Editorial 1/ The other side
Editorial 2/ Reserved rungs
Other side of diplomacy
A new sun on the horizon
Document/ Caution, development in the making
Fifth Column/ Looking back in a lot of anger
Letters to the editor

The recent visit of the former prime minister of Pakistan, Ms Benazir Bhutto, to India, not surprisingly, generated considerable public and media interest. At a time when India-Pakistan relations are still close to the nadir, Ms Bhutto’s presence, and much of what she said in India rekindled the hope of a détente between the countries. Although the former prime minister was in India on the invitation of the Confederation of Indian Industry, and her formal address focussed mostly on economic and social issues, it was her comments on bilateral relations that must have gladdened the hearts of the Indian establishment. For one, Ms Bhutto seemed to agree with the view, close to the government of India’s own position, that there needs to be a composite dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi, and that the relationship should not be held hostage because of differences over Kashmir. Indeed, Ms Bhutto even suggested that the focus should be on “conflict management” if a solution cannot be found to the Kashmir dispute, and seemed to signal that the manner in which Sino-Indian relations have progressed “could be a political model” for India-Pakistan relations. For another, Ms Bhutto was strident in her criticism of foreign militant and terrorist organizations operating in Kashmir, who she believed had hijacked the indigenous political movement.

It is easy to dismiss Ms Bhutto, who arrived in India from her political exile in Dubai, as a has-been who has little influence on Pakistan’s current policy. To be sure, it is unlikely that the Pakistan president, Mr Pervez Musharraf, will relinquish power voluntarily in the foreseeable future. He is likely to continue exercising control even if there is a transition to some form of democratic government. And Ms Bhutto, even if she does return to Pakistan, faces possible imprisonment on charges that include large-scale corruption while she was prime minister. Be that as it may, it is important not to take Ms Bhutto lightly for several reasons. First, the Bhutto family comes closest to being Pakistan’s political dynasty. There continues to be a mystique attached to the Bhutto name, and Ms Bhutto, despite the considerable erosion in her personal stature, still commands much support. It is not inconceivable that Ms Bhutto would find a place in a power-sharing arrangement of the future. Second, it is clear that there are sections within the international community that are backing the former prime minister, and may support a role that she may find conceivable for herself — as a “peacemaker” between India and Pakistan. Finally, whatever be her political future, Ms Bhutto is speaking good sense, and it is in India’s interests that she is heard, in New Delhi and elsewhere. In any case, India-Pakistan relations could only improve if more politicians, in and out of power, travelled more frequently to New Delhi or Islamabad, and became more sensitive to the point of view of the other country.


Amending the Constitution is one thing, turning a provision on its head is quite another. But such is the urge towards political correctness that there was virtually no opposition to the government’s Constitution (92nd amendment) bill, which implements the quota system in promotions for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe employees in government institutions. Reservations were originally meant to operate at the entry point of jobs, with the intention of making underprivileged classes gradually self-sufficient and self-respecting. The idea was not only to try and undo the injustices of centuries, but to eliminate the possibility of such injustices continuing to block their progress. Ideally, this would be accompanied by equal education opportunities. A leg up in employment for a few years would give the newly-educated the exposure and confidence to compete in the mainstream on their own. Nothing of the sort has happened. The parties in power, whether in the states or at the Centre, have uncovered an inexhaustible source of votes by multiplying reservations. The policy of leading the less privileged to a somewhat level ground, and then allowing merit to take over is not something that any party will countenance. It does not matter that all those who fall within the quota system experience a loss of self-respect and confidence over time, and that such a system breeds further divisions in an already fractured society.

Extending the reservations policy to promotions exacerbates the sense of difference and blocks the progress of merit. Positive discrimination does not necessarily have positive results. Article 16, which deals with the equality of opportunity in matters of public appointment, does allow for the reservation of posts or appointments for any “backward class of citizens” that is not adequately represented in the services of the state. The 77th amendment, however, makes a special allowance for reservation benefits in promotion for SC/ST government employees. This amendment was inserted in 1995; hence, there has been no objection to the proposal that the 92nd amendment become operative with retrospective effect from June, 1995. The Bharatiya Janata Party has a lot on its plate. Its decision to contest the assembly elections on its own in Uttar Pradesh has left it quite a number of balls to juggle with. If Ayodhya is on the cards, friends in the SC/ST lobby will do it no harm. The amendment immediately gives it a non-casteist look. Given the anxiety of the other parties, it has got what it wanted.


