows a high level of parental disgruntlement. Ram pant absenteeism, among both teachers and students, is certainly both a cause and a symptom of this failure. In equality . social and economic . also determines the quality of education. Differences of class and caste be tween the teachers and students remain a factor in the teachers. treatment of students, often determining the extent to which the former take their jobs seriously.

What emerges from Mr Sen’s survey is a crisis of ac countability. Guardians are aware of the poor quality of the services, but an ethos of legally empowered vigilance is absent in most of these districts. The combating of ab senteeism could also be tackled by improving the system of incentives, like making the quality of the midday meal significantly better.With its detailed look at infrastruc ture and social contexts, this report points at realities and solutions which are not at all unfamiliar to those who administer and use the state’s primary education system. It would be a pity if this kind of information and analysis fails to make any difference at all.


The army uses something called a sandmodel exercise to sharpen the tactical skills of their field commanders. It is basically the reconstruc tion on a large table of the field on which an action is to take place, with all the main features carefully modelled using sand and a bonding substance, and little models of soldiers, tanks, artillery units and other units located in given areas. The exercise is usually between two commanders on either side who are given a specific task which they try to ac complish on the sandmodel, and, like the gods, superior officers watch them as they bring their skills, knowledge and experience to bear on their task.

This sort of thing may well be out of date today; field commanders probably sharpen their skills using computers and virtual reality devices, but the old sand-model serves as an example of what one needs today, in a special sense, which may be a little removed from what army commanders actually do. Smaller exercises can provide lessons which strategists and tacticians would do well to consider; measures used on lesser oc casions quite often contain the seeds of the steps which may be needed on a larg er, even global, scale.

Consider, for example, the manner in which the Naxalite terror of the Seven ties was handled in West Bengal. If one were to leave aside the first spell of inac tion of the United Front government, which gave the terrorist movement a foothold it may not have otherwise got, the countermeasures that the succes sive governments took can be seen to be of two kinds. One was the overt, jack boot reaction: the all too often savage use of greater force, to instil what the au thorities fancied was a greater terror. Killings, .encounters., third-degree methods which became barbaric and horrifyingly cruel at times . all these were meant to wrest dominance in the theatre of terror.

It resulted not surprisingly in creat ing more terror, precisely what the terrorists wanted. The Naxalites killed people they identified as the class enemy, and if one looks at the lists of those they killed, there are very few big landlords (jotedars) among them. The bulk of their victims were poor people, killed because they thought they were informers, or for some other reason best known to the killers, policemen, the lowliest in the rung of the law and order machinery, and, if memory serves me right, just one block development officer.

But they brought terror to the cities and towns, and the authorities struck back at them, as best as they could, which was a great deal as time went by. Many of the members of the terrorist outfit were from middle class families . the bhadralok . and thus terror came into their midst, into their comfortable, secure world and became more wide spread than it would otherwise have been.That was the time when the streets of most towns and cities were deserted by nightfall; when people moved about after dark only in groups, when passen gers arriving by train or plane tried as far as possible to travel in convoys into Calcutta.

Few people from the rest of the coun try came to the state unless there was some compelling reason. Planes, and trains to an extent, came half-empty. It was as if the whole state was under siege. Industries and business houses shut shop and went elsewhere, or else turned sick, leading to layoffs, unrest and disturbances. It was not a nice time to be in the state.

Separately, however, and without the publicity that the jackboot reaction re ceived, another countermeasure was planned and put into action. This in volved getting to know the people in the terrorist movement; it was not mere gathering of intelligence, but a careful, if slow, study of the individuals, their characteristics, their behavioural pat terns, mental attitudes and a host of other details. Using this knowledge it be came possible to get close to some of them, and then quietly to break into their intelligence network.

Towards the end, practically all their messages were being intercepted, and their planned action known beforehand. Aided by a covert, and to an extent or chestrated, general revulsion at the killings and the terror, and what it was doing to the state, it became possible to bring about the collapse of the terrorist groups from within, so to speak. And with the growth of internal dissensions, and disillusion with leaders who were perceived to have feet of clay, the ideas that fuelled the terror evaporated, much as Sauron, the Dark Lord in Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings did, when the ring was cast into Mount Doom.

