Editorial 1/ First impressions
Editorial 2/ Strait is the gate
Moderately optimistic
Picking up the pieces of the past
Document/ Self-help is the best form of empowerment
Fifth Column/ Give them their equal share
Letters to the editor

A new government may not redeem its pledges in six months, but it is a long enough time to make the first impressions. When Assam voted out the Asom Gana Parishad government led by Mr Prafulla Kumar Mahanta last May, the people expected major changes to be initiated by the new Congress ministry. Mr Tarun Gogoi’s first six months in office, which the Congress celebrated in Guwahati last week, have shown some early promises for the long-suffering state. No one expected Mr Gogoi to come up with spectacular successes in this short time in his twin battle against insurgency and economic backwardness, both legacies of previous governments in Guwahati as well as in New Delhi. By all indications, the new chief minister’s record in tackling law and order has not been too bad. His firmness in handling the notorious sections of the surrendered members of the United Liberation Front of Asom, who thrived on extortion and other criminal activities, has made life easier for the common people. One indication of this is the fact that people can now visit the night shows of cinemas without being harassed by such elements. It is true that insurgents belonging to the ULFA and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland continue to strike occasionally. It should be in Mr Gogoi’s interest to work in tandem with the Centre in tackling the militants more effectively because the state administration alone can find it a daunting task. By initiating talks for a new Bodoland council, he seems to have accepted the fact that the present council has been a non-starter. But any new agreement has to take into account the sentiments of non-Bodos living in Bodo-dominated areas. Mr Gogoi need not insist on holding next month’s planned panchayat elections in these areas if that means another bloodbath as threatened by the Bodo Liberation Tigers.

Mr Gogoi has had seemingly intractable problems with the state’s finances, though he inherited most of these from the previous government. The state Bharatiya Janata Party’s demand that the government declare a “financial emergency” looks suspiciously like political baiting because the party had not shown as much anxiety while its ally, the AGP, was in power. But the situation is reportedly so serious that the payment of salaries to government employees has been delayed on more than one occasion. Obviously, such a critical financial position leaves little room for planned economic development that the militancy-ravaged state so badly needs. Mr Gogoi has a strong case for greater Central assistance but he has to revitalize institutions that are supposed to implement Centrally-sponsored rural development schemes. At the same time, he has to look for new avenues to improve the state’s own resource base, even if some measures to do so prove unpopular. To start with, the government can plug administrative loopholes to improve its sales tax collection, which has had a particularly poor record.


The United States of America could be keeping its gates more vigilantly. The aftermath of terrorism is inevitably ambivalent, and the possible effects of September 11 on the US’s immigration policy could be worrying for Indians. The Californian senator, Ms Dianne Feinstein, had notoriously gone to the extent of suggesting a six-month moratorium on student visas immediately after the September 11 attacks. Most of the terrorists on the hijacked aircraft had entered the country as students, tourists or workers. Interestingly enough, Ms Feinstein’s proposal met with the strongest resistance from the US universities themselves. The reason had more to do with money than with civil liberties. Overseas students form a major bulk of their earnings. Indian students form a little less than a tenth of the number of overseas students coming in to study in the US every year, beaten in numbers only by students from China.

So far, only the detention rules framed by the immigration and naturalization service, which is part of the justice department, have been touched, making it possible for the service to detain legal immigrants indefinitely during a national emergency. But noises are increasingly being made regarding the immediate implementation of the 1996 amendments, approved by the congress, to the illegal immigrant reform and the immigrant responsibility act. The dormancy of these amendments had resulted in relatively relaxed entry and exit point procedures with regard to visitors, such as passports not being stamped on exit or the INS not being provided with the list of terrorist offenders prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This may all be tightened up now. First, a comprehensive database, particularly of all foreign students in the US, could now be seen as imperative. This would store everything from detailed biometric information (to prevent visa fraud) to the student’s academic profile. This information network would be particularly vigilant about students overstaying their welcome, hitherto relatively easy to pull off because of passports not being stamped on exit. This monitoring could even come with a charge, something that could appear to be patently unfair to students, who are in any case applying for funding from the universities. None of these changes has been implemented so far. But the climate of opinion seems to have altered perceptibly, and the pressure to implement the 1996 amendments is appearing to be quite inevitable. Civil liberties or constitutional freedoms have never been beyond the contingencies created by terrorism. But the economics determining the fate of American universities and business schools might end up being a competing reality.


