Editorial 1/ After the fall
Editorial 2/ Immune to erroar
To win the peace
Tales of contempt and punishment
Fifth Column
Letters to the Editor

The fall of Kabul signals without doubt the end of the first war of the 21st century. It may not, however, augur peace in the strife torn area called Afghanistan. In terms of military strategy and tactics, Afghanistan is a quadrilateral whose four corners are the cities of Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kabul and Qandahar. Three of the four citadels have fallen, it is a matter of time before the last one succumbs to the advance of the Northern Alliance, now fortified not only by success but also by the presence of British and US military personnel. Sceptics about the purpose of the bombing carried out by US planes will recognize now that the pounding of the taliban from the air was not mindless and unnecessary. The bombs destroyed the fighting power of the taliban. Nowhere was this more evident than in Kabul into which the Northern Alliance soldiers just about walked in. Opposition was non-existent. Despite the strategic success of the air strikes, the campaign in Afghanistan reiterates the military truism that footsoldiers win wars, the artillery or the air force merely serves to make things easier for the infantry. The fall of Kabul means that Mr Osama bin Laden, in whichever cave he is hiding, like Adolf Hitler in his bunker in Berlin, is counting days and preparing for suicide.

The fall of Kabul has more than symbolic significance. The capital of Afghanistan is in the hands of the Northern Alliance, the principal foe of the taliban within Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance was welcomed into Kabul where the population rejoiced at being delivered from an oppressive regime. There are reports of shows of popular anger against the taliban. But more than anger there is relief especially among the women. But shows of emotion will have to be supplanted by the serious business of putting in place a viable and stable government in Kabul. In many ways, Afghanistan is not a modern nation state where the rules and conventions of civil society hold sway. On the contrary, it is a territory inhabited by a group of quarrelsome tribes for whom violence has been a way of life for centuries. It will be utopian to expect that these groups will suddenly give up their rivalries and live happily ever after. Any government presuming to have a semblance of authority in Afghanistan will have to strike a balance among the various fractious groups. The Northern Alliance, because of its dominant position, will naturally demand a large slice of the cake. The US and Pakistan will also want their fingers in the cake. Pakistanís position, after the triumph of the Northern Alliance, will obviously be weak. It is seen, and with considerable justification, as the main supporter of the taliban regime. The scene is set for hectic negotiations. The outcome of these will determine the nature of the peace that ensues after the end of the war.


Plunging into a blame game is a cynical way of responding to a human tragedy. Neither UNICEF nor the Assam government covered itself in glory by trying to hold each other responsible for the tragic turn to the pulse vitamin A programme in the state. It was shocking that the vaccination programme, which was meant to reduce risks of child mortality and improve immunization, resulted in hundreds of children falling sick. At least one death . of a two-year-old child . was confirmed in the first reports. UNICEFís disclaimer that there was nothing wrong either with the vaccine or the dosage seemed to have come too early. True, the programme had been implemented successfully not only in several other states but also in many parts of Assam. One would think UNICEF should have first tried to ascertain how and why things went wrong in the affected parts of Assam. There were two departures from the past programmes. The dosage was increased from 2.5 to 5 millilitre and the vaccine was administered in cups, not with spoons as before, to avoid contamination. Some experts suspect that the health workers implementing the programme had not been adequately trained to familiarize themselves with the changes.Their other complaint, that the children could have been actually given an overdose by inexperienced health workers, needs to be closely examined. But the way the state health minister,Mr Bhumidhar Barman,sought to pass the blame to UNICEF and the .paramedics. also looks like an appalling abdication of responsibility. It is incredible that a health minister is trying to wash the governmentís hands of a UNICEF project by blaming semi-skilled health workers who after all are part of the stateís healthcare system.