Like so many of the institutions of the government of India, our foreign service is also modelled on that of the British. In “Whitehall”, Peter Hennessy sums up the responsibilities of the British foreign and commonwealth office as follows: “Communications and negotiations with overseas states and international organizations, policy-making in relation to these; the promotion of British interests abroad and the protection of her citizens; the administration of Britain’s remaining colonies and dependencies; the bulk of Britain’s representation abroad; supervision of the Secret Intelligence Service.”

The functions of India’s ministry of external affairs are not any different, except for the bits about colonies and dependencies and probably the secret service. It is not in the responsibilities but in how they are performed that there are major differences between India and other countries, even those like Australia which was a colony of Britain at one time. In Britain and even more in Australia, foreign affairs and overseas economic relations have come very close. Even the queen is a saleswoman for the United Kingdom when she goes abroad. British prime ministers and their ministers are always looking out for opportunities to benefit British companies.

The Australians have combined their foreign affairs and trade departments into one, and the trade people are dominant in the department of foreign affairs and trade. When India opened its economy to trade and investment, the Australian DFAT worked overtime to bring in Australian investment in newly opened sectors like minerals and oil exploration, and to push for liberalizing Australian imports, especially of Australian coal.

They were so successful that their imports from India between 1990-91 and 1999-2000 rose by about Rs 1400 crore, while their exports rose by about Rs 3200 crore. Prime ministers and presidents of many countries carry an entourage of businessmen on their overseas visits, and are aggressive salesmen for their country’s manufacturers and products. Remember how the decrepit and condemned Westland helicopters, produced by a company on the verge of bankruptcy, were unloaded on India because of the salesmanship of Margaret Thatcher? Indian prime ministers have retained Jawaharlal Nehru’s aversion to commerce and to businessmen. They are uninterested in the fate of Indian companies and its products, except for restrained statements in their support, at home.

The role of embassies overseas has been transformed by the speed and quality of communications and travel. In these days of daily telephone calls, faxes and the internet, as well as frequent travel, the embassy is a post office, which has to sense atmosphere and trends to put a country’s behaviour in context. It is more a communicator than a negotiator, and an implementer than a major contributor to policy-making. No longer does it act without specific instructions. When the Australians recalled their high commissioner in a huff in response to the last series of Pokhran nuclear tests, it could not have been on the advise of the high commissioner. It was the reaction of a new right-wing government with racist overtones, which the high commissioner merely had to obey.

The primary function, therefore, of an embassy overseas is the promotion of the country’s interests abroad and the protection of its citizens. In the performance of both these functions, the Indian diplomat overseas does not appear very effective. There is the rare diplomat like B.K. Nehru or Abid Hussein, who networks and communicates. More of them are there to live in some comfort. Their embassy buildings are mostly located in prime areas — witness the one in Japan opposite the emperor’s palace. But they are maintained badly. The newspapers and magazines in their libraries are dated, and there is little literature to interest the businessman. Few locals of any consequence depend on it for information and contacts.

With our citizens overseas, the Indian diplomat overseas is downright negative if not offensive. All of us have horror stories of having to appeal to our embassy in a foreign country for help in an emergency and being confronted with more problems. The standard reaction is a rebuff, unless the citizen overseas is well-placed and influential.

When a British mercenary was caught air-dropping arms and ammunition in Purulia some years ago, the British high commission and consulate, not to speak of visiting political figures, have kept up a persistent effort to have him prematurely released. When two Muslims from Hyderabad were arrested and detained by the government of the United States of America in connection with the September 11 bombings, there was not even a squeak from the Indian embassy about the ill-treatment of Indian citizens. But the son of a close confidante of Indira Gandhi was jailed for smug- gling drugs in the US and pardoned by the then US president in advance of a visit by Rajiv Gandhi, then the prime minister.