The last annual report of the Reserve Bank of India keeps up the excellent tradition of its predecessors. The report frankly admits that the deceleration of the economic activity has raised serious concerns. Recent experience reveals areas of concern. The rate of capital formation, in particular, has been shrinking, mainly reflecting the inadequate response of private investment to the reform process, on top of the deceleration in public investment.

Infrastructural requirements are likely to be binding constraints on future growth. Further, the quality of delivery of public services has been adversely affected by fiscal constraints. The large and growing needs of the Centre and the states admittedly strain the financial markets. The experience of the late Nineties suggests that India is not immune to the slowdown phase of the global business cycle. The report attributes the recent slowdown of economic activity to the general insufficiency in the “aggregate demand” and in particular, to the faltering pace of investment demand, relatively low growth in the demand of bank credit, slowdown in currency expansion and decline in import demand.

Agricultural development has particularly been suffering from absolute deficiencies in physical and social infrastructure. The fall in capital formation in rural areas and loss of pace in technological upgradation in agriculture indicate the main problems in that sector.

The report faces upfront the impact of global factors on the pace of economic activity in India. Given the relatively low degree of openness of the Indian economy, the recent global slowdown has not affected India’s prospects too sharply. In countries where agricultural reforms were started in the early stage of the reform cycle, unlike the case in India, potential output of the economy as a whole has moved upwards.

So far as the growth prospects of 2001-02 are concerned, the report bases its moderately optimistic view on its expectation of improved monsoons. In its view, there are also prospects of the modest revival of the industrial sector, but only in the second half of the year. It hopes that the service sector would return to the average growth of 8.4 per cent achieved in the Nineties. However, the report concedes that the industrial output growth prospects give cause for considerable concern. Inflationary conditions, however, are expected to remain supportive.

The annual report updates the information on the progress of financial sector reforms. The RBI seems to be fairly satisfied with the state of affairs in the banking sector, although the report does not critically cover the recent adverse developments in the financial markets, which started in 2000-01 and have disclosed serious weaknesses.

The report reveals a justifiable sense of achievement with regard to the external sector. The rise of foreign exchange reserves to the current level of $ 44.7 billion has, indeed, redounded to the credit of policymakers. No doubt, this has resulted only from a combination of exports and support from invisibles, such as remittances from abroad and software earnings together with capital flows, both portfolio and direct. Out of the total foreign exchange reserves of $ 44.7 billion, nearly $ 23.0 billion is accounted for by foreign currency non-resident deposits. Even after taking out the non-repatriable component of $ 6.8 billion from these deposits, the proportion of FCNR contribution to reserves remains a source of fragility.

Are the reserves too high, involving as they do an implicit loss in deployment of deposits with central banks of developed countries at relatively low rates? The report justifies the current level of reserves citing a rule of prudence proposed by Argentina’s finance minister, Pablo Guidotti, which states, “Countries should manage their external assets and liabilities in such a way that they are always able to live without new foreign borrowing upto one year. The usable foreign exchange reserves should exceed scheduled amortization of foreign currency debts during the following year as also such of the liabilities as could be foreseen.” India is well within the ambit of this worthwhile principle.

India’s external debt has remained at about the same level as in 1999-2000. The gross debt stands at roughly $ 100 billion, an increase of just $ 2 billion above the previous year’s level. The external commercial borrowing, including trade credits, amounts to only $ 29.94 billion. The short-term debt is also at a low percentage, 3 per cent, to the total debt. These are positive features of the external sector performance.