This is not the first time that a vaccination or immunization programme for children has been caught in a tragic controversy. About a year ago, tragedy struck a pulse polio programme in some districts of West Bengal. Obviously, not enough care is always taken to ensure that such programmes are implemented with extreme caution and foolproof expertise. Both the Assam government, which has ordered an administrative inquiry, and UNICEF should spare no efforts to find out where exactly things went wrong. In fact, instead of apportioning blame, they should join hands in the investigation because the risks are too incalculably costly and leave no room for oneupmanship. UNICEFís local managers should realize that their responsibilities extend far beyond funding such programmes. If a state lacks the infrastructure necessary to properly implement these, it should be UNICEFís duty to point out the lacunae and get things in place before the projects are launched. And, since Mr Barman himself has cast doubts on the expertise of the paramedics,he has an urgent task of upgrading their training.


As we watch the now familiar images of a virtual war, blazing lights illuminating the night sky, intermittent explosions that seem almost carnivalesque, and a series of images that obscure the grim realities of war, we wonder once again what the United States of America is up to. The escalation of the conflict, no matter what its proximate justification, will make the US lose the moral high ground it had acquired after the September 11 attacks. The effect of its tactics, whatever the intent, will be disconcertingly problematic. They risk erasing the distinction between civilian and soldier, between fringe groups and ordinary people. One of the hallmarks of barbarism is its inability to make the relevant distinctions.

We know that smart bombs, cruise missiles, and stealth bombers, for all their precision, do not make the kind of distinctions that those who fire them would like them to. The trouble with the representation of war on our television screens is that it neutralizes our conscience. One has to work hard to remind oneself of the concrete effects of bombing. Such neutralization of the conscience threatens to render the effects of war invisible.The danger with the application of American power is that whatever the justifications for its exercise, the US often loses sight of its effects. This is as true for its own war on drugs in Latin America and within the US as it is of Iraq. It then always acts surprised when the world reacts the way it does.

The conduct of war, whatever the intention, runs the risk of narrowing moral identity. Having staked the high ground of the war against terrorism, the US now finds itself hardpressed to convince the world that it cares about anything other than its own interest. It is very difficult to see that after the hostilities are over, most countries around the world waging a war against terrorism will have benefitted from an American victory. Indeed, the very nature of this war has forced the US into compromises that could hardly be justified from an impartial standpoint.

The US risks losing the long-term political battle for the sake of short term objectives. It also risks alienating the very people they were trying to placate. The US is in a difficult predicament.On the one hand, there is no credible group of Islamic states that could have intervened in this crisis in a way that would have allowed the perpetrators to be brought to justice without precipitating a war. While one can argue that American policy in west Asia, especially on the Palestinian issue, has always been partisan, the moral and political weaknesses of Arab states is largely their own doing. Most Arab states are too preoccupied with either their own weaknesses or domestic compulsions to be able to play a major and constructive international role.

On the other hand, every American intervention runs the potential risk of turning this conflict into a clash of civilizations. The very fact that serious people around the world believe the incredible proposition that what motivates Osama bin Laden is a genuine concern for the plight of the Iraqis or the Palestinians testifies to the fact that whatever our piety, or what the American president might say, this is seen widely as a clash of civilizations. And war will only exacerbate that feeling. Bin Laden has won the ideological war, even if he loses the battle.He has made America psychologically more vulnerable, affected its lifestyles and forced it once again into military action in the Islamic world in a manner that is unlikely to gain America long term friends.

But the second sense in which the US loses is this. Many people are drawing analogies between the bombing of Afghanistan and the war against Iraq. I think in the Americanís own mind the appropriate analogy is the Kosovo crisis. It seems that rather than get bin Laden directly, the Americans would now like to overthrow the taliban, much as the intent of the bombing of Belgrade was to get rid of Slobodan Milosevic. Just this fact should alert us to attributing the current crisis to anti-Islamism on the USís part. But this is precisely the problem. There is no reason whatsoever to think that replacing the taliban will be easy. The Northern Alliance is not a firm enough coalition to hold together once the taliban has been defeated. Yugoslavia, for all its problems, had a functioning civil society, credible opposition, and intact institutions. And the war against Milosevic did not, for historical reasons, generate anti-Americanism in the way in which this war might.

Afghanistan is a country ravaged by war, with too many armed groups and factions competing for power.The consequences of militarily dealing a blow to the taliban are at best unpredictable and leave the US with only two options. It will have to be committed to shoring up whatever new regime may come up for some time to come. There is no reason whatsoever to think that the US is capable of carrying out this task in Afghanistan. The task is too complicated and it is unlikely that American public opinion will stomach that scale of political involvement.