Recently, I entered Belgium after clearing immigration in Paris where my passport was stolen. The embassy official told my hosts, the European Commission, that I was an illegal entrant into Belgium. Despite being a diplomat, he did not know that the clearance at Paris was valid for entry to many other countries of the European Union. He changed his tone the next day when he got a talking-to by his superiors in New Delhi. Our diplomats abroad are not very different in this from many of their counterparts in the administration in India. They are respectful of influence and power, but not of the ordinary citizen.

There are two items that account for half the expenditure budget in 2001-02 of the ministry of external affairs. This is split almost equally between “embassies and missions” and “special diplomatic expenditure” (at around Rs 750 crore each). The budget is not outrageous. The issues that we must worry about are the people on and by whom it is spent. These are largely anachronisms in the modern world. They have little interest and understanding of the ways in which India’s interests can be furthered. They do not see themselves as being there in some foreign location, to serve the rare Indian who has got himself into some difficulty locally. Rather, they see themselves as being qual- ified for making high policies and pretend that they are participants in their making.

What should be done? Like Australia, the ministries of external affairs and commerce should be combined. Bright middle-level corporate executives should be hired at first secretary level for limited contracts, and posted overseas to deal with India’s commercial interests. The old guard from the Indian foreign service should be reoriented and told that they will be assessed on the achievement of specific targets. Performance bonuses might be awarded for good achievement. Embassy staff must be given behavioural training so that they understand how to deal with the Indian citizen in trouble overseas in a sympathetic and helpful manner. Indians living overseas should be asked to evaluate the performance of Indian embassies and other missions. So should visiting businessmen and other Indian citizens. These evaluations must be tabulated and presented in Parliament and published in the media.

We need drastic action to revamp our foreign service and drag it into the 21st century. This is necessary because so many Indians travel and live abroad, because trade is growing in the gross domestic product, because local officials must watch out and warn about new restrictions and about crooked businessmen, because India has to be sold as a trade, investment and tourism destination.

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


Japan is a rising and a pivotal force in Asian strategic affairs. The government of India should shed its fixation with China where the situation is one of protracted conflict. Instead it should attend to the development of closer strategic and diplomatic ties with a country which is a player in the emerging Asian balance of power.

Japan is nobody’s ally even though it maintains a pronounced tilt towards the United States of America and the two have strong military, economic and diplomatic ties. However, Japan has a well-defined strategic concept, which is to move from a position of forced pacification under American occupation in 1945 to one of internal stability and modernization, expansion of Japanese power projection capability in the Asia Pacific-Indian Ocean sphere along with the growth of Japanese presence in the region.

Having rejected war and imperialism as methods to exploit the international environment for its industrial and military wellbeing, Japan spent the last 50 years developing a significant economic presence through trade and investment in southeast Asia, the Korean peninsula, Taiwan. However, its focus was the Pacific rim and to a limited extent the Indian Ocean area in the form of economic linkages with South Africa. Now Japan is taking a new look at the importance of India but, unfortunately, the Indian political class has been so blinded by the Chinese rhetoric about normalization of relations that opportunities to re-orient India’s relations with Japan have been ignored. This does not augur well for India’s foreign relations at a time when Japan is seeking to broaden its international presence by opening dialogues with Moscow with whom it still does not have a peace treaty and there is a territorial dispute over the islands in the north with Moscow. The missing link for Japan is a broad and a deep relationship with India.

Japan’s space in Asian and international strategic affairs is circumscribed by its internal attitude and politics and to an extent by China’s preference for a manageable Japan. China in fact prefers the US to play a part in southeast Asian politics and curb Japanese independence in military affairs. China also does its best to prevent Japan from adopting independent policies and straying too far from the American and the Chinese fold.

Aware of the fact that its changing defence needs may require reduction in its overseas military forces, recognizing the force of internal politics in places where it has bases and the potential of the isolationist sentiment within America, the US has itself tried to encourage Japanese re-armament. The shift from Japan’s disarmament to Japan’s re-armament under American supervision, which started with the US’s need to have Japan function as its strategic rear in the Korean conflict, and later in the Vietnam conflict, led to US-Japan military guidelines.