Turning to trade data, however, the picture is not so comforting. The balance of trade — meaning the difference between exports and imports of goods, — stands at a rather high level of roughly (-) $ 14.3 billion. This trade deficit is sustained mainly by invisibles amounting to $ 11.8 billion, leaving a current account balance of $ 2.5 billion. This current account deficit which is 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product, is creditable. However, as economic activity increases, imports will increase and the current account deficit will tend to go up. One factor, which the latest report is silent on, is the very heavy inroads made by gold imports into our balance of payments. Concrete steps have not yet been taken to reverse the growing and fatal fascination of Indians for gold.

The current account deficit means that India has to depend on capital inflows to keep the BoP in balance. This is partly through borrowing and partly through sale of India’s equity. Either way, capital inflows mean increase of India’s liabilities. Is a large current account deficit sustainable? The report points out the risks implicit in the assumptions behind the approach paper to the 10th five year plan, recently circulated by the planning commission. According to this approach paper, the current account deficit is expected to be on an average, at the level of 2.8 per cent per annum, during the plan period.

To sustain this order of current account deficit, the net capital inflows would have to increase to an average level of $ 20 billion per annum during the tenth plan period. This would imply a four-fold increase in foreign direct investment, foreign institutional investors and external commercial borrowing flows from the current levels. Two questions arise. One is whether this order of increase in capital inflows is desirable. The other is whether our current procedural relaxation and inducements are sufficient to induce this order of capital inflows . For the tenth plan to be viable in BoP terms, the current account deficit should not be unsustainable. It is far better to insist on a higher export effort and increasing the level of invisible earnings.

The report notes that inflation rates have been under control, although the average wholesale price index inflation had tended upwards to a high of 7. 2 per cent in 2000-01, as against 3 per cent in 1999-2000. This is, however, in line with the average increase of 8.1 per cent during the whole of Nineties. On an average basis, fuel, power and lubricants recorded a higher price increase, reflecting the upward revision in the administered prices of petroleum products in 2000 as a whole. Manufacturing inflation had, however, been moderate during the year 2000-01. The report points out that the retail price inflation, as measured by the annual variations in the consumer price index for industrial workers on a point to point basis, moved within a low range of 2.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent during 2000-01. The report notes the recent tendency for the consumer price index inflation to fall below the WPI inflation, reversing earlier trends.

The “accounts” of the RBI form an important part of the annual report. The RBI has shown a considerable surplus even after contributing Rs 6,907 crore to reserve funds, out of the total income of Rs. 21,848 crore. The net surplus after expenses comes to Rs 9,350 crore, which is transferred to the revenues of the government of India. Investment of foreign exchange reserves essentially in securities abroad accounts for a significant part of RBI’s income of Rs 10,080 crore. This represents a net earning of 5.8 per cent on assets, as compared to the 5 per cent in the previous year.

The domestic income of the RBI essentially reflects interest borne by the government of India on its borrowings. In a way, this is obverse of the interest burden of the government of India. The overall surplus of Rs 9,350 crore is proposed to be transferred to the government, a sizeable and welcome relief to the harassed revenue account of government. On the whole the annual report is strong in analysis but weak on suggested remedies.

The author is former governor, Reserve Bank of India


Even as the world gets ready to create a new Afghanistan, and as speculations grow on a post-taliban government, one of the first tasks it will be confronted with is building back its history. For thanks to the chaos and destruction that followed the Soviet invasion, the civil war, and then the taliban’s fanatical visions, there is very little of Afghanistan’s past that remains. Much of Afghanistan’s past now lies in ruins, artefacts that once symbolized a meeting of cultures are now in the hands of treasure-hunters and smugglers. Opportunistic tomb-raiders now make their living selling important archaeological artefacts from the ancient excavations they raid.

At the foot of Mount Ai Khanum, overlooking the Pyandzh river that cuts through Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan lie the 2,300-year-old ruins of the city which, Alexander, the Macedonian invader built for his Afghan wife, Roxanne. After his conquest of Persia, Alexander founded Oxiana in 328 BC for Roxanne, the daughter of a baron he had vanquished and slain in Afghanistan’s Balkh province. Like subsequent would-be conquerors, Alexander occupied Afghan territory but never subdued the people. His imprint, however, remains in the cities he founded, including Kandahar, the former taliban stronghold.