With Pakistan and Iran as neighbours, the US cannot count on any regional concert of nations to bring stability to Afghanistan. If it tries a long-term presence in the region it will remain the object of hostility in the Arab world. While having a military presence in Afghanistan will help dismantle particular terrorist networks, it is equally likely to produce even more decentralized and indiscriminate forms of small scale terrorism.

The other likely scenario is that the Americans will leave behind a chaotic Afghanistan.There is a distinct possibility that with refugees in the millions, Pakistan could be destabilized even further. Secessionist movements in the northwest are not unlikely. It is hard to gauge the true depth of anti-Americanism within Pakistan, but its levels are sufficient to pose a recurring challenge to the present regime.

I think one ought to be sceptical of the proposition that international pressure will be sufficient to make Pakistan tone down its involvement in Kashmir. Because the Kashmir issue is so deeply imbricated with the domestic politics of Pakistan it is unlikely that, despite Indiaís hopes, international pressure will do much to abate the problem. The US and the world will declare victory and derive some satisfaction from the dismantling of the taliban, but the political fallout in the Arab world and Pakistan will remain uncertain.

Whether this will make the world or central and south Asia a safer place is certainly debatable. Restraint is the better part of valor and by not exercising it the US is frittering away its moral and political advantage. Its difficulty is that its success in military terms is unlikely to be matched by an enduring and credible political settlement in the region. George W. Bush started his presidency by announcing that America was not interested in .nation-building. abroad. Having now committed itself to the thankless task of rebuilding both Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan, it is difficult to see how he can succeed.

The author is professor of philosophy, and of law and governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


The Supreme Court, after having dropped the contempt proceedings with regard to the dharna outside the court protesting against the Narmada Dam judgment, in a Kafkaesque turn, on October 29 decided to go ahead with proceedings against the writer, Arundhati Roy, for the affidavit filed by her in reply to the contempt notice.

The power of superior courts to punish for contempt involves two invaluable rights. As the court can and does sentence persons to imprisonment, the fundamental right to life and liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution gets directly affected. Similarly, the fundamental right to speech and expression integral to democracy and encoded in Article 19 (1)(a) comes into play as far as public speeches and publications are concerned. A critical look at the contempt power of the courts is in order.

More than a century ago in 1899, while delivering the judgment of the judicial committee in Mac Leod versus St Aubin, Lord Morris observed, .Committals for contempt by scandalizing the court itself have become obsolete in this country. Courts are satisfied to leave to public opinion attacks or comments derogatory or scandalous to them..

In a similar vein, in 1968 in Regina versus Commissioner of Police, Lord Denning observed, .Let me say at once that we will never use this jurisdiction as a means to uphold our own dignity. That must rest on surer foundations. Nor will we use it to suppress those who speak against us.We do not fear criticism, nor do we resent it. For there is something far more important at stake. It is no less than freedom of speech itself..

Nearer home, the former chief justice, P.B. Gajendragadkar, following in the rich liberal tradition, while heading a seven-judge bench of the apex court cautioned against frequent or indiscriminate use of the power of contempt and observed, .Wise judges never forget that that the best way to sustain the dignity and status of their office is to deserve respect from the public at large by the quality of their judgments, the fearlessness, fairness and objectivity of their approach and by the restraint, dignity and decorum which they observe in their judicial conduct..

Let us look at some recent instances of the exercise of the contempt powers by the courts. The executive as well as the chief minister of Delhi have been humbled by having to tender an unconditional apology under threat of punishment for contempt in the compressed natural gas case. The apex court had set a deadline for a switch to CNG for all commercial vehicles in the capital including buses. An inadequate number of CNG buses led to riots and protests including the burning of vehicles. The chief minister made a statement pertaining to ground realities which the court may not have been aware of and was promptly hauled up for contempt.

