Editorial 1 / All Suspended
Editorial 2 / Found wanting
Time for golden opportunities
Principles of a just war
Document / Concerns, problems and proposals
Letters to the editor

A master satirist or the most savage cartoonist would soon tire of Indian parliamentarians. Unrelieved misbehaviour of the crudest variety is wasteful, irresponsible, demoralizing and never entertaining, and does not even deserve the oblique honour of the political cartoon. What it does call for though is a policeman-like speaker, wielding a code of conduct as Victorian and punitive as the Indian penal code. But this would result in such bizarre situations as the entire opposition being suspended for a week, which is precisely what could have happened when the well of anarchy proved bottomless a couple of days ago in the house. This was prompted, appropriately enough, by coffins. The entire opposition could not contain its outrage within the limits of parliamentary decorum at the thought of the nation’s political leaders making vast amounts of very dubious money over the purchase of coffins for dead soldiers. The opposition’s agitation in the well managed to stall both houses, and the speaker found himself in the comically unenviable position of wondering whether he ought to suspend just about everybody in sight. His word for this state of affairs is touchingly simple, “extraordinary”.

Mr G.M.C. Balayogi must be a truly exasperated man. Not only could discussions on such matters as the prevention of terrorism ordinance be held up indefinitely by this row, but the passing of the code of conduct for parliamentarians has also been stalled. This code was framed about a couple of weeks ago at Mr Balayogi’s insistence at the end of a day-long conference on discipline and decorum in Parliament and in the state assemblies. Mr Balayogi must be an inveterate optimist, perhaps even an idealist, in pinning his hopes on such conferences and codes. The reach of this new code now includes the state legislators and it reiterates the usual concerns about the manners and morals of the nation’s political leadership. The coffin episode — in the depths of unscrupulousness it plumbs and in the disruption it has provoked — shows how impossible it has become to bring back to the Indian parliamentary system a civilized ethos of dissent and debate which is disinterestedly concerned with human principles. Parliamentary and legislatorial behaviour now encompasses the entire gamut of the carnivalesque, from doggerel-chanting in the coarser vernacular registers to fisticuffs and furniture-wrecking. Beur jail is an antechapel to the hallowed house of the Bihar assembly. Ms Sonia Gandhi, ironically enough, has recently made a distinction — in the tackling of “emotive” issues — between the house and the streets. The tragedy, or farce, of the Indian democracy is the confounding of any such distinction.


A culturally and socially backward-looking country can turn technological advances into weapons of destruction. One inescapable illustration of this is the link between sex determination tests and female foeticide in India. The results are showing in the changed sex ratio, with the female side dropping quite perceptibly. Female foeticide is now reinforcing the effects of female infanticide, which usually requires less technologically advanced means. The non-governmental organization, Centre for Enquiry into Health Themes, has filed a public interest litigation before the Supreme Court regarding the failure of the health departments of 11 states to implement the existing law against the misuse of sex determination tests. Its concerns are both urgent and relevant. But there is something a little askew in the direction in which Cehat has gone. The law courts are there to see whether the law is being followed, or, perhaps, whether fundamental rights are being violated. Necessarily, they cannot ignore PILs which come up before them. This is ultimately a problem. The PIL forces the court to look towards areas which are the responsibility of the various arms of the administration. The court, for example, should not be compelled to look into schoolchildren’s midday meals or the state of decay of foodgrains in storehouses. By the same argument, health secretaries of different states should be held to account for their failures by the state executive. Whatever they might say to a court, the effect would merely be a public reiteration of the fact that there exists a law by the name of Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act.

The presence of a law is no guarantee of social change, and, tragically enough, very few laws in the social sphere act as deterrents. Piling up the courts’ already overloaded tables is really not a solution. Organizations and pressure groups need to work with the people, and form opinion strong enough to affect the working of the administration. This is what pressure groups do most of the time all over the world. A practice as deep-seated as the destruction of females — female infanticide was a wellknown crime long before female foeticide became popular — is the result of a social disease. Economics does have a part to play, so the poor should be a major target for change in this matter. But unfortunately, the greatest offenders are the well-off and educated. Here, harsh penalties, both legal and social, should be relentlessly exacted. That is only possible if society as a whole becomes sensitive to the magnitude of the crime, so much so that nobody’s neighbour can get away with murder. The courts can only wait for the result, they cannot prompt the cause.