When the ruins of Ai Khanum were first discovered by the French archeologist, Paul Bernard, in the Sixties, he hired local residents to help unearth the riches buried 10 feet underground. The French team abandoned its work after Afghanistan descended into chaos in the late Seventies. But the locals remembered the treasures that the ruins held. These artefacts are today believed to have been sold to local and international buyers. Some of the fortune extracted is believed to be worth $ 4 million.

Through the Nineties, fighting between the taliban and the Northern Alliance frequently engulfed this barren patch of land overlooking the Pyandzh, the Oxus of antiquity. What is left today are merely the scraps looters have left behind. Amidst its ruins, shepherds continue to graze their cattle, as indifferent to the cultural importance of the place as they were to the constant artillery, rocket, and sniper fire that once echoed daily from the front lines. Few people in the region have the time or energy to worry about the meaning of Ai Khanum.

Even in the capital, which once housed the region’s most treasured collection in the Kabul museum, the past has been all but wiped away. In the Sixties, the Kabul museum managed to build up the most opulent collection in all of central Asia. The exhibits and storerooms contained a unique collection of artefacts covering 100,000 years of civilization, all of them coming from Afghanistan itself.

But during the years of mayhem that preceded the taliban’s capture of the capital in 1996, most of the treasures in the museum were looted. It got worse after the taliban moved in, when the new authorities immediately issued a barrage of edicts including bans on all forms of human and animal figures. There were reports of posters being pulled down and photo albums being ripped to shreds; cameras caught images of the taliban stomping on sculptures torn from the facades of buildings.

Much of this would barely have come to light had it not been for the efforts of the Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage, born after reports of looting of the Kabul museum and other sites in the country. SPACH is a small group of volunteers funded by donations from individuals and European governments. It was also formed to help secure the museum premises and identify losses through the preparation of an inventory. The recently completed inventory sadly confirms that most of what remains in the museum building is inferior and fragmentary.

A bulk of the objects in the museum had been packed by its staff and left in the storerooms, as unstable conditions intensified after the departure of the Soviets in 1989. Three weeks before the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March, taliban officials allegedly broke into Kabul’s bombed-out museum and destroyed around 50 objects of cultural significance, according to reports. Some of the museum’s most precious objects, including the ones holding 20,000 gold artefacts from Telya Tepa, however, are still believed to lie in a vault at the State Bank inside the presidential palace. In July 2000, an official investigation reported that the seals were unbroken, but no details about the contents were released. Reluctance to examine the contents seems to rise from the fear that such attention will again attract looters.

Other remnants of the past are also in danger. A newly exposed site near Herat has revealed several ancient vessels along with fantastic figurines with unique features that cry out for scientific identification. Illegal digging also continues at Telya Tepa. While some elders of Lalma village in Afghanistan’s eastern Ningrahar province have helped protect a major Buddhist site on their land, dozens of other monastery sites in the vicinity dating from the early centuries AD have been thoroughly ransacked, often with the aid of tractors and bulldozers. The world was a mute witness to the destruction of the twin Buddha statues at Bamiyan that overlooked the Silk Route.

The systematic plunder of archaeological sites has also been a multi-million dollar business. Archaeological finds are regarded as major economic assets. The drought, which has afflicted Afghanistan over the last three years, has encouraged further looting of archaeological sites. We shall never know all that has disappeared from other sites. Many of these artefacts pass through the northern Pakistani town of Peshawar on their way to international art dealers.

This is a tragedy not only for Afghanistan but also for the art world and historians in general. Afghanistan has always been a crossroads for several cultures. During the Bronze Age, Afghanistan was one of the world’s foremost trade centres — the Silk Route passed through Afghanistan. Caravans from China, Rome and India arrived in the northern Afghan city of Balkh. All these movements of peoples, goods and ideas made Afghanistan a cultural treasure-trove, and various sites were listed on UNESCO’s world heritage list.