The secretary of the Peoples. Union for Civil Liberties, the publisher, managing editor, correspondent and sub-editor of the Hitvada, an English daily from Nagpur, have been sentenced to six months imprisonment by the Madhya Pradesh high court for reporting critical comments made by the secretary. This was after the acquittal by the court of the industrialists convicted by the trial court for the assasination of the trade union leader, Shankar Guha Neogi. Wah India, an English periodical, brought out an article titled .Judged Out. with marks being given under different heads to judges of the Delhi high court. The article claimed to be a humble attempt to hold a mirror up to the judiciary with the object of bringing about meaningful changes in the functioning of the higher judiciary. An outraged court hauled up the editor, correspondent and publisher. Even after rendering an unconditional apology, they had to wait on tenterhooks for weeks before they managed to escape imprisonment.

However, the exercise of the contempt power by courts in recent times needs to be placed in the framework sketched out by Morris, Denning and Gajendragadkar.

Apart from more complex matters, even the apparently clear case of the sentencing to imprisonment of the advocate, Nand Lal Balwani, who purportedly hurled a shoe towards the court, raises doubts. The incident occurred on the morning of February 26, 1999 in the Supreme Court. In the afternoon, the same bench convicted and sentenced Balwani to four months imprisonment.

The right to an independent tribunal, protection against self-incrimination, the requirement of mens rea in criminal law and the right to a legal practitioner are some of the principles that need to be borne in mind.

Lord Goff in the Gough case in 1993 observed that in the exercise of contempt jurisdiction, .It is vitally important to avoid giving the impression that the judge is biased or that the decision has been prompted by personal animus..Viewed from the standpoint of safeguards, incorporated in Article 6 of the European convention on human rights, the trend is to refer the matter to a bench other than the one before whom the contempt was committed. It is a recognition that it is possible that the judge will not have seen the entire incident of which complaint is made, particularly if the act of contempt is a fleeting and single one, as appears to be the case in the shoe-throwing case.

Thus, before truth can be sufficiently established it may be necessary to have a good deal of evidence from eye-witnesses, some of whom may have had a quite different impression from that of the judge. Even where the same bench hears the matter, the desirability of a .cooling off. period between the incident and the contempt hearing has been stressed. The Phillimore committee on contempt in the United Kingdom emphasized that the .very extensive. contempt powers should only be exercised, .without their exercise being influenced by the heat or exasperation of the moment.. In a similar vein, Lawton J in Moram, observed in 1985, .The judge should give himself time for reflection as to what is the best course to take. Second, he should consider whether that time for reflection should not extend to a different day because overnight thoughts are sometimes better than thoughts on the spur of the moment..

Article 20 (3) of the Constitution embodies the universal principle of privilege against self-incrimination and declares that a person cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself. In cases of contempt in the .face of the court., as in the Balwani case, the judges directly question the accused. The right against self-incrimination demands that a person accused of contempt should be alerted to the fact that he is at risk of losing his liberty and that he is not obliged to answer questions and, in particular, those that may be incriminating. The right to legal counsel requires that the accused be given time to prepare a defence, an opportunity of taking informed legal advice and of being represented by counsel.

D. Feldman in Civil Liberties and Human Rights in England and Wales argues that the summary nature of the proceedings for contempt are in breach of Article 6 of the European convention on human rights which guarantees that an accused be informed of the nature and cause of the allegation against him; the right to an independent and impartial tribunal; a proper opportunity and facilities for the preparation of a defence and a right to legal assistance.

In addition to the actus reus, that is, act committed, the guilty state of the mindís intention called mens rea is a crucial component to be established before a person can be punished for an offence. The present trend in Europe is that the requirement of mens rea in criminal law should also operate in the sphere of criminal contempt.Thus, a positive intention to interfere in the course of justice must be established before a person can be punished for contempt. Distinctions between an intention to interfere with the course of justice as opposed to intending to do the act in question need to be made.

Similarly, recognition in contempt law of an intention merely to insult the judge but not to interfere with the course of justice as such is also being sought. In fact, there have been instances in our courts where an undertrial has hurled things at the judge in frustration at the delay in the case. The intention behind the act, if anything, is a plea for expediting the course of justice. However, at present, courts in India treat it as criminal contempt. The power to punish for contempt is not for the protection of the individual judicial officers from insult or injury. In the words of Lord Morris, .