This had led to a sea change in Japan’s defence thinking. Japan’s constitution renounces war, but the attitude to the article 9 gradually started to change and self-defence was accepted as the basis for the creation of a self-defence agency. Now the Japan-US military guidelines and Japan’s national policy are framed in terms of defence of “areas surrounding Japan”. This has been kept vague deliberately and no geographical definition of the sphere of Japanese military operation has been provided.

However, there is a functional basis for the expanded role of Japanese forces. Assuming that US and Japanese security interests converge in terms of the physical security of Japan and overseas American installations in the Pacific, the preservation of the command from the Sea of Japan upto the Persian Gulf from where oil keeps Japan going, one can easily deduce that the limits of Japan’s military operation is dictated by its definition of its interests and the available military means. Note that now Japan along with Australia will be participating in the international military coalition against terrorism in Afghanistan.

In other words, Japan’s strategic presence is growing. It has some advantages which China does not have. It is a democracy, it is internally stable, despite its recession it has a strong economic infrastructure, it retains its potential as the economic engine of Asia along with China and India. Moreover, it has a fine modern military establishment, its political class is shedding its defence allergy, and following the North Korean missile test in Japan’s neighbourhood there is now a clear public identification with the importance of Japanese defence. Japan also has the means to go nuclear anytime. Its nuclear restraint is self-imposed. Japan is now aware that the nuclear question is still important in Asia and nuclear and missile proliferation cannot be put to rest because of the fluidity of the Asian strategic environment.

However, Japan’s dream to become a good citizen in the globe through economic diplomacy and bypassing messy Asian conflicts has not gone far. Desert Storm convinced Japan that its cheque book diplomacy could only bring it a pat on the back while lucrative contracts in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait went to American companies. Japan has also discovered that there is limited mileage to be gained by talking about global norms and humanitarianism in Asia. September 11 simply confirmed this sense.

Once Japan’s thinking began to change, the policy change was easily accomplished because Japan has many strategic assets in place whose use is entirely a matter of Japanese choice and is not externally dictated. Among them is its intimate knowledge of the Korean peninsula and Taiwan. Despite the brutality of its occupation there, Japan has left behind a well-organized political intelligence network which was embraced by the US and its allies. Also, Japan’s educational policies left behind a legacy of Japanese speakers. Even today many Taiwanese legislators are fluent in Japanese. Japan has a strong and a secretive network of about nine international trading houses and their presence and resources in faraway places like Kazakhstan reveal Japan’s global reach.

Several major developments have sharpened Japan’s capacity to think strategically. First, the US southeast Asian policy recognizes that despite its superpower status it cannot manage the strategic equations in Asia alone. Hence the need for stronger ties with Japan, Australia and South Korea, as well as non-traditional allies like India, and new military partners like Singapore, which is slated to become a major military force in southeast Asia in the coming decade. Now both the US and Japan think in terms of developing an Asian balance of power with Russia, China and India.

Second, the Indian nuclear and missile tests and the North Korean missile tests have changed the Japanese perspective. Japan was once at the forefront of the international campaign against nuclear proliferation. Not so today. Japan has come to terms with a nuclear India and recognizes that India must be taken seriously if it is expected to conduct itself as a responsible international force. Which means Asian nuclear proliferation has undermined Japan’s belief that it could become a major power via peace and economic diplomacy only.

Third, North Korea has acted provocatively against Japanese interests not only through missile tests which bother the Japanese but also by kidnapping Japanese women and trading them in what is known as the “wife for rice” programme. Also, North Korea has promoted drugs and counterfeit money trade into Japan. As a result of the missile tests, Japan has taken steps to significantly improve the coordination of its inter-service intelligence. Now defence issues are dealt with at a higher political plane, that is at the level of a cabinet committee or by the Diet.