In the midst of this gloom and doom about the economy and lack of reforms, the national highway development project seems to be progressing well. This has two components — the Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai and Mumbai golden quadrangle as the first and the north-south (Srinagar to Kanyakumari) and east-west (Silchar to Porbandar) corridors as the second. By 2009, this will mean 13,151 kilometres of national highways, compared to 13,000 kilometres added in the more than fifty years since independence. I shouldn’t have said 2009. Because the completion of the golden quadrangle segment has now been preponed from December 2004 to December 2003. And the completion of the two corridors has also been preponed from December 2009 to December 2007.

Sounds unlikely for a government project. But there you have it. Not only has there been financial closure, despite hiccups with land acquisition and compensation, several contracts have been awarded and construction has started.

What is the definition of socialism? This question gets into all kinds of Marxist and non-Marxist theorizing. Notions of equity and related matters. Despite the fact that the Gini Coefficient of income distribution is higher today in China than in India. Soviets plus electrification was an acceptable definition of socialism in Russia. In India, an acceptable definition of socialism has become Soviets minus electrification.

Consider the state of electrification all over India. If present trends are extrapolated, it will take seven hundred years for all of Bihar to be electrified. And twenty-six years for Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. These are official figures, not mine. With hindsight, whether it is Russia, China or Vietnam, successful socialism meant two things — improvements in social infrastructure (education, healthcare) and improvements in physical infrastructure, China being an extreme example of the last. Roads are one element of physical infrastructure. In India, in the mixed-up economy we created, we didn’t get these benefits of socialism. Nor did we get the benefits of capitalism. Genuine private entrepreneurship was shackled by various state controls. What went by the name of the private sector was funded by public money, was not accountable to shareholders and wasn’t exposed to threats of competition or exit.

There are direct Keynesian benefits of NHDP. Per year, 73 million man-days of jobs will be created. Demand for steel, cement and assorted other raw materials will be stimulated. More important are the indirect benefits. For the golden quadrangle alone, estimates are that travel time will be reduced by between 50 per cent and 60 per cent, resulting in annual savings of Rs 8000 crore.

Pick up any standard textbook on the Indian economy, used in schools or undergraduate courses. There will be a chapter or section describing characteristics of under-developed economies like India. Poor country. Mixed economy. Large contributions of agriculture to national income and employment. Shortage of capital. So on and so forth. Large share of population that lives in rural areas. These are all included as normative statements. Hence, living in rural areas is undesirable. Why is living in rural areas undesirable? Segments of the population live in rural areas in developed countries as well. What is special about India, in so far as undesirability is concerned? Willy-nilly, the issue boils down to the lack of social and physical infrastructure in villages. Hence the undesirability.

Why have certain states performed relatively better in the post-reform period? Various hypotheses are possible. But one convincing hypothesis is better social and physical infrastructure in some of these states. For instance, transport being important, the coastal states. With the railways having gone to the dogs since independence and no signs of improvement or reform, and internal water transport having progressively deteriorated over time, transport essentially means road transport.

That is the reason I wonder about the revolution the golden quadrangle and the two corridors will bring. On the golden quadrangle stretch, I don’t primarily have in mind Calcutta, Chennai, Mumbai or Delhi (or Bangalore). I wonder about smaller cities like Kharagpur, Bhubaneshwar, Vishakhapatnam, Eluru, Vijaywada, Chilkaluripet, Ranipet, Hosur, Tumker, Belgaum, Satara, Pune, Surat, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Gwalior, Jaipur, Agra, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi and Panagarh.

On the north-south corridor, I wonder about cities like Jammu, Jalandhar, Jhansi, Lakhanadon, Nagpur, Krishnagiri, Salem, Madurai, Kochy and Kanyakumari, not to speak of Hyderabad. And along the east-west corridor you have cities like Porbandar, Rajkot, Shivpuri, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Muzaffarpur, Purnea, Guwahati and Silchar. Their connectivity will improve several-fold.

The word city needs explanation. Data on cities are obtained from the census and the census doesn’t exactly use the word city. Instead, there are data for districts, towns and urban agglomerations, the last used synonymously with city, even though urban agglomerations may have some rural sections.