The power summarily to commit for contempt is considered necessary for the proper administration of justice. It is not to be used for the vindication of a judge as a person. He must resort to action for libel or criminal information.. The basis of the power to punish for contempt is the essential right of the ordinary citizen to get justice. The power has to be exercised for the rendering of justice to the people.

Social norms with regard to acceptable restrictions on liberty, the value of free speech in a democracy change over time and have to be taken into cognizance. In 1972, E.Mís. Namboodiripad, then chief minister of Kerala, was hauled up for contempt for stating that judges are prey to the biases of their class and are weighted against the exploited peasants and working classes. The defence that the comments constituted fair and reasonable criticism of the judicial system and were protected by the right to free speech was rejected.

In 1987, the law minister, P. Shiv Shankar, referred to the elite background of the judges in a speech at the bar council of Hyderabad and declared, .Mahadhipatis like Keshavananda and zamindars like Golaknath evoked a sympathetic chord nowhere in the whole country except the Supreme Court of India. And the bank magnates, the representatives of the elitist culture of this country, ably supported by industrialists, the beneficiaries of independence, got higher compensation by the intervention of the Supreme Court in the Cooper case. Anti-social elements that is, Foreign Exchange Regulation Act violators, bride burners and a whole horde of reactionaries have found their haven in the Supreme Court..

The Supreme Court in P.N. Duda versus P. Shiv Shankar (AIR 1988 SC 1208) took the view that Shiv Shankar had examined the class composition of the Supreme Court. His view that the class composition of any instrument indicates its predisposition and its prejudices did not amount to contempt.Referring to the EMS case, the court observed that, .times and climes have changed in the last two decades..

The present definition of criminal contempt uses phrases like scandalizing the court, lowering the authority of courts and prejudicing the course of justice. These expressions are inherently vague and leave a lot of scope for arbitrariness dependent on the individual opinions and predilections of the judge and can lead to unreasonable restrictions on freedom of speech.

In fact, the Phillimore committee recommended that the branch of law dealing with scandalizing the court should be replaced by a new and strictly defined criminal offence. The offence should be so constituted to include the component of intention to impair confidence in the administration of justice. Defence should be available if the defender could prove not only that what he said was true but also that that the publication as such was for the public benefit. Incredible as it sounds, despite the motto of Ďsatyamev jayate. or .truth will triumph., truth is not a defence to a charge of contempt in Indian courts.

The emerging complex issues involving free speech, restriction on liberty, truth as defence, inclusion of mens rea, need to be debated. This should replace the oversimplistic construct of an indignant judiciary and a cowering executive, press and populace within which the criminal contempt jurisprudence seems to be currently frozen in our country.



A very sad birthday

It is proving to be a very bloody birthday for Jharkhand. Barely two days before its first birthday, red fury singed Palamau. Peopleís War extremists blew up a 50 kilometre stretch railway track between Kerketta and Utari stations, gunned down two Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders, abducted a trader and unleashed terror in the villages. Earlier, 13 policemen were felled by Maoist Communist Centre bullets in Topchanchi. It is a rather inauspicious beginning to Marandiís second year in office .

The report card should ideally read: .Promoted on probation.. But there are no probations for chief ministers, even those as inept as Babulal Marandi.A year ago, the National Democratic Alliance hardsold the former Union minister as the most .acceptable ethnic face.. Jharkhand lapped it up. Suave, Delhi-savvy and young, the unassuming chief minister set a tall agenda that promised to turn the lush green hills into El Dorado.

November 15, 2000 was pregnant with hope. Anticipation was writ large on the serpentine queues outside the secretariat ground, waiting to sample .history. first hand. A year later, the same ground resembles a wasteland. Politically, Marandi has not been able to achieve much for the NDA. The alliance is fractured in the state. The Samata Party is beset with dissension, and the Janata Dal (United) temporarily softened stance after its chief, Gautam Sagar Rana, was placated with the convenorship of the NDA coordination committee.