Today all that is long gone, and the Naxalite groups in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh are confined to some specific areas, and appear to be re signed to operating there. No carrying out of Chairman Mao’s doctrine of sur rounding the cities, having gained con trol of the hinterland. It is clear now, decades after it was eliminated as a ter rorist threat in the state, that the second counter-measure was more effective. It meant a very lowkey gathering of knowledge about the individuals in volved, and of the groups . not, as one said, mere intelligence, but knowledge, so that it was possible to get under their skin, so to speak. It then became possible to get close to them, and to infiltrate their intelligence network. When the growing revulsion and anger needed a focus, it was cleverly provided, and the dissension among the groups became common knowledge. Knowledge, covert action, isolation and exposure . these elements worked then, to a very appre ciable extent.

This is an oversimplification of what happened, but it has been necessary to highlight these elements, which under lay the action taken against the terrorist groups; not directed by the state authori ties alone, but separately, at the district level, by some of the wiser, cooler head ed district officers. Isolation as an objec tive, turned out to be isolation of the most effective kind . among their own kind. Among the left parties, in general, even though they had sympathy from a few odd opinion makers in those parties. It was this that led to the collapse from within, if one can call it that. It took years to achieve, but, in the perspective of history, it was not that long a time. And the results have been permanent.

What, then, of the jackboot strategy? It cannot be totally discounted; it cert ainly had a terror value to the terrorists, who lived and moved quite differently because of it. There were a number tak en in who simply could not take the end less movement at night, severaltimes a night, night after night. But a wise strategist would blend the two measures differently for different situations.

Does this have any relevance today? This is a question that probably needs no answer. The sand model may be just playing war games, but war games are never taken lightly. It may have to do with conven tional enemies and use conventional tac tics but its value lies in its being a metaphor. Models, simulations, comput er exercises . all of them have to accept the basic fact that ultimately it is the mind which is involved and the enemy is not people so much as an idea, and needs to be destroyed as an idea is, by conclu sively exposing it as false.

The author is former secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting


So letters containing a pow dery substance have started arriving in India. It certainly bodes ill for a country like ours, where population density is amongst the highest in the world, and extremely poor sanitary condi tions make the teeming millions prone to infections. In a scenario where mass bio-terror is un leashed, the consequences could be unimaginably damaging. This calls for the Union and state ministries of health to urgently take deterrent measures.

Alarmed by the happenings in the United States of America, the Defence Research and Develop ment Organization has sounded a timely alert. The DRDO conducts short training courses in biological warfare in its establishment at Gwalior. The Union health min istry is also reported to be consider ing incorporation of preventive measures in its bio warfare man agement plan. It intends to prepare an action plan for anthrax detec tion.New Delhi has passed instruc tions for production and storage of substantial stocks of vaccines for all diseases with the potential to cause large scale destruction. But is this enough?

New terror on the block

Anthrax is the preferred biological warfare agent because it is a lethal, silent and invisible killer. The weapon-grade anthrax is said to be deadlier than the deadliest chemi cal warfare agent. According to doctors,when anthrax is inhaled it is generally fatal. Moreover, pro duction of this substance does not require a sophisticated process. It is inexpensive, easy to produce in large quantities, and can be stored almost indefinitely as a dry powder. It can be made weapons grade with out difficulty, and can be loaded in munitions or disseminated as an aerosol with crude sprayers. At present, there is said to be a limited capability to detect existence of an thrax even in technologically ad vanced nations.

Anthrax is a naturally occur ring disease of plant eating ani mals such as goats, sheep, buffalo, cows and is caused by the bacteri um bacillus anthracis. Intensive livestock immunization pro grammes have greatly reduced the occurrence of the disease among both animals and humans in much of the world. Most outbreaks occur in areas where immunization pro grammes have not been imple mented or have become compro mised, primarily in the poor coun tries of the third world. Anthrax spores can remain viable for sever al decades under suitable environ mental conditions, and the disease, which incidentally is not conta gious among human beings, can be contracted by direct exposure through the skin or lungs.