In its own way, SPACH has been trying to trace objects illegally exported and, if possible, to purchase them and eventually to give them back to the country when the situation is stable. With its donations, SPACH has re-purchased a few selected artefacts, sold illegally to dealers at modest prices. SPACH was also instrumental in delivering to the Kabul museum a 23-line stone inscription found in 1993 at Robatak, near Surkh Kotal, and later kept in the home of a mujahedin commander. It was commissioned by Kanishka and is the most important find in Afghanistan in recent years.

The most important goal, however, is to raise awareness of the plight of the cultural heritage of Afghanistan, especially among the Afghans themselves. Only an interest in Afghanistan’s past could give hope for Afghanistan’s future.


Institutional mechanisms, to promote the advancement of women, which exist at the Central and state levels, will be strengthened. These will be through interventions as may be appropriate and will relate to, among other things, provision of adequate resources, training and advocacy skills to effectively influence macro-policies, legislation, programmes etc to achieve the empowerment of women.

National and state councils will be formed to oversee the operationalization of the policy on a regular basis. The national council will be headed by the prime minister and the state councils by the chief ministers and will be broad in composition, having representatives from the concerned departments/ministries, national and state commissions for women, social welfare boards, representatives of non-government organizations, women’s organizations, corporate sector, trade unions, financing institutions, academics, experts and social activists etc. These bodies will review the progress made in implementing the policy twice a year. The national development council will also be informed of the progress of the programme undertaken under the policy from time to time for advice and comments.

National and state resource centres on women will be established with mandates for collection and dissemination of information, undertaking research work, conducting surveys, implementing training and awareness generation programmes, etc. These centres will link up with women’s studies centres and other research and academic institutions through suitable information networking systems.

While institutions at the district level will be strengthened, at the grass-roots, women will be helped by the government through its programmes to organize and strengthen into self-help groups the anganwadi/village/town level. The women’s groups will be helped to institutionalize themselves into registered societies and to federate at the panchayat/municipal level. These societies will bring about synergistic implementation of all the social and economic development programmes by drawing resources made available through government and non-government channels, including banks and financial institutions and by establishing a close interface with the panchayats/ municipalities.

Availability of adequate financial, human and market resources to implement the policy will be managed by concerned departments, financial credit institutions and banks, private sector, civil society and other connected institutions.

This process will include: Assessment of benefits flowing to women and resource allocation to the programmes relating to them through an exercise of gender budgeting. Appropriate changes in policies will be made to optimize benefits to women under these schemes; (a) Adequate resource allocation to develop and promote the policy outlined earlier based on (b) above by concerned departments; (c) Developing synergy between personnel of health, rural development, education and women & child development department at field level and other village level functionaries; (d) Meeting credit needs by banks and financial credit institutions through suitable policy initiatives and development of new institutions in coordination with the department of women and child development.

The strategy of women’s component plan adopted in the ninth plan of ensuring that not less than 30 per cent of benefits/funds flow to women from all ministries and departments will be implemented effectively so that the needs and interests of women and girls are addressed by all concerned sectors. The department of women and child development being the nodal ministry will monitor and review the progress of the implementation of the component plan from time to time, in terms of both quality and quantity in collaboration with the planning commission.

Efforts will be made to channelize private sector investments too, to support programmes and projects for advancement of women.

To be concluded


Every year ministers and bureaucrats make visits abroad, perform their official tasks, relax on beaches or at tourists spots, and return with little intention of implementing any of the good things they have imbibed to improve life in India. Recent visits to southeast Asia by Subrata Mukherjee, mayor of Calcutta, and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, chief minister of West Bengal, have proved exceptional: there are new proposals on traffic control, including one on a fly-over to Salt Lake. But none of these visiting dignitaries have commented on a much simpler and more symbolic system that could be imported from southeast Asia to aid access: proper provisions for the disabled in India.

On a recent visit to Thailand and Singapore with my handicapped daughter, I found no place inaccessible. In airports and tourist destinations a network of attendants employed by the government facilitated wheelchair access. Public transport — such as the sky rails of Bangkok — provided ramps at most major stations. All the city footpaths have ramps and every street crossing has an auditory signal for the visually impaired

Whenever I wanted to cross the streets and pushed the wheelchair down the ramp, all vehicles would screech to a halt. Drivers sitting cosily inside their air-conditioned vehicles welcomed me to proceed. I encountered for the first time a real respect for disabled people and my daughter expressed her gratitude through her sparkling bright eyes. She was able to exercise her right to enjoy the unthought of pleasures of the able-bodied: shopping, going to the museum and moving about without any restrictions.