Grim picture

The Samata Party responded with a quick resignation. Party chief Ramesh Singh Munda, also the excise minister, quit the ministry alleging this was an .insult to his party... The Bharatiya Janata Party, which opened the saffron floodgates in Jharkhand after winning the bulk of the urban seats in the 1995 Bihar assembly polls, cried bias. It sought more accountability from the chief minister and bigger share of the power pie. But in his rush to set the house in order, Marandi blundered on key fronts . economy, stability and law and order.He was incapable of reining in the bureaucracy leading to irreconcilable face-offs between ministers and their departmental heads.

The economy is in a shambles. The Centre has decided to sell 50 per cent shares in consultancy giant, Mecon. The Heavy Engineering Corporation and the Indian Copper Complex also face the chopping block. Not all is well at the Steel Authority of India Limited plant in Bokaro either.

The social sector is grim. The chief minister scores abysmally low on the education front despite that fact that he hails from a teaching background himself. Minority school teachers have not been paid for 18 months and corruption is a way of life in Ranchi University. His largesse . hiking stipends of junior doctors, releasing education funds and increasing dearness allowance of government employees . has not been able to salvage the reputation of the educational institutions or to stem the rot that has set in government offices.

Rushing to his rescue

Marandiís achievements include laying the foundation for a variety of power projects, railway projects and roads. If better connectivity is any yardstick for success, then the Ranchi-Delhi Rajdhani and the Howrah-Ranchi Shatabdi Express can also be clubbed to the list. However, one must not forget that militancy and drought have ravaged the districts and rural migration has touched an all-time high.

Top guns from Delhi have rushed to Marandiís rescue. Kailashpati Mishra, the BJP vicepresident and in-charge of Jharkhand affairs, is camping in Ranchi to ensure the birthday goes well. He has given a clean chit to Marandi and so has the governor, Prabhat Kumar.

Luck also seems to be on Marandiís side. It has reduced the opposition into .disparate. pressure groups that have failed to work up enough steam to take the chief minister head on. It would have been a cakewalk for the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had it been organized. The Congress has always been divided on racial and .territorial. lines in the state.

The all-pervasive shadow of militancy outweighs all other ills. Militants have succeeded where the opposition has failed. They have seen through the chinks in Marandiís armour and gone for them with a vengeance.An unwieldy security system has ripped the last shreds of respectability.

Does Marandi still have the right to rule? Verdict: awaited.



Father in the team

Sir I find it impossible to understand how the captain of the Indian cricket team, Sourav Ganguly, could ask for permission to visit Calcutta during a crucial test cricket tour because of what could be best described as a non-emergency situation. Ganguly must have been aware of the fact that his child was to be born for the last nine months at least,and he could have chosen to excuse himself from the tour if his priority was to be with his family. Jetting about between two tests is a sign of irresponsibility, especially since his personal average in the first test was slightly better than that of our 11th batsman. If Ganguly himself were to exhibit this lack of judgment and commitment to the team, we cannot expect any better from its other members. The fact that he sought permission is bad enough. The cherry on the cake is that the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India sanctioned it. This lack of discipline and responsibility by team members and the management is finding expression in the teamís dismal performance.
Yours faithfully,
Pradip Dutta, Bangalore

Glow at the end

Sir . The recent Supreme Court ruling which bans smoking in public places and in all public conveyances, including railways, is welcome news (ĎsC clamps smoking ban in public places., Nov 3). Such a ban was expected in the light of the growing number of lawsuits being filed against tobacco companies in the United States of America. The Centre has also been thinking of introducing an anti-tobacco ban for a while now (.War against tobacco terror., Feb 7). The ban will spare non-smokers from the ill effects of secondhand tobacco smoke. The negative effects of smoking were first recognized and brought to the notice of consumers by the US surgeon-general in the early Sixties. There are about 4,000 chemical substances found in tobacco smoke, and 438 of them are carcinogenic. According to the World Health Organization, the death of 7-8 lakh Indians every year is attributed to tobacco smoking alone. The Union health ministry has also declared that 25 life-threatening diseases are caused by tobacco smoking. However welcome the ban, the big question on every bodyís mind is how the government will enforce the ban, since the last few attempts in Delhi, Goa and Rajasthan failed because of ineffective implementation.
Yours faithfully,
Manoranjan Das, Jamshedpur

