Editorial 1/ Risk versus gain
Editorial 2/ Not personal
A cricketing story
Calcutta’s mismanaged plenty
Document/ Developing an objective argument
Fifth Column/ Hubris and its classic follow up
Letters to the editor

Pyramid schemes are as old as the hills. B pays Rs 100 to A, who has recruited him. B then goes out and recruits ten more people, each of whom pays B Rs 100. The net result is that B has won Rs 900 and the scheme can go on forever, but for a finite number of new recruits. Once the stream of new entrants tapers off, the first recruits make their money, but newer entrants lose. Unfortunately, greed clouds common sense and while reactions to chain letters are that they constitute fraud, people behave differently when money is involved. In the Twenties, Charles Ponzi realized this and made millions before he was caught and human sagacity has not improved since then. Ponzi schemes have been unearthed in Romania in 1993, in Sacramento in 1995-96, in Albania in 1997 and in Calcutta in 2001, because the recent chit fund cum plantation company scandal is nothing but a Ponzi scheme. It is easy to be sentimental over the suicide of the Citi Securities’ agent, Parimal Chatterjee. But logically, this is no different from committing suicide after betting on a horse and losing. In every economy, there is a reasonable risk-free nominal rate of return, say 10 per cent, the rate of return on long-term government bonds. Ipso facto, any return above this must carry risk. The higher the return, the greater the risk, since returns must reflect risk premium.

Risk-averse individuals have no business to be dabbling in chit funds, plantation companies, Sanchayita schemes, the stock market or horse racing. If an investment avenue offers an annual rate of return of 120 per cent, noses have to be completely blocked not to smell a fish, even if post-dated cheques are furnished. If duped investors parked their funds in these eight chit funds or four plantation schemes, they did so with their eyes completely open. Globally, risk-averse retirees and pensioners use mutual funds and settle for lower returns. In the context of mutual funds, such as the Unit Trust of India, it is of course legitimate to argue that the government is itself guilty of clouding the risk-return tradeoff by guaranteeing high returns with zero risk. But this is no argument for open-ended bailouts and none are indicated in the present case (about Rs 100 crore) either. Such bailouts by the government involve cross-subsidization of the relatively rich by the relatively poor.

There has been talk of legislation on non-bank financial companies and plantation companies. Although there is a regulatory issue, no laws can curb human stupidity and greed. On the regulatory part, there is indeed a question of removing asymmetry of information between prospective investors and companies by ensuring minimum norms of disclosure and legal avenues for investor protection and redressal in cases of default. At present, NBFCs and plantation companies are outside the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s purview and the Reserve Bank of India norms are not only less than optimal, they are rarely enforced. While the lack of public governance is a point well taken and needs to be improved, the last thing the West Bengal government should contemplate is a bailout.


Social change and legality are still tenuously connected. The Calcutta high court has ruled that women of all communities can invoke provisions of Section 125 of the Indian penal code, which provides for the maintenance of a divorced wife and her children. The decision came in response to a case in which the divorced husband of Ms Anwara Khatun had appealed to the high court against the Bankura district court’s ruling that he pay her a specified amount every month. This is not the first time the court has made this kind of a ruling. Earlier, it had ruled similarly on the right to maintenance of a woman from the minority community. Essentially, the conflict is between civil law and provisions of the personal laws of each community. The Supreme Court, too, has been more or less consistent in upholding the universal application of the civil law in cases where the personal law of communities clashed with it and tended to put plaintiffs at a disadvantage. In a country which does not have a uniform civil code, this is the best the courts can do.

A uniform civil code will remain elusive as long as religious differences are informed by politically vested interests. The way out is through changes within the communities themselves. It is heartening that it is no longer just the law commission and women’s groups that are recommending changes in legal structures so that women of different communities get a better deal. The thrust for change is beginning to come from within the communities, whether Christian or Muslim. This alone is reason for hope. The courts are playing a positive role, by reiterating the legal recourses available. That is as far as they can go. An illuminating example of the slow rate of change in social attitudes and the breaking down of traditional interest structures is the majority community itself. Apart from the civil law, Hindu traditional laws themselves have been reformed more than once. This has made only a slight difference to phenomena like bigamy or property control in so many years. The rate of change might accelerate, given the changing economic status of women and greater awareness and discussion of rights. This ambience is particularly favourable for changes within minority communities. The courts have an important role to play in the transitional period.