Lawful rights

These rights are protected by law, not only in Thailand and Singapore, but also in India. All three are signatory countries to the economic and social commission for the Asian and Pacific region that took a pledge in 1982 to give equal rights and opportunities to the disabled. To honour that declaration the government of India passed the Persons with Disability (and equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act in 1996. The act ensures the right of access to all public places.

Furthermore, the United Nations’ charter on equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities states that all signatory countries must ensure that the physically challenged are not deprived of the scope to participate fully in their physical environment. Denying wheelchair access to public places is denying people their lawful rights. Unfortunately, till this date, not a single brick of any stairs has been dislodged to construct a ramp.

The government moved only when Stephen Hawking visited the country earlier this year. On his visit to the archaeological sites of Delhi, wooden ramps were put up. Elaine Hawking, the professor’s wife, said, “we wish these ramps stay even after we leave…and, we hope that other physically challenged people get to see these architectural splendours”.

For the able only

The ramps were removed shortly after Hawking’s departure, an insult to two deeply caring individuals. Unsurprisingly, there is not a single monument or theatre hall in Calcutta which is disabled-friendly. A couple of years ago even the right for a ramp at the Calcutta airport only materialized after a lengthy battle in the Supreme Court.

The governments of both Thailand and Singapore have honoured their commitments to provide access to public spaces to the disadvantaged. Why have we, though fellow signatories, not enforced the law? This is a troubling question. It demonstrates a brittle, self-referential interest in human rights, and through the cracks a peculiar ambivalence towards the disabled. Why does not India realize, as Thailand and Singapore have, that for prosperous nations the first demonstration of strength is how the weak are treated?

Our politicians focused on the most extravagant of engineering feats to facilitate public access in Calcutta. But would a few ramps, attendants, and a small public campaign cost a fraction of that price? And wouldn’t they, infinitely more than the rest, demonstrate the opening of our city to all? I could not help thinking, while the chief minister enjoyed a Passolini film, why my daughter should be deprived of the pleasure to watch the film festival in the city?



The business of politics

Sir — Old age seems to have caught up with the Indian prime minister, and this is not to mention his ailing knees (“Day of double goof-up in Upper House”, Nov 21). Not only did Atal Bihari Vajpayee forget to read out in the Rajya Sabha two paragraphs of his prepared speech — one he had already read out in the lower house — but, when reminded, he still left out one. But the speech being a suo motu on his recent visit abroad, perhaps this lapse can be chuckled at and ignored. But what cannot be so easily ignored is that the Rajya Sabha was adjourned two hours before the scheduled time, because apparently there was not “enough business to transact”. No prizes for guessing why bills lie pending in both houses for sessions on end. While the ruling party and members of the opposition play the blame game with great expertise, it is the Indian democracy that suffers. And being just 54 years old, it is certainly not an age problem that is afflicting the Indian democracy.
Yours faithfully,
Snigdha Dasgupta, via email

Who should be penalized?

Sir — The penalties imposed on six Indian players by the International Cricket Council match referee, Mike Denness, in the second test between India and South Africa in Port Elizabeth have precipitated the worst ever crisis in the cricketing world. Even Kerry Packer’s controversial series of 1975 did not divide the cricketing fraternity into two opposing camps so sharply as this.

Given that the cricket-playing fraternity is a very closed one comprising less than a dozen countries, a wedge like this does not augur well. And this is bad particularly at a time when there is a lot of tension between the subcontinental countries and the rest of the members of the ICC because the former have long bypassed the latter in terms of viewership and sponsorship. The current controversy could well blow up into something bigger. Therefore the ICC, instead of acting like a jilted lover, should try to bury the differences and work towards the improvement of the game.