A company named Indicus has just produced a market skyline of India in 2002, available in hard copy form as well as through a CD. This is a demographic, consumer-graphic and psychographic guide to the top sixty-eight city markets in India, as they stand today. Demographic data include information on variables like population, gender, literacy and young (less than six years) population. Consumer-graphic data include information on number of households, sales of consumer durables and telephone, mobiles and internet penetration. Psychographic data have indices on Westernization, youthfulness, individuality, experimentation, entrepreneurial and cosmopolitan characteristics of cities. Then you have an overall index that aggregates and consolidates all these variables and indices to rank the sixty-eight cities.

What do the Indicus figures show? One cannot possibly give data on all sixty-eight cities. For that, you had better buy the book (or CD). Understandably, the largest market is Mumbai, followed by Delhi. If you want to sell two-wheelers, try Delhi and then Chennai. If you want to sell four-wheelers, try Delhi and then Mumbai. Perhaps a few words about Calcutta. In overall market size, it is fifth — after Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore, but before Hyderabad. It is way behind in the market for two-wheelers, but third (after Delhi and Mumbai) in the market for four-wheelers.

Calcutta prides itself on being cosmopolitan and there is some subjectivity in defining cosmopolitan, because it becomes a function of the variables used. Having said that, Calcutta is sixth in the cosmopolitan rankings, after Mumbai, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Pune and Vadodara. It is 36th in “individuality” (Kohima tops), 55th in “gender equality” (Mangalore tops), 35th in “Westernization” (Itanagar tops), 61st in “youthfulness” (Varanasi tops) and 29th in “entrepreneurial” attitudes (Daman tops). Barring size of present markets, Calcutta is thus about average.

The sixty-eight cities belong to four categories — alpha, beta, gamma and delta. The alpha lot has the eight mega cities. The impact of NHDP on these (Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad) is unlikely to be that momentous. In relative terms, they already possess good infrastructure. Beta cities are upcoming towns and usually (barring Chandigarh) have a population that is more than one million. For most of these, the impact of NHDP ought to be explosive.

Gamma cities are smaller and are sometimes (though not always) tourist destinations. Some of these are fortunate enough in that they are directly on the NHDP map. Others aren’t. Although if feeder connections develop, they too will benefit from better infrastructure and closer proximity. Finally, there are the delta cities. These are small markets, sometimes capitals of smaller states or Union territories. With a couple of exceptions, NHDP will typically bypass these.

NHDP will therefore increase disparities in connectivity across cities, with the alpha and beta in the favoured lot and the gamma and delta in the neglected lot. This is understandable. NHDP taps existing synergies in the national and state highway network and caters to where present market and demand needs are the most. After all, very few road networks are Central subjects. Most are under the purview of state governments, some the responsibility of local bodies. If state governments replicate the NHDP success, there will be quite a bit of good news on infrastructure, at least the road part of it. In any case, there is some good news on telecommunications and urban municipal services.

There is also some good news on literacy, with the adult literacy rate having shot up from 52 per cent in 1991 to 65 per cent in 2001. There can be legitimate complaints about what census definitions of literacy capture. But that is neither here nor there. Caveats about definitions are constant. Despite these caveats, there is no denying that literacy levels have gone up. If we can do something about power (a big if) and something about healthcare (a bigger if, the infant mortality rate is stagnant at around seventy per thousand), we will get closer to the socialism definition of Soviets plus electrification. But to get many of these reforms going, we actually need electrification minus Soviets.

The author is director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, New Delhi


The taking of innocent lives — be they American, Indian, Pakistani, Palestinian or Israeli — cannot be justified on any grounds whatsoever. Therefore, the events of September 11, 2001 in the United States of America, the largest-ever terrorist attack in terms of both mass destruction and mass disruption, must be condemned in the most unequivocal of terms. Perhaps this is why organizations as disparate as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum had no hesitation in unanimously condemning the acts of Black Tuesday.

As a logical corollary, therefore, there can be no doubt that any country which is a victim of such heinous attacks has every right to retaliate against the perpetrators of such acts as laid out in Article 51 (in chapter VII) of the United Nations charter, which recognizes the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations”. This right was reiterated in UN security council resolution 1373 passed on September 28, 2001 — the same day that the Nobel peace committee awarded the prize jointly to the UN and its secretary general, Kofi Annan.

The resolution reaffirmed not only the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defence” but also the “need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts”.