In 1994 I brought out a book on negotiation, Successful Negotiation. Drawing extensively on the research work in the Harvard negotiation project of Howard Raiffa and others, H.L.Neiburg’s classic on presidential power, the research of Geert Hofstede on cultural dimensions in management, as well as other works including those on communication and influence styles, I had postulated a model for successful negotiations.

A successful negotiation demands that the issue is negotiable; that there is a willingness to give a little on both sides; and that there is some mutual trust. In developing a strategy for negotiation, one has to consider the respective real objectives as opposed to the stated ones, and have a good understanding of the realities of the power of each side to the negotiation. Once one understands the real objectives, compromise packages become possible. Power is a matter of perceptions, and these can be changed. Osama bin Laden has dramatically altered the perceptions of power of his organization and of himself by one suicidal and murderous action. But he was not interested in negotiating. A normal negotiating situation would endeavour to change perceptions of relative power, to achieve a better compromise.

The recent standoff between the International Cricket Council and the Board of Control for Cricket in India is a classic illustration of differing understandings of objectives and of power by each party. The immediate outcome reflects the relative realities of power. This story is still not over. We shall see in the coming months many twists and turns as the BCCI and its other supporters in the world of international cricket control go after their basic objectives. They will use their power as they see it. There is no doubt that the outcome will change the face of world cricket control as we have known it.

Denness and his thoughtless and unjustified overreaction was (in this analysis) only an excuse for the confrontation. It was waiting to happen. Jagmohan Dalmiya had understood that the market for cricket had shifted from the white world to the non-white world, that there was a lot of money to be made, and he had made it for the ICC. His other non-white colleagues liked the money. They could also see the geographical shift, and that India was the key to the unaccustomed money and financial muscle of the ICC. But the habit of the centuries of carrying “the white man’s burden” made them ignore this central fact that Dalmiya used to alter the power equations. While some might think that the racial overtones that surfaced during the controversy were an aberration, I suspect that Dalmiya knowing his opponents must have expected these overtones to surface. He may well have factored in the effect of such racial slurs from the rabid proletarian British press (the Daily Mirror, Sun, News of the World). The comments in the Daily Telegraph and the Times, read by the Indian power elite must have been a bonus.

Another unexpected bonus must have been the unnecessary comments of the newly reelected prime minister of Australia. The media clips showing similar behaviour by white cricketers being condoned by white umpires added fuel. For Dalmiya, the insult to the character of Sachin Tendulkar was very useful. It created a political issue, mobs on the streets burning effigies, and questions in Parliament. But if it were not this incident, Dalmiya would have, surely, early in his term as president, found some other to precipitate a confrontation with the ICC and so to change the power balance.

Geert Hofstede used his observations of managerial behaviour in many countries to hypothesize a model about the effect of cultural differences on managerial styles. He found Indians to be very comfortable with uncertainty, as against the Japanese who were not. What this meant was that most Indians would tend, for example, to go into the most complex situations without prior preparation, because they were confident that they could deal with any situation that developed.

The Japanese on the other hand, would take time to prepare for all conceivable eventualities. Indians do tend to enter complex negotiations with much less preparation than many other nationalities. Has Dalmiya broken the stereotype, and is the present controversy one move in a series to follow? Has he worked out his future moves for responding to other possible events and reactions? He appears to have so far had a good idea as to how his opponents would react.

As for influence styles, Dalmiya must have judged that the two Australians at the head of the ICC would be assertive in typical Aussie fashion. They would be bewildered by the unaccustomed willingness of an Indian, (the stereotype being normally of obsequiousness to people like them), least of all a former president of the ICC, going to the brink of breaking up the ICC, for what were after all “minor” penalties on a few cricketers.