Calmly does it

Symptoms of anthrax begin after a one to six day incubation period fol lowing exposure. When it is caught through contact with the skin, itch ing will occur at the site of expo sure, followed by the formation of a lesion. Untreated contact anthrax has a fatality rate of five to 20 per cent, but with effective antibiotic treatment it can be cured. Initial symptoms for inhaled anthrax are generally non-specific: low grade fever, a dry hacking cough, and weakness. The person may briefly improve after two to four days. However, within 24 hours after this brief improvement, respiratory distress occurs with shock, and death follows shortly thereafter. In many cases of inhaled anthrax in which treatment was begun after patients have exhibited symptoms the bacteria has still proved fatal.

Prior to exposure, preventive measures can be taken through vaccination. Otherwise, antibiotics such as penicillin, ciprofloxacin, and doxycycline are used in treat ment. Fortunately, Indian drug companies produce these drugs in sufficient quantities.Antibiotics must be used prior to the onset of symptoms and the patient must vaccinated before this treatment is stopped. The use of antibiotics keeps patients alive until their bod ies can build immunity to anthrax via vaccination.

Further measures against such a complex bacterium and other dis eases which might be used in chem ical warfare must form part of the government’s overall disaster man agement drill. Launching an inten sive awareness campaign to edu cate citizens is needed. Some tough measures are required to improve general health and hygiene condi tions, especially in government hospitals, in order to prepare peo ple facing looming bio terror haz ards which are likely to affect a na tion’s morale.


The repeated appeals of the Jhark hand chief minister, Babulal Marandi, to the militant outfits have evidently irked the self pro- claimed revolutionary comrades of the Maoist Communist Centre. These appeals are to shun violence and join the social mainstream. With these is also the so called .surrender drama. being staged at Marandi.s behest. In fitting answer, the MCC butchered 13 policemen belonging to the Jharkhand Armed Police, critically wounded four and took away 15 self load ing rifles, three carbines, a pistol and a huge quantity of ammunition on October 31. Undeterred by .Operation Eagle., launched on the following day, to flush out the militants, the MCC has threatened to strike more forcefully in the coming days.

Even as commandos from the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, National Security Guards, JAP and the local police go on blowing up the bunkers of militant outfits, ruining their training camps and gunning down the rebels, the extremist cadre has been hint ing that it will not be giving up so easily.

The ultras have compelled the security forces to restrict their combing operations solely to daytime. Most villages with a strong presence of militants have been marooned ever since the combing opera tions began. Yet no one is ready to take the risk of venturing into MCC dens after sun set.The police claim to have nabbed a good number of hardcore militants, but the masterminds remain untraced.

Despite all odds, the ultras made their presence felt to all in Latehar on Novem ber 6,when they intercepted the car of the Rashtriya Janata Dal member of the leg islative assembly, Girinath Singh, and snatched a carbine, a SLR, a pistol and a good number of cartridges and magazines from his official bodyguards. They not only roughed up the MLA and snatched Rs 10,000 from his wife’s purse, but also forced one of the bodyguards to part with his police uniform.

Marandi has said that a Topchanchi like incident was possible anywhere and the topography of the militant belt was such that nothing significant could be achieved overnight. He holds that a solid intelligence needs to be developed with mass support to curb militancy.

To what extent will the chief minis ter succeed in mobilizing the mass es in favour of the police is there fore a million dollar question now. Had the executives been honest in their duty, the ultras would never have gained a foothold in society. Even today, the police are al leged to have unleashed a reign of terror in the villages.The Jharkhand Mukti Mor cha has already approached the National Human Rights Commission for justice. The police do not seem to have taken any lesson from the past. They have perhaps forgotten that in Topchanchi, too, the ul tras dressed as ordinary villagers first drew the attention of the crowd by scream ing that the police had molested some women who had gone to the tubewell in side the picket for drinking water. Such is the popular police image, most of the by- standers at the weekly haat and the visi tors to the block office in the adjoining building easily believed the rumour.

And once they had the crowd’s sympa thies, they barged into the picket and began to randomly bludgeon, stab and shoot at the policemen. The armed men in uniform did not even get a chance to de fend themselves, as most of them were either having their meals or sleeping at that time. Sexual abuse of women has been the root cause of most of the armed struggle in the riverine plains of central Bihar and the hilly terrains of Jharkhand. A sizeable section of the landlords, con tractors and factory owners expected some .extra-favour. from poor women.