Therefore, at the very least it could be argued that the US has fundamental grounds to go to war to punish those responsible for the horrible acts of September 11. There are, however, several other important conditions that should be met before the war can be justified. First, only the guilty party or parties should be punished. As per the principles of just war, the retaliation should be aimed to redress only the wrong suffered and should not be seen as an excuse to launch a crusade against people or states that one does not like (even though there are, clearly, many states that Washington loves to hate).

Second, the operation should also take into consideration whether there is a reasonable chance of success. Apart from the objective of punishing those responsible, the military action should also ensure as far as possible that the perpetrators are not free to strike again, and that the crime cannot be repeated. Consequently, it is crucial that those responsible are correctly identified, and equally important that the guilt of the terrorists can be publicly proven.

Third, in carrying out the punishment it should be ensured that innocent victims are spared, otherwise the distinction between those who have committed the crime and those who are doling out the punishment becomes blurred.

Finally, the ultimate goal of the military operation should be to re-establish peace. The peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought. This implies not only achieving the short-term military objectives, but also taking long-term measures to ensure that the conditions — political, economic, ideological — that led to the initiation of these terrorist acts in the first place are resolved. Failing to do so risks a recurrence of similar terrorist acts in the future.

How do these conditions hold up when applied to the present war on terrorism which is now erroneously being equated with the war in Afghanistan? First, even today there is no evidence that will stand up to legal scrutiny (unlike the Pan Am 103 case) and conclusively prove that these terrorists were linked to al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden. Even assuming for a moment that these terrorists were connected to al-Qaida and bin Laden, how does that link them to the taliban and Afghanistan?

There is no evidence to suggest that the corporate headquarters of Terrorism Inc. is located in Afghanistan. None of the hijackers were from Afghanistan nor were they trained in camps run by the taliban. It is not even clear whether any of them ever went to Afghanistan. By most accounts they were reasonably well off men from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who used Germany as a base for their operations. Does this make all these countries legitimate targets of retaliation as well? How then is the taliban regime (a truly contemptible regime in is own right) culpable in the September 11 attacks?

The only crime Afghanistan is accountable for is having the misfortune of being the last Cold War battleground of the US and the former Soviet Union. As a result of this struggle between two superpowers, Afghanistan has been reduced to a non-state, leaving it vulnerable to exploitation by the likes of bin Laden and al-Qaida. On the issue of innocent victims, there is already evidence that civilians have become what the military euphemistically calls “collateral damage”. However, a greater humanitarian disaster is looming on the horizon. According to UN estimates, as many as 7.5 million people — a quarter of the total population of Afghanistan — is on the verge of starvation. Even worse, the original token food drops carried out by the US have backfired, literally, because many of the yellow food packets looked very similar to the yellow cluster bombs that are particularly civilian unfriendly.

According to one estimate, between now and December 2001 the number of innocent Afghanis who will die will be more than the number of innocent victims of the twin tower tragedy. Sadly neither group had anything to do with the horrific events of September 11 and yet both have become hapless victims.

Finally, despite the realization that Washington’s disastrous decision to walk away at the end of the Cold War has compelled its desperate return now to Afghanistan, it seems Washington is likely to repeat the same mistake, as soon as its short-term military objective is achieved. Senior members of the Bush administration have admitted that they may fail to achieve their originally prescribed goals. The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, publicly confessed that bin Laden may never be caught and that al-Qaida might never be destroyed. This failure is likely to haunt them not only abroad but also at home. The American intelligence agencies, while candidly acknowledging the presence of al-Qaida cells within the US, have been spectacularly unsuccessful in exposing them, let alone destroying them.

However, whatever the outcome of the war, the administration’s stalwarts have already publicly expressed their aversion to getting their hands dirty with the messy business of nation-building. This will guarantee that Afghanistan will remain ripe for the picking by yet another group of extremists who would perpetrate the cycle of terrorist violence. The only difference is that this time around the repercussions are not going to be confined strictly to Afghanistan, but will also have serious ramifications for the six countries that surround it. Given the moot justification and serious limitations in the present US approach to combating terrorism, what are the alternatives?

Strategically, there are three parallel paths: first, there is a need to create a truly global and multilateral anti-terrorist coalition — not just fragile alliances of convenience that exist at the moment. This coalition must be based on universally accepted norms, ideally located in the various UN conventions, declarations and resolutions. Here the record of the 12 anti-terrorist conventions adopted by the UN since 1963 is telling. While most of these are already in force, compliance to them remains patchy at best.