Dalmiya’s objective clearly is to change the balance of influence and power in international cricket so that it is more reflective of the market and financial realities of the game. He was not ready to accept that the old cricketing nations took vast sums of money but continued to ride roughshod over the boards whose countries generated them. At the same time, snide comments continued about the Indian crowds, the noise, the excitement, the “unsporting” behaviour of players and the lack of polish of our cricket bureaucrats including Dalmiya himself.

The ICC bureaucrats were too simple-minded in this situation. The arrogance of years of power blinded them to the changed realities and their implications. They thought that the issue was a simple one of discipline and respect for the decisions of the match referee. They became hostage to the ill-considered judgment and punishments imposed by a rather stupid man who thought nothing of imposing punishments on Indians that he and his fellows had not done on players of his own kind. In this way they painted themselves into a corner, as the media began to expose the inconsistencies in the judgments and in comparison with similar episodes affecting the white nations.

Dalmiya has now shown his hand. The British and the Australians might dislike him, but they have to reckon with him. They cannot afford to underestimate him again. His cause will attract similar cricket markets like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and perhaps even South Africa. The ICC cannot afford to lose India. Of course India needs world cricket and is unlikely to leave the ICC. The government will not permit this to happen.

Dalmiya’s objective may be to take over the leadership of the ICC so that it is more representative of the new realities of the game. But the ICC now has his bottomline in future negotiations. He will not want to break the ICC. This leaves room for negotiation and for a compromise package to be developed. Thus a correct estimation of relative power has led both parties to seek a compromise.

Cricket ceased to be a game of and for gentlemen many years ago. But the symbols survived till now — Lords as the home of cricket and whites from England and Australia as its international public faces. These will change in coming years. Dalmiya will not stop with match referees. He will change the symbols to suit the changed power balance.

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


Mumbaikars going to Delhi are surprised to find that Delhi, unlike the rest of India, has huge power shortage. They are even more surprised to discover that it is only Mumbai which enjoys a regular electricity supply. Calcutta, by and large, enjoys with regard to water the place Mumbai has in the Indian electricity picture. Indeed, although shortages can occur in Calcutta as well, its pavement and bustee-dwellers would be surprised not to find flooding public taps in the other Indian cities.

The fact is that Calcutta does have plenty of water, but at what hidden cost? Water enters the cities and has to flow out from them in a cycle merging with the waste cycle, and this has been so since the sewers of Mohenjodaro. But then, in Calcutta, who cares for the cycle? Who cares for the use of the most adapted sources, for treating the waste water, for providing sanitation to its inhabitants and for clearing the solid waste?

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation, the prime body responsible for the maintenance of Calcutta’s water supply cycle, does not have an integrated approach to these related matters. And this is because Calcutta also has politicians, who tend to see water as an inflow, tend to neglect managing it as an integrated resource, and neglect using the inestimable advantage its large informal sector provides to the city.

The water supply, apart from pre-monsoon shortages, is adequate in quantity, with a well-developed centralized piped system, and relies on a huge source from the Hooghly. The water supply at present relies on local ground water for 20 per cent of the total supply, and projects are in progress to fully adhere to the centralised piped model. Actually, a purely technical approach based on promoting boosting stations leads to overflows and thus to a huge wastage.

The sanitation facilities, even in central Calcutta, are insufficient, especially for the poor. This is not the prior concern of the CMC. Waste disposal cannot be handled by the CMC alone, and Calcutta’s massive informal sector in recycling could take care of the remaining load. Though this sector is well structured, it is economically fragile, and not supported, despite the savings and added economic value it provides for the CMC and the city as a whole. Gaps in waste disposal engender severe pollution, health and environmental problems in various areas of Calcutta, especially in terms of groundwater safety. Drainage is reasonably good as far as normal drainage is concerned, but far insufficient for rainwater drainage. Treatment of sewage water hardly exists.