Fourth, as noted earlier, Desert Storm convinced Japan that it needed to soil its hands with peacekeeping in Cambodia. Fifth, Japan is affected by China’s push into Myanmar because Chinese naval presence in the Bay of Bengal could disrupt the flow of oil and Japanese commerce through the Indian Ocean and the strategic Malacca Straits. Japan has significant investments in Indonesia and political as well as social instability is of serious concern to Japanese interests in the region.

Japan is on the move but has India realized the opportunity to build its strategic links with Japan? India’s fixation with the possibility of developing a productive relationship with China is coming in the way of building a sound Japan policy.

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


Modalities for the further commitments, including provisions for special and differential treatment, shall be established no later than 31 March 2003. Participants shall submit their comprehensive draft Schedules based on these modalities no later than the date of the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference. The negotiations, including with respect to rules and disciplines and related legal texts, shall be concluded as part and at the date of conclusion of the negotiating agenda as a whole.

The negotiations on trade in services shall be conducted with a view to promoting the economic growth of all trading partners and the development of developing and least-developed countries. We recognize the work already undertaken in the negotiations, initiated in January 2000 under Article XIX of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, and the large number of proposals submitted by Members on a wide range of sectors and several horizontal issues, as well as on movement of natural persons. We reaffirm the Guidelines and Procedures for the Negotiations adopted by the Council for Trade in Services on 28 March 2001 as the basis for continuing the negotiations, with a view to achieving the objectives of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, as stipulated in the Preamble, Article IV and Article XIX.... Participants shall submit initial requests for specific commitments by 30 June 2002 and initial offers by 31 March 2003.

We agree to negotiations which shall aim, by modalities to be agreed, to reduce or as appropriate eliminate tariffs, including the reduction or elimination of tariff peaks, high tariffs, and tariff escalation, as well as non-tariff barriers, in particular on products of export interest to developing countries. Product coverage shall be comprehensive and without a priori exclusions. The negotiations shall take fully into account the special needs and interests of developing and least-developed country participants, including through less than full reciprocity in reduction commitments, in accordance with the relevant provisions of Article XXVIII bis of GATT 1994 and the provisions cited in paragraph 50 below. To this end, the modalities to be agreed will include appropriate studies and capacity-building measures to assist least-developed countries to participate effectively in the negotiations.

We stress the importance we attach to implementation and interpretation of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) in a manner supportive of public health, by promoting both access to existing medicines and research and development into new medicines and, in this connection, are adopting a separate Declaration.

With a view to completing the work started in the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Council for TRIPS) on the implementation of Article 23.4, we agree to negotiate the establishment of a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines and spirits by the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference. We note that issues related to the extension of the protection of geographical indications provided for in Article 23 to products other than wines and spirits will be addressed in the Council for TRIPS pursuant to paragraph 12 of this Declaration.

We instruct the Council for TRIPS, in pursuing its work programme including under the review of Article 27.3(b), the review of the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement under Article 71.1 and the work foreseen pursuant to paragraph 12 of this Declaration, to examine, inter alia, the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity, the protection of traditional knowledge and folklore, and other relevant new developments raised by Members pursuant to Article 71.1. In undertaking this work, the TRIPS Council shall be guided by the objectives and principles set out in Articles 7 and 8 of the TRIPS Agreement and shall take fully into account the development dimension.

Recognizing the case for a multilateral framework to secure transparent, stable and predictable conditions for long-term cross-border investment, particularly foreign direct investment, that will contribute to the expansion of trade, and the need for enhanced technical assistance and capacity-building in this area as referred to in paragraph 21, we agree that negotiations will take place after the Fifth Session of the Ministerial Conference on the basis of a decision to be taken, by explicit consensus, at that Session on modalities of negotiations.

We recognize the needs of developing and least-developed countries for enhanced support for technical assistance and capacity building in this area, including policy analysis and development so that they may better evaluate the implications of closer multilateral cooperation for their development policies and objectives, and human and institutional development. To this end, we shall work in cooperation with other relevant intergovernmental organizations, including UNCTAD, and through appropriate regional and bilateral channels, to provide strengthened and adequately resourced assistance to respond to these needs.

To be concluded


“It’s time to get angry again. In the Female Eunuch I argued that every girl child is conceived as a whole woman, from the time of her birth to her death she is progressively disabled.” — Germaine Greer; The Whole Woman.