Moreover, one critical convention — the international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism, adopted in 1999 — which obligates state parties either to prosecute or to extradite persons accused of funding terrorist activities and requires banks to enact measures to identify suspicious transactions has yet to enter into force. It requires 22 countries to ratify the treaty to enter into force, but until the end of October only five countries (Azerbaijan, Botswana, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan) had ratified it.

Second, this counter-terrorism norm should be enforced universally. The difficult experience of bringing those responsible for Pan Am 103 to justice could serve as a model for future approaches to dealing with terrorism. Here the establishment of the UNSC counter-terrorism committee, headed by the United Kingdom, to “deny space, money [and] haven to terrorism” is a step in the right direction. A long-term engagement policy, which could stretch into decades, will have to be sustained with states of concern or non-states to ensure that they do not play willing or unwilling hosts to terrorists. In this context, the tendency to follow a blunt “sanction only” approach should be avoided. Instead, a sanctions-cum-incentive approach should be adopted. Simultaneously, the UN should agree to get involved only when it has received an extended mandate and the necessary resources to support the mandate. Here the role of the ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, who has been adept in traversing the minefield in the UN as well in Afghanistan will be critical.

Clearly, the US could play a lead role in strengthening both the UN’s normative and operational capability in combating terrorism. However, in order to be taken seriously, Washington must abandon its multilateralism a la carte policy in favour of a policy of genuine multilateralism, which implies not walking away from treaties or conventions that are perceived to be unpalatable. The question is: will it?


We would also like to have some indications as to what the phrase “further focussed analytical work” means. Here, in order to balance my earlier support to the Swiss ambassador on the subject of GIs, I have to strongly differ from his remarks on the subject of investment. There was no agreement at Seattle on any type of “bridge proposals” on investment...

As you are aware, we have given a large number of proposals under implementation relating to anti-dumping and subsidies agreement. We would like to know the outcome of these proposals before taking a position on paragraph 24...We are still studying the language of this paragraph [25] and we will revert to you soon with some drafting suggestions.

In respect of paragraph 26 dealing with DSU, we would like to understand what is meant by saying “negotiations should be based on the work done thus far” in the second sentence while the first sentence contemplates “negotiations on the basis of proposals by members” which gives the impression that members will be called upon to make proposals during possible future negotiations. We would give our views on paragraph 26 after getting necessary clarifications.

Regarding paragraph 27 of the declaration, we would like to say that we have no problem with CTE continuing its ongoing work within its current mandate. We cannot accept any negotiations on any aspect of environment since we are convinced that the existing WTO rules are adequate to protect all legitimate environmental concerns. In fact, our assessment is that the jurisprudence in this area is developing in such a way as to justify easily measures claimed to have been taken for protection of environment on the basis of “evolutionary theory of interpretation”. It is debatable as to whether the language of the provisions in the various agreements really provide such a wide latitude to measures claimed to have been taken on grounds of environment. Though the distinguished ambassador of Norway expressed his dissatisfaction with the draft saying that it does not mean anything, we have serious problems with the draft. We are concerned that the draft appears to accord priority and suggests focused study of some issues of importance to some countries, thereby disturbing the fine balance that is there in the agenda of the CTE. At a minimum, with a view to provide appropriate balance, at least two more items should be included for special focus, namely market access and relationship between TRIPS and environment.

We are confused about para 28. Though this paragraph is included under the heading “Trade and Environment”, paragraph 28 seems to refer to “labelling” and not “eco-labelling”. Regarding Para 29 dealing with e-commerce we are not in a position to go along with any suggestion for legally binding commitment regarding customs duty on electronic transmission. We support the broad thrust of ideas contained in paragraphs 30, 33 and 34 relating to small economies, technical cooperation and capacity building and least developed countries.

Regarding paragraphs 31 and 32 we recall that along with a number of other developing countries we had made a number of proposals on the relationship between trade, debt and finance as well as the subject of transfer of technology. We are studying the mandate contained in paragraphs 31 and 32 and we will revert to you soon in case we have any drafting suggestion. We note that para 35 relating to special and differential treatment will be developed after taking into consideration the inputs from CTD.