In Calcutta, there seems to be no concern for local and technically decentralized solutions. Promoting local recycling and disposal of waste would lower the costs, improve pollution and water losses, and hence make the present recourse to ground-water sustainable, thus lowering the unsustainable expenditures on new projects. Politicians at the head of the water system focus primarily and heavily on water supply, and on the visibility of this water supply. Then the water comes into the city, overflows the standposts and some private tankers in areas close to new boosting stations. But there is no concern for any, except the electoral.

But the most adverse effect is that this situation and the political compulsions are sustained by the administrative organizations of water management. The CMC by and large operates a water supply network. But this network is developed and ultimately financed by the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority and the Calcutta Metropolitan Water Supply Authority, which also supplies the treated water to the CMC. These organizations are supposed to be coordinated by the municipalities, but they also depend for money on the government of West Bengal. Hence, the system is ultimately planned and financed by the state government.

Then the CMC complains on not having control over water treatment and network development, while the CMDA and CMWSA argue that they could better ensure the maintenance and operation of the distribution network if they had control over it. Hence, there is a discrepancy between the CMC which owns the control rights over the network, and the state organizations which own the financial rights, bearing the financial consequences of mismanagement. As a result, the decision-making is technically segregated and not based on economic costs, and even less on long-term costs which is the key factor for the sustainability of policies for the poor.

In this system, financial links and disputes are actually worked out by political bodies at the secretarial level in the state government. The CMC, CMDA and the CMWSA are therefore not autonomous and remain improperly articulated.

No schemes either for the internal delegation of power or for a contractual outsourcing of activities or coordination with nongovernmental organizations are noticeable. This is clearly a gap in the governance of Calcutta, compared to other Indian cities. When the CMC actually extends the development of its water supply system, the city is ultimately less able to tackle this, in the absence of organizations specializing in waste disposal and sanitation. These spheres are also perceived as less of a direct political concern, and this forms a vicious circle.

The CMC is, however, a specific administrative body among the Indian municipalities and water boards. Water scenarios are city-dependent, and the nature of the administrative structure could vary. It can range from a centralized agency with a single-output-oriented objective (water supply), strongly embedded in the state or municipal sphere, to an autonomous agency evenly focusing on different issues, aiming at a managerial delegation, and trying out decentralised techniques.

This ranges from a Calcutta-like situation, both politically centralized and unclear in terms of administrative responsibility, to a Chennai-like solution, whose institutional and organizational innovations are worth emulating. Both suffer from “technical over-centralization”, insisting on a piped system, and neglecting “technical decentralization” through local ground-water or local surface-water-based schemes like ponds and tankers.

Indeed, as far as water supply is concerned, the CMC could be analysed as a technical agency, relying and internally structured on a technically centralized piped system. It politicizes water distribution, instead of orienting itself towards water resource management, cost management, solid waste disposal and sanitation. The absence of focus regarding these issues comes from the political nature of the administration. Issues like pollution, indirect costs of mismanagement, indirect savings through supporting the informal sector are made artificially invisible in a structure which favours technical reporting instead of cost-based information. In spite of the excessive costs generated through this policy, the situation remains sustainable for the CMC, thanks to the financial confusion that intertwines it with the CMDA and the CMWSA.

What is the way out of such structural problems? First, clear decision-making and financial links should be established and implemented between the state agencies and the water supply department of the CMC. Given the present situation, where the agencies showing the highest status of governance are those of the state, the recommendation should be to transfer water distribution to CMWSA. Under the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution, this may be difficult. The solution could then lie in what is happening elsewhere in the power sector — separating the operation and the supply (in its commercial aspects), the latter being transferred to CMWSA. Even in the present tariff situation, savings on water could be realized, thus saving on the CMWSA and the CMDA budgets. These savings could be dedicated to sanitation. Similarly, decentralized schemes like community-based ponds or ground sources under regulation for water harvesting should be authorized.