All these provided fer tile ground for some of the Naxalite thinktanks who slipped into Bihar after the failure of the Naxal movement in West Bengal. Under their su pervision, the labourers gradually started de manding more wages and even refused to work in the fields of the land lords who mistreated their sisters and daughters. Many of them even staked ownership claims for the lands on which they had been working for the last several generations. And thus, the Sandesh and Sahar subdivisions of Bho jpur district became the birthplace of the Naxal movement in Bihar during the early Seventies.

To combat the menace, upper caste landlords first tried to implicate their sub jects in police cases which did not prove to be very fruitful. Frustrated, they formed private armies and butchered the land- less.The Ranvir Sena emerged as the most dreaded one among them. It is involved in a series of massacres in central Bihar, in cluding the Laxmanpur Bathe carnage, where 58 Dalits . mostly women and chil dren . were butchered in 1996.

After a series of attacks and counterat tacks by the Ranvir Sena and the ultra-left outfits, a balance of terror led to the restoration of .normalcy. in Bhojpur dis trict. This is evident from the fact that even the Ranvir Sena supremo, Barmeshwar Singh, who has his roots in Bhojpur, was not al lowed to avenge the grue some killing of his caste- men in Senari, his home district. In the Senari carnage, 38 upper-caste men were slaughtered by the ultras in 1998.

In Bhojpur, during the last five to six years, neither the Ranvir Sena nor the ultra left revolutionaries have succeeded in luring new recruits. Common people realized that the Sena was exploiting them for per sonal gains and the .revolutionary. com rades too were not devoid of .human weaknesses.. Both sides were dancing to the tune of mighty politicians. This was thoroughly exposed to the public.

The Ranvir Sena commanders em bezzled the donation amounts, helped the Samata Party win the Bhojpur Lok Sabha seat in 1998 and in 1999 they ensured victory to the RJD by field ing their own candidate. The upper castes felt miserably cheated, as the Sena’s politi cal strategy indirectly helped Laloo Prasad Yadav in most of the constituen cies. The poll boycotts by the ultra-left ide ologues in the existing Jharkhand region, during the last few Lok Sabha and assem bly elections, too, were mainly aimed at settling scores with powerful politicians.

People also soon realized that the .rev olutionaries. did not spare the women of even those houses that gave them asylum. And who says that the ultra-leftists and saffronites repel each other? To begin with, in the Gaya district the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh joined hands with the liberation cadre to settle old scores with the Pathan moneylenders. RSS run Ekal Vidyalayas in the far-flung areas have become safe havens for the ultra-left rebels. Several hardcore ultra-left mili tants were compelled by their kith and kin not to .disturb. the RSS-run schools as they not only taught their children free of cost, but also provided several community services.When the rebels held press con ferences and other meetings in the build ings of such schools, the teachers kept a vigilant eye on the goings-on outside.

The ultra-left movement will soon die a natural death in Jharkhand as well. Here, too, the rebels involved in minting money and serving their per sonal interests stand thoroughly exposed. Industries form the backbone of the Jharkhand economy. Ever since the ex tremist menace cropped up, the weaker en trepreneurs have fled to other states, just as in central Bihar the weaker landlords sold off their lands and settled in the towns. Mighty businessmen, after having failed to tackle the problem on their own, have taken the government’s side. This has given a unique opportunity to the rebels to prove their point once again.

The Marandi government is not will ing to understand that the state cannot be run at gunpoint. The rebels are not ready to accept that massacres and landmine blasts cannot bring about basic changes in society. True, speedy implementation of development schemes can bring about changes, but nothing significant can be achieved unless the intentions are honest.