As I foreshadowed during the earlier part of my statement, we have a major concern with regard to paragraphs 36 to 39 and 42. When I first glanced through your draft, I got the impression that there was no “round”in it, in as much as I saw only the first two-thirds of the draft. But subsequently, when I looked at paragraphs 36 to 39 and 42, all ideas, concepts and trappings which go to make a “round” have been included in these paragraphs. We feel that these paragraphs closely mirror the Punta Declaration. Somehow the fact that since 1.1.95, we have a permanent negotiating forum and that we are no longer in the GATT era seems to have been overlooked. We do not see why there should be a trade negotiation committee. We have the general council in the WTO as provided for under article IV.2 of the agreement. This is the supreme organ of the WTO next only to ministerial conference. Moreover, in the intervals between the meeting of the ministerial conference, its functions shall be conducted by the general council. Therefore, it is beyond my comprehension as to why there is need to introduce a new structure “trade negotiation committee” and then go on to say rather defensively that the new structure willbe under the authority of the general council. Similarly, it is not clear to me as to why we should envisage a special session of the ministerial conference for taking decisions on negotiations, if it is possible to take such decisions in a regular ministerial conference. Otherwise, the general council can perform the functions of the ministerial conference during the intervals between ministerial conferences.

To be concluded



The undoing of an authority

Sir — The Indian government is embarking on an exemplary model of conflict resolution in Kashmir with the setting up of a team to encourage several groups currently outside the political fold to participate in next year’s elections (“Core team put in place for Kashmir headway”, Dec 10). But let the events in west Asia be a grim warning. New Delhi, unlike the Israeli government, must accept the forces which democracy unleashes, such as a “Kashmiri authority” made up of members of the Hurriyat and militant leaders of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. Israel has unfortunately found in the Palestinian Authority a “legitimate” target, and in Yasser Arafat a face for the otherwise nameless suicide bombers. Responsibility for the endless stream of men wishing to kill themselves rather than continue living in the Occupied Territories has been imposed on Arafat, but without the resources or the legitimacy to change the situation. Let us hope a future Kashmiri government does not become a similar target for mismanagement in India.

Yours faithfully,
Ratnesh Rai, Patna

Dog’s life

Sir — That animals in India’s wildlife sanctuaries are not safe from poachers is well known. The killing of a ranger in Corbett National Park in July by brigands has made it clear that the forests are also no longer safe for those entrusted with their protection. The report, “Forester first in fight for tigers”, (Dec 7), argued the need for appropriate animal welfare officers to protect the wildlife. I would like to suggest that the government’s inadequate response both before and after the murder in Corbett National Park can only ensure more rangers leave the service, and discourage others from applying.

It appears that the administration had been aware of the increased activity of poachers in Corbett weeks before the attack. There were reports of rifles of forest guards being stolen, guards being abducted. Poachers in the uniforms of rangers went on a rampage not only inside the forest, but also in the neighbouring villages. When it was known that there were armed outlaws prowling in the forest, why was only a deputy ranger and two guards sent to search for them? What measures did the administration take in preparation, considering that it was only late last year that poachers had struck, killing and brutalizing five tuskers before escaping?

Certainly, keeping dense forests free of poachers is not an easy task; ask the men of the “joint task forces” of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka who have been unsuccessful in catching the notorious sandalwood smuggler, Veerappan, for the last decade and a half. There are, however, allegations of a nexus between forest brigands and forest officials, who supposedly share the spoils of the forest with politicians. Although the report on conservation of Hangul deer highlighted the pioneering work of Qasim Wani, perhaps all rangers are not so altruistic.

The Uttarakhand government has not even begun a preliminary investigation into whether another crime nexus exists in the Corbett National Park. The best message the government could send to workers for wildlife conservation is by instituting an inquiry into the incident.

Yours faithfully,
D.V. Vamsee Krishna, Bhubaneswar

Sir — Qasim Wani, the Kashmiri forrester who succeeded in protecting the Hangul deer from extinction, is another rare species. A people dedicated to wildlife is, as Valmik Thapar has argued, an aspect on which non-governmental organizations need to focus their attention. But the constant transfer of Indian Forest Service officers has a disastrous effect on work practices and the conservation of knowledge. Foresters like Wani could help raise animal awareness in the country.