Sir . The Supreme Court judges, M.R. Shah and R.P. Sethi, should be thanked for their landmark judgment on the public interest litigation suit banning smoking in public places (ĎsC clamps smoking ban in public places.). The government is receiving substantial revenue from cigarettes and bidis. It is therefore not surprising that certain politicians are criticizing the ban by claiming that it will lead to a rise in unemployment, based on the logic that the ban will lead to a decrease in the production of cigarettes, and factory workers will therefore be laid off in the process. Drinking of alcohol in public places should also be banned. The recent report of the hooch tragedy in Kerala and Tamil Nadu which led to a number of deaths is a perfect example of only one of the negative effects of alcohol. Families with no money are pushed below the poverty line because of indiscriminate spending on alcohol in rural areas.

Yours faithfully,
Bís. Ganesh, Bangalore

Sir . The ban on smoking is a landmark verdict as well as a morale booster for the anti-smoking brigade. The verdict clearly shows that the anti-smoking campaign begun by various social organizations has not been in vain. In India, unlike any other country in the sub-continent, a major percentage of the population has fallen victim to various smoking-related diseases. It is unfortunate that while Western countries have succeeded in educating people about the hazards of smoking, there is an astronomical increase in nicotine addiction in countries like India and Pakistan.A blanket ban on smoking in public places and in the work place will not only save the countryís human resources, but will also be a blessing for the passive smoker.

Yours faithfully,
D.V. Vamsee Krishna, Bhubaneswar

Sir . The latest ruling by the Supreme Court banning smoking in public places is going to turn out to be yet another mockery (ĎsC clamps smoking ban in public places.). I was in Delhi on January 26, 1996 when smoking had been banned for the first time in the capital. It was shocking to see the lack of concern people had for the ban, as everyone carried on smoking in restaurants and other public places irrespective of the ruling. I was further amazed to see both police officers and bus conductors smoking, especially in public places and in the state buses. Till the police and the conductors, who are supposed to ensure that people do not smoke in public, change their mindset there is no reason why citizens will follow the ruling.

Yours faithfully,
Ratnesh Singh, Asansol

Sir . It had been reported that there were 1.5 million tobacco-related deaths in India last year. Although smoking in public had been banned in many cities, the ban was not followed at all. Hopefully, with the recent Supreme Court order the health problems created by smoking in public will be rectified. It is also very strange why individuals refuse to complain about others who are smoking in public areas. It is perhaps because we as citizens are either so unconcerned about the law that we cannot find adequate reason to bring a defaulter to the notice of the authorities.A bit more awareness on the part of citizens regarding the harmful effects of smoking and the need to abide by rules would make a world of difference to the problems created by smoking.

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh Kapasi, via email

Sir . The recent Supreme Court ban on smoking will not only check environmental pollution and health problems, it will also help rectify our undisciplined behaviour as citizens (ĎsC clamps smoking ban in public places.). That one requires a court order to make us realize that smoking in a public place is a nuisance to non-smokers speaks very poorly of the average Indianís civic sense. To make a ban on smoking or even the introduction of prohibition successful, it requires not only legislation but also the moral and social education of the citizens as well as their active participation.

Yours faithfully,
Asoka Kumar Addya, Puri

Breaking faith

Sir . Sunanda K. Datta-Ray mocks the apparent contradiction of Bengalis in pandal-hopping and voting left (.The party and the puja., Oct 28). But a closer look at the circumstances will reveal that Bengalis have every moral right to do so. One does not have to be a communist in order to vote left. The left still reigns supreme in West Bengal because it has established itself as a far better option than the rudderless Congress, the inconsistent Trinamool Congress and the fidgety Bharatiya Janata Party. The scandalfree tenures of successive left governments also augment the leftís acceptability in the state. The non-religious doctrine of communism does not form the backbone of the left. Thus there exists no hypocrisy on the part of Bengalis in immersing themselves in the pujas on the one hand, and launching a comrade to power on the other.
Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir . The indulgence the Durga puja receives from the stateís communist government is enough to show its hypocrisy. It is the government, not the people who should bear the brunt of criticism.

Yours faithfully,
Joy Acharya, Calcutta

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