Yours faithfully,
Sunanda Ghoshal, Calcutta

Sir — In her letter, “ Seamless defence” (Nov 22), Sneha Roy has proved herself to be a pseudo-liberal. For any person sitting in judgment, inconsistency is the worst offence. Technology is available today for a cricket umpire — Mike Denness in this case — to measure the duration and decibel of the appeals made by cricketers (Shaun Pollock and Virender Sehwag) from the available television footage. Denness has been inconsistent because he did not check measurable data. In the case of Sachin Tendulkar, he is inconsistent because he permitted an “acted upon ball” (provided one accepts, if only for argument’s sake, that Tendulkar had tampered with the ball) to continue to be in play. Also, Denness did not mention not asking for the umpire’s permission while acting upon the ball as the reason for his penalty. How is it that the umpires did not lodge a complaint or change the ball, having found it “acted upon”? Denness clearly acted in a partisan manner. It is he who has brought the game to disrepute, not the players.

While dealing with the issue, the Board of Control for Cricket in India had initially been quite hamhanded. Instead of dwelling on Tendulkar’s stature as a cricketer, the BCCI president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, should have taken the help of technology and the ICC rule book to pinpoint the arbitrary nature of the decisions and question his incompetence. Such inefficiency displayed by the match referees does not justify the hefty fees paid to them. Perhaps Roy is unaware of the ignominy Ridley Jacobs had to face after he had improperly removed the bails to get a wicket for his side and was caught by TV replays. TV footage shows that Jonty Rhodes and Jaques Kallis have taken wickets for their side with grassed catches but were not treated the same way as Jacobs. What does Roy have to say about that?

Yours faithfully,
A. Chaudhuri, Durgapur

Sir — There have been countrywide protests against the punishments awarded to Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Deep Dasgupta and Shiv Sundar Das. To my dismay, the Union sports minister, Uma Bharti, also endorsed the public opinion. But why this hue and cry when Tendulkar has indeed violated ICC rules? This was clearly displayed on the TV replay where he attempted to rub his fingernail along the seam of the ball. Even Sunil Gavaskar implied this when he said that Denness “has gone by the letters of the law but not with the spirit of the game”. Steve Waugh too agreed with Denness and ruled out any racial discrim-ination against Indians. It is true that there have been instances where many players, irrespective of their racial connections, have got away with greater offences on and off the field owing to the inconsistent performance of the match referees, but that does not mean that the six Indian players have been banned purely because of racial prejudice. Irrespective of the status of individuals, interference with the ICC rules should be treated as harshly as possible. However, it is good to see that the Indian team, instead of pulling out of the series, is trying to uphold the spirit of the game by carrying on with the the third test. Who knows, the ban might do a world of good to the game and become a blessing in disguise for the Indian team.

Yours faithfully,
Wazir Hossain, Calcutta

Sir — During the years before Independence, when we were in school, Britannia used to rule the waves. The sun did not set on the British empire. After losing India the empire ended up, by the turn of the century, into a minor power. Unfortunately, some people did not get out of their colonial hangover. Like fungus on the imperial mummy, they erupt from time to time. What better arena than the cricket field? Mike Denness, referee gone berserk, is a case in point. Since the incident at Port Elizabeth is not really a case of implementation of rules or their interpretation, but a psychopathic aberration, there is very little that the ICC or the BCCI or the government can do to straighten matters. The cricket lords at Lords require a shake-up.

Yours faithfully,
P.K. Sandell, via email

Parting shot

Sir — With many banks in the country going in for computerization and cutting down on their personnel, clients are almost forced to drop cheques in drop-boxes or at the ATM counters without getting any receipt. Recently, I had an unfortunate experience when my bank lost my salary cheque and I could not prove that I had deposited it, since I had no receipt. When I demanded receipt on a later occasion, I was told that it can be issued only for cheques above Rs 1 lakh. Several others have had similar experiences. The Reserve Bank of India should therefore instruct all banks to issue acknowledgement receipts for all cheques deposited, and issue statements of accounts as and when needed by a client. There is also a need to build up public opinion on this issue.
Yours faithfully,
Amal Kumar Sen, via email

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