The problem lies in the government’s complete apathy in providing suitable forums for debate on wildlife, not only able foresters. There are several “Wanis” waiting to prove their knowledge and talent for animal welfare. The government must give opportunities to IFS officers to publicize their cause, and recognize the vast number of volunteer helpers.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Stop it at that

Sir — Dipankar Gupta in “Two cultures and a half” (Nov 27) clearly explains the distinction between pure science and astrology. The latter, Gupta argues, relies on faith and sentiments. However, it is not the differences between the disciplines which should worry us, but their confusion. On the one hand, there is the wise astrologer who can foretell one’s future through a mixture of insight and good detective abilities. On the other, there are the Thabo Mbeikis whose belief in crackpot theories on the transmission of AIDs threatens lives.

We must be wary of the elevation of astrology to the university level. Not only does it occupy the same uncomfortable ground between science and sociology, it also indicates a nationalist’s efforts at social engineering.

Yours faithfully
Rabindra Sarkar, Calcutta

Sir — A visitor at the home of Niels Bohr, well known atom scientist and Nobel prize winner, was surprised to see a horseshoe hanging over the door. Curious, the visitor questioned the scientist, “Do you, a sober man dedicated to science, believe in that superstition?” The scientist’s reply was surprising. He said that he’d always welcomed a bit of luck. Can I suggest Dipankar Gupta greet Murli Manohar Joshi’s attempts at elevating astrology with a similar lightness of spirit?

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

The untouchable

Sir — In his article,“Other side of diplomacy” (Dec 3), S.L. Rao has correctly portrayed the nature of Indian diplomats abroad. Needless to say, civil servants at home are just as self-interested. In order to improve the situation, several fundamental changes have to be introduced. First, Indian adminstrative officers should be handpicked from among those who are actually oriented to social service. The word seva would explain the concept of service even better. This should be followed by purposeful training by experts in the respective fields of service, not by the old officialdom. The third and the most important requirement is that there should be no political interference in the functioning of the bureaucrats.

Yours faithfully,
R.P. Mitra, Calcutta

Sir — Debaki Nandan Mandal’s article, “Should he get the chief’s ticket?” (Nov 29), has been right in reviewing the present position of bureaucrats in public administration. Mandal in fact excels in pithily summarizing how the bureaucratic career often suffers because of a politician’s high-handedness. It is unfortunate that our civil servants easily give in to the whims and fancies of their political masters. This is most absurd as the administrative officers are well-protected by constitutional guarantees. It is the lust for power and personal gain which has led the bureaucracy to stoop so low. It would be heartening to see administrators rise above pettiness and act according to their own intelligence and will.

Yours faithfully,
Sukhendu Mohanty, Contai

Sir — Opportunism is the keystone for those in both the Indian political service and the Indian administrative service. If politicians feel free to preserve their own interests while they are in office, can bureaucrats, who are now their faithful followers for the sake of their own hide, be expected to remain pious? Politicians and bureaucrats mutually complement each other in making India one of the most corrupt countries in the world. They are co-partners in crime, so it would be unfair to haul them over the coals alone. Besides, they are often the most deprived of the partners. That is why while politicians hop from one lucrative position to another, their most obedient follower in the bureaucracy is shunted from one ignominious posting to another. No reforms to better the services can succeed unless the upper rung of politicians is cleansed and disinfected.

Yours faithfully,
J. Samanta, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — The editorial, “Protected poet” (Dec 5), on the desirability of the abolition of Visva Bharati’s copyright on Rabindranath Tagore’s work, upholds a free-market point of view against protectionism. Unfortunately, the latest legal institutional arrangement for the universal imposition of free market, namely, the World Trade Organization, does not endorse the concept of right to property as enshrined in the 19th century Berne convention on copyright. The concept of intellectual property rights, and that too sui generis, being advocated by the WTO, is at variance with the concept of cessation of copyright as provided in the Berne convention.

Incidentally, the Berne convention, in spirit, upheld the creator’s right over his own artistic creation, except the cessation clause. Even before the completion of the last WTO talks, which looked at the protection of private property, the United States of America had changed its national law on copyright to guarantee the inheritors’ right over the creation of their predecessors up to 70 years after the creator’s death. Sooner or later, all the signatories of WTO will have to legislate in consonance with the body’s legislation. It will then be necessary to repeal the existing cessation of copyright clause of the national copyright acts.

Yours faithfully
Pranabranjan Ray, Calcutta

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