In India we are all angry. After decades of reform and women’s agitations, the government is now being forced to amend the Pre-Natal Sex Determination Act to check the unbridled practice of female foeticide. After having declared 2001 as the year for women’s empowerment, the government is at a loss to explain the spiralling graph of female foeticide and its wide acceptance. This is all the more ironic in a country that denounces fundamentalist organizations like the taliban and its denigration of women.

When it comes to female foeticide, these voices of condemnation turn silent. After all, we do not openly flog our women in the streets, nor do we make them hide their faces behind veils. We do better. We do not allow the girl child to even come into the world. We kill female foetuses nonchalantly and with the help of the most sophisticated technological equipment. While the political, social and administrative classes look on helplessly at the declining sex ratio, the government is able to do little more than tinker with the existing laws banning pre-natal sex detection. But it is perhaps more important to try and change the mindset of people.

Women on the screen

But that might prove a difficult task given that the Indian psyche is so influenced by the media, politicians and other factors. The political class, for example, continues to harbour in private the values they denounce in public. Male members of parliament snigger at the women’s reservation bill and often get away with outrageously sexist remarks.

Television serials also propagate a negative image of women. Ekta Kapoor, producer of one of the most popular Hindi serials on air, is responsible for the most absurd depiction of women. In Kyunki saans bhi kabhi bahu thi, one of the leading female characters is feigning pregnancy by tying a cloth around her stomach, so besotted is she with her lover. Significantly, this woman is a doctor and she started off as a sensible person, given to curing people rather than indulging in mindless acts.

Yet the producer seems resolved to make the point that women are prone to behaving like idiots, committing all kinds of crazy acts to hang on to their husbands or lovers. The serial has even outraged the minister in charge of the department of welfare for women and children, Sumitra Mahajan.

Anti-abortion brigade

Though the mindset has not changed, the standards and techniques of female foeticide have. With money and access to well-heeled clinics, identifying and killing female foetuses does not take too long or too much of an effort.

There is also a lurking danger that the anti-abortion lobby might use this opportunity to amend the act to train its guns on abortion itself. We all remember the efforts it took for the women’s movement to legalize abortion. Even now abortion is frowned upon by most religious leaders the world over, as well as political heads of governments.

In discussions on female foeticide this danger has come to the surface time and again. At a huge gathering of religious leaders organized by the Indian Medical Association in Delhi, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad representative, Sadhvi Rithambhara, turned her agitation against female foeticide into a full throated campaign against abortion — a view shared by many in the right wing. This is the same lobby which is contemptuous of feminism; the same lobby which would like to shame gays and lesbians into silence; the same lobby which is loath to talk about any rights for women other than those within the narrow paradigm set by them.

The government must realize that to stop the rise in female foeticide it must first change the mindset of the people, especially those who constitute the government. The era of social reform, however fractious it may have been, is over. It is once again time to get angry.



The ride home

Sir — The news of George Harrison’s death has been a shock (“George leaves ashes for Ganges”, Dec 1). For many Indian fans of The Beatles his last reported public appearances were in court: in 1998 giving evidence against a bootlegging company and in 2000 describing how the mentally disturbed Michael Abrams broke into his house and stabbed him several times. They were unhappy and unlikely forums to be touched by Harrison’s humour and gentle, deep charisma. But before the first judge he offered stories of teaching Lennon to play the guitar when he turned up to rehearse with just a three string little “banjo”. And before the second, after recalling the night of the attack, he offered forgiveness and understanding. His legacy in India is reassuringly the same. Behind the icon of the Sixties is the sitar player who, Ravi Shankar suggested in an interview, sounded like ”some Indian villager trying to play the violin”. And there also is the man whose words, quoted by his family after his death, offer another type of testimony to his experiments in India, and ultimately in life: “Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait.”
Yours faithfully,
Nandana Ganguly, via email

March of time

Sir — In April 1930, it was the Dandi march, in November 2001, it was the Ranchi march (“Jailbound Laloo cries foul, Rabri in tears” Nov 27). The difference? The Dandi march was led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, on foot, under the scorching sun, with thousands of followers protesting against the British raj. The Ranchi march was led by the infamous “Raja of Bihar”, Laloo Prasad Yadav, the “messiah of the poor and downtrodden”, who has been convicted in the fodder scandal worth approximately Rs 900 crore. Yadav travelled on his garib chetana rath — fully air-conditioned — with crowds of bureaucrats, engineers, contractors and other officers following in as many as 1001 cars, jeeps and buses, all “generously donated” by the well-wishers and party workers of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. The total expenditure of this “grand journey” may have amounted to about Rs 50 lakh only.