Solid waste disposal should rely on the labour-intensive informal sector. In particular, taking recourse to international companies unthinkingly for waste disposal should be avoided, since the example of Chennai suggests that it is capital-intensive, and thus not affordable for all the city areas. There is considerable scope for collaboration with NGOs and the informal sector, which is one of the economic strengths of Calcutta. Indeed, the existence of a well structured, if fragile, network of informal economic activities in Calcutta could promote labour-intensive techniques. This sector could be regulated for the particular utlility of the poor.

Water supply could be divided into two kinds of usage: potable water for drinking and cooking which is a mere 10 per cent of the total usage, and water for other purposes. The latter need not maintain potability standards. Since the Indian piped systems no longer provide a guaranteed norm for potability, the centralized system could take charge of the second function. Drinking water could then be accessible through community-based ground-water and/or pond-water or tanker systems when the former is not available. Priority should be given to the maintenance and development of these schemes. The savings generated through the new use of the piped system for nonpotable water could finance this.


I remember, Mr. Chairman, one of your illustrious predecessors mentioned in a meeting in this very same hall that the concept of single undertaking had a particular connotation at the time of the Punta Declaration and that the concept acquired a different connotation towards the end of Uruguay Round negotiations. To the best of my knowledge, if the negotiations are limited to existing areas, the concept of single undertaking may not have much relevance, as it will be quite impractical to implement the new obligations in these areas only with respect to some Members and leave it out in respect of others. We have an uncomfortable feeling that reference to single undertaking in the Draft might be a pointer towards inclusion of new subjects, a prospect which we do not look forward to. Moreover, your paragraph 42 is so ambiguous and open ended that many developing countries whose memories about Uruguay Round are still fresh genuinely feel threatened by this paragraph.

Mr. Chairman, we suggest ...there [be] a simple text indicating that negotiations and other items of work envisaged in the Work Programme will be conducted in the respective existing bodies in the WTO under the overall supervision of the General Council. We would also like to state that in considering the balance in the results of the Work Programme, the currently existing imbalances should also be taken into consideration so that final results ensure overall balance for developing countries...

In the preamble, we note there is a desire to place the interests and needs of developing and least developed countries at the heart of the WTO’s work. We welcome this wholeheartedly. But, this should be followed through with deeds and we find both in the Implementation Decisions proposed, and in the work programme suggested that it is not clear whether the interests of developing and least developed countries have been fully taken into account. Incidentally, I would also like to mention paragraphs 1 and 2 appear to paint a very rosy picture of the multilateral trading system. While we all appreciate the need for a rule based multilateral system it may not be very desirable to ignore the reality that the fruits of the system are not available to all countries in an equitable manner. All of us are aware that there is no credible assessment, as of today, of the benefit derived by developing countries from the Uruguay Round Agreements. In the light of these considerations, some adjustment to the language will be appropriate in order to make it more balanced.

...We have serious concerns ...with regard to the right of members ...to health, safety, environment, etc. It is our view that these are rights subject to the proviso that the measures are not applied in a manner which constitutes a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable distinction between countries where the same conditions prevail or a disguised restriction on international, and are otherwise in full accordance with the provisions of the multilateral rules. In this context, we also recall that the preambular language of the Marrakech Agreement highlights the need to enhance the means for protecting and preserving the environment in a manner consistent with the needs and concerns of members at different levels of economic development. We can go along with the suggestion of many delegations to delete this frighteningly open-ended sentence.

We do not believe that there is either need or justification for the mention of core labour standards in a declaration of this kind. We are not clear about what is meant by “take note of the work under way in the ILO on the social dimensions of globalisation” ... [and] the idea of “dialogue with the public” needs to be clarified. We disagree with the suggestion ...of the preamble that the Ministers agree to undertake the broad Work Programme. As you will see Mr Chairman, it is precisely this broadness of the work programme that causes us maximum difficulty in your draft.

Mr Chairman ...it appears to me ...the future work programme contemplated in the draft appears to involve two tracks. Certain subjects are specifically proposed for negotiations while the language in respect of some subjects is different. I am not at this point of time criticising this approach lest you should come to the conclusion that I want negotiations in respect of every subject! Far from it. I have to think carefully about this structure before offering specific comments.