In addition, agriculture has seen much less reform than the other sectors. While overall reforms related to the exchange rate and indus trial protection have helped, agriculture is still constrained by Central and state regula tions that limit price move ment and intra-state trade, public procurement, and canalization of trade. For ex ample, simply allowing greater private trade in prod ucts would help reduce price fluctuations; more general re forms would improve the pro ductivity of labour and land- use and stimulate agricultural exports. Removal of small- scale reservation would help the growth of domestic agro- industry, which in some cases is now facing increased compe tition from larger size offshore producers as a result of lower protection. Cotton and textile policies effectively tax cotton producers by 15 per cent, and oilseed policies effectively tax oilseed producers by 30 per cent.

Future agricultural growth could be speeded by policy and institutional reform in the sec tor, namely a) an improved pat tern of spending and a reduc tion in distortionary subsidies; b) deregulation of the sector and of rural finance, with a greater role for the private sec tor in credit and termination of the use of credit subsidy as a transfer mechanism; and c) empowerment of the poor by improving their access to land and common resources, in creasing their control over services and infrastructure in rural areas, and improved safety nets.

The above mentioned poli cy reforms would help reduce poverty. For example, in creased public spending on rural roads, agricultural tech nology improvement, rural ed ucation, safety nets, and irri gation would all help reduce poverty. Growth in the rural non-farm sector would also benefit from improved infra structure (roads, power, com munications) and social servic es. More efficient and competi tive markets can deliver better prices and greater market op portunities to farmers, with out raising consumer prices, that would help farmers offset the impact of cuts in subsidies. Better markets together with future markets and eased restrictions on commodity movements and private partic ipation in international trade can help reduce price fluctuations.

Poverty reduction will also be enhanced by empowerment of the poor . shift from top- down, centralized manage ment to bottom-up, demand driven participatory processes for the provision of rural in frastructure and support serv ices. Numerous successful in- dividual programmes (includ ing World Bank financed proj ects) in rural water supply, minor irrigation, watershed development and joint forest management are demonstrat ing the benefits of such a strategic shift. A wider adop tion of this principle, particu larly in the numerous govern ment safety net programmes... would help such programmes better meet their primary goal of poverty alleviation.

Another area where policy and institutional reforms are required to better meet the needs and aspirations of the poor is in policies related to the management of forest re sources. The government needs to rethink its role in downstream production and marketing where the private sector, including community interest groups, could be brought in much more effec tively. Instead the policy focus should be more on the manage ment of externalities and pro vision of public goods, the defi nition and enforcement of property rights, resolution of conflicts, and improving the access of the poor to natural resources of importance to them (particularly non-timber forest products).

To be concluded



On the sidelines

Sir . The news report, .Towering PM eclipses party and presi dent. (Nov 10), has highlighted an interesting trend in Indian poli tics. Gone are the days when the party exerted control over the prime minister and his council of ministers or when one powerful prime minister, like Indira Gandhi, also doubled as the party chief. The president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, K. Jana Krishna murthi,who was regarded in party circles as an individual in his own right, has had to swallow this bitter pill. Not only were three out of the four sessions of the party chaired by the vice-president, Madan Lal Khurana, but Krishnamurthi was also kept in the dark about Arun Jaitley briefing the press on the terror ordinance. This is not the first time that Krishnamurthi has been at the receiving end of such shoddy treatment though. By putting him in his place, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has made an important point . that he is indeed his own man and that he is also the de cision-maker in his party.
Yours faithfully,
Nandita Mitra, via email

Overseas jinx

Sir . The Indian cricket team has once again demonstrated its inability to play overseas (.Indians plunge to 9 wicket hu miliation., Nov 7). The winning streak in India has more to do with the spinning tracks in our country than the talents of the players. The lack of quality pace bowlers coupled with an over-reliance on spinners has once again led to the team’s defeat in the first test of the current se ries. It is doubtful whether the team will now be able to break the jinx and win the subsequent matches.

A careful analysis of the team’s per formance in the first test will reveal facts that are already well known . our play ers are completely incapable of perform ing under pressure, especially when the chips are down. Sachin Tendulkar, no matter how brilliant a player he might be, cannot be expected to rescue the team from one batting disaster after another. Yet he was forced to come in and play a huge innings after India had lost early wickets in the first innings. Senior play ers like Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid can take a lesson or two from young Virender Sehwag who extended ample support to Tendulkar to steer India out of trouble in the first innings.