What the march really signified is that the efforts of U.N. Biswas and his team have borne fruit. Justice was not only done but was “seen to be done”. Yadav’s statement that he had suffered “gross injustice” since his surrender reveals that the police are treating him with as much respect as he did them when he was in power. Yadav’s supporters, including some ministers from Bihar, got a taste of “Marandi power”— police lathicharge — as well.

It is an irony that both Yadav and Mishra have been sent to the Bacon Factory guest house in Ranchi. The Bacon Factory had to be closed as a result of financial constraints caused by the fodder scandal.

Yours faithfully,
S. Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — The arrangement for Laloo Prasad Yadav and the former chief minister, Jagannath Mishra, at the Bacon Factory guest house of the animal husbandry department, showed the “respect” they deserved throughout their career. The expenditure in refurbishing the guest house may be a small amount for the likes of Yadav, but, used in a different way, this same amount would have earned him more support. The worrying thing is that if security reasons are cited for this extra comfort, then this kind of treatment could become the rule for future ministers under a cloud.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Through the veil, clearly

Sir — The Afghan war has brought into focus the plight of Muslim women. A recent press conference in Calcutta held by a representative of the Revolutionary Afghan Women’s Association, the secret unit for women’s empowerment, suggested that many elite and professional women in the community are, through their efforts, gaining the unstinting support of all Muslim women and the media, to bring to the fore their subjugation, ill-treatment and torture in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has often been described as a supporter of the taliban, and thus responsible for the subjugation of women. But as far as the international funding operations of al Qaida network are concerned, Pakistan is only one of many villains. Pakistan itself is desperately poor, and international funding agencies’ regulations for funding make it extremely difficult for the government to alleviate poverty.

Military rulers have not helped democracy. The country has multiple ethnic tribes and mullahs carving-out their own spheres of influence. Women are suffering, and as in Afghanistan, it must be the educated elite who must provide leadership.

Yours faithfully,
Arindam Dutta, Calcutta

Sir — History is witness to all kinds of fundamentalism in every religion, be it Christian puritans, Hindu fundamentalists or Islamic taliban. And hardline religion is more often than not used to advance many non-religious views and objectives. With reference to the letters of November 20, “Stepping out”, I wish to say that just because women wear a veil, it does not mean they have not made that choice themselves. They are not symbols of “fear and subjugation”. Rather, like Sikh beards, or the bindi, they are signs of peace with the spirit of the religion. And that spirit is not, as Western propaganda might suggest, in itself one of extremism and female subjugation. Woman take a lead with and without the veil.

Yours faithfully,
Beena Afsar, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — A group of young people has started a very novel entrepreneurship. On October 26, as the 2.45 pm Midnapore-Howrah Local left the station, a few innocent looking, well dressed twenty-year olds got off their seats and started connecting together electric gadgets as a prelude to an orchestra. In a minute the compartment was engulfed by old and new popular Bombay film songs with the accompaniment of instruments. The singers were mediocre. But that was compensated for by the sound, which exceeded all permissible decibel limits. The extravaganza continued for half an hour and the finale was a Tagore song. Then came the appeal, “Mothers, sisters, brothers, we are a part of you. We have our parents to look after, we also love a good life. But there are no jobs. Hence this unique venture to entertain and make your journey enjoyable.” Most of the passengers donated money, happy to recognize enterprise and a little talent. Couldn’t the government encourage more live music in the streets and stations of Calcutta?
Yours faithfully,
Gopal Chandra Sharma, Calcutta

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