The problem with the Indian team is not a dearth of talent but a pathetic lack of temperament and application. Re member India’s humiliating defeat in the hands of Kenya in the triangular one-day series? There is an adage in the cricket ing world. One must be hungry to win. India seems perfectly content losing to one competitor after another.

To complicate matters further, every tour is preceded by the usual controversy surrounding the induction of a second wicketkeeper. Since Samir Dighe was un well, Deep Dasgupta was given a chance, almost by default. The coaching offered by legendary players like Kapil Dev, Bishen Singh Bedi, Anshuman Gaekwad, Sandip Patil, and others seemed to make very little difference.

India could learn a thing or two from the Sri Lankan team which has benefited a great deal from the minimal interven tion of the cricket board in matters of team selection. This has helped develop their game even further.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir . Once again the Indian cricket team has given its fans very little reason to celebrate. Although the conditions were more than ideal for batting, the team was unable to save the game. It was disappointing to watch the performances of the three stalwarts of the Indian team, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in the second innings. The lack of consistency and a tendency to take things lightly were responsible for the defeat.

Ganguly was also guilty of not lead ing by example. The Indian captain did not celebrate the birth of his daughter with a memorable innings. It would not be a bad idea to introduce a system by which every player would have to forfeit a certain percentage of his match fees for playing badly. It is high time players learnt to accept responsibility for letting their country down.

Yours faithfully,
Nayan Bhattacharya, via email

Sir . The defeat of the Indian cricket team will not surprise its fans who have come to expect poor performances from the players.With the exception of Shiv Sundar Das and Virender Sehwag, the rest of the team failed to perform. It was particularly disappointing to watch V.V.S. Laxman play. Not only was his selection of shots poor, but he was unable to build huge scores despite getting off to a good start in both the innings.He bore practi cally no resemblance to the player who had scored over 500 runs in Australia.

Given that the Indian team was routed by nine wickets and outplayed by the South Africans in every department of the game, the individual performances of Sehwag and Tendulkar will be of little consolation. It would be pertinent for the Indian team to do some soul-searching and try and answer a rather simple ques tion . why is the team unable to win more matches abroad despite boasting one of the most formidable batting line- ups in the world. It would not be a bad idea for the team management to appoint a psychiatrist who would be able to coun sel the players and help them focus their attention on the game.

Yours faithfully,
Arundhati Maitra, via email

Open system

Sir . It is unlikely that the Union cabi net’s decision to introduce the system of open ballot in the elections to the Rajya Sabha will help clean up the electoral process (.Open ballot plan to chain cross voters., Oct 29). The desire to put an end to crossvoting and eradicate the evils of money power is undoubtedly commend able.However, this move may well back fire. It may encourage the formation of many more political parties that will pa tronize over-ambitious leaders. One must also keep in mind the fact that the exis tence of secret ballot enables members of parliament to cast conscience votes once in a while.

The second change that is being con templated by the government makes sense. By allowing candidates to contest elections from a state other than the one to which they belong, the government is introducing a certain degree of unifor mity.As has been pointed out by the edi torial, .Needed change.(Oct 31), this would go a long way in ensuring that lu minaries from different fields would be able to join politics without much hassle. Given that the upper house in India is not equipped with the kind of powers that are possessed by the American senate, this change may ensure that a candidate would be forced to work for the welfare of the state from which he is contesting elections.

Yours faithfully,
Rupa Singh Kulkarni, Secunderabad

Sir . The Union cabinet’s decision to replace the secret ballot system with open ballot is commendable. By cleaning up the electoral system, the government will be able to control horsetrading. Since open ballot will reinforce party discipline and extend the anti-defection law, most parties have welcomed the government’s decision. But it would be impractical to expect that such a step would cleanse the system completely of corruption. For that to happen, politicians would have to take the initiative to ensure that all those who enter public life adhere to certain principles.

There has been a great deal of debate among constitutional experts about the advantages and disadvantages of having an upper house that functions as a .house of elders.. The framers of the Constitution had envisaged this role for the upper house. That the Rajya Sabha no longer plays an active role in Indian politics is because our political leaders have filled up the seats with inefficient candidates.

Yours faithfully,
Ranjana Deb, via email

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