Mr. Chairman, as you have indicated in the covering note, you have proposed this draft declaration for reaching an eventual consensus on a balanced text to be put before Ministers in Doha. You yourself have indicated that further intensive consultations are envisaged with the aim of resolving outstanding differences before a revision is issued.... We look upon this document as a working document. We are prepared to assist you during your future consultations by further clarifying and elaborating our thoughts on the various elements of your draft declaration....

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

To be Concluded


“Get them by the balls, and their hearts and minds will follow,” went the Vietnam-era adage of the professional American military. But the United States of America, despite the enormous firepower that gave it so many military victories, ultimately lost the Vietnam war.

With the taliban regime destroyed and the al Qaida organization deprived of its bases in Afghanistan, the hawks in the Bush administration are in full charge. Last weekend, American military officers were in Somalia meeting with warlords from the Rahanwein Resistance Army to discuss a joint attack on that country’s fledgling government, and the undersecretary of state for near Eastern affairs, Ryan Crocker, was in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, laying the groundwork for an assault on Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The next phase of the “war on terrorism” may be no further away than the traditional New Year’s hangover. “Bombing works” is the cry, and casualty-free victories are coming to be taken for granted in the US, and almost anything seems possible. The ancient Greeks called this state of mind hubris — and expected nemesis to follow.

Killer cells

Elsewhere, the sense is that the US is over-extending itself, and alarm among its closest allies is growing. On December 11, for example, Britain’s chief of defence staff, Admiral Michael Boyce, warned that the emotionally satisfying fireworks in Afghanistan had hardly affected the real level of the terrorist threat. Al Qaida, he said, remains “a fielded, resourced, dedicated and essentially autonomous terrorist force, quite capable of atrocity on a comparable scale” to the attacks on September 11.

Of course it does. The attacks on the US were not planned and prepared in caves in Afghanistan, though Osama bin Laden was doubtless kept informed. They were planned and prepared — and may be thought up as well — by autonomous cells of al Qaida based in Europe and the US.

The whole Afghan sideshow, like the forthcoming ones in Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere, will have only a marginal impact on the ability of those cells to act. Indeed, the long-term effect of such extended bombing campaigns could be to expand the recruiting base for al Qaida and likeminded organizations both in the Muslim world and the diaspora.

Boyce was not just saying the first thing that came into his head. Such speeches are vetted at cabinet level, and the anxieties Boyce expressed are those that all of the US’s friends and allies feel as Washington, encouraged by the easy Afghan victory, plunges on to new campaigns. But nobody in the White House is listening.

Rough going ahead

Three months ago, as the US was busy rounding up support for its new war on terrorism, there was a brief pause in the Bush administration’s relentless war against any treaties that might constrain American power in any way, but the unilateralist drive has now resumed with full force.

The anti-ballistic missile treaty is being cancelled with six months’ notice, and the US will push ahead with Bush’s beloved ballistic missile defence despite near-universal misgivings among friends and allies. Washington recently blocked moves to tighten the convention aimed at prohibiting the development of biological weapons. It has also forced European countries to put their plans for a joint North Atlantic Treaty Organization-Russia council on hold for at least six months: it doesn’t want its old allies and its new one to get too cosy.

This combination of technological hubris and ideological triumphalism is leading the Bush administration into dangerous waters. The US is a big, rich, powerful and technologically innovative country, but it is still only four per cent of the world’s population. In the sixty years since the Pearl Harbour attack pulled it into World War II and made it a fulltime player in global politics, it always played the alliance game because successive administrations all understood that even American power could be over-stretched.

If that lesson now has to be re-learned, we are all in for a rough time.



Look before you actually leap

Sir — It is said that language is a great equalizer. That it creates a sense of bonding among the different communities residing in a foreign land. The idea of the British home secretary, David Blunkett, to make English mandatory for every immigrant in Britain could go a long way in preventing riots like those that occurred recently in Oldham and Burley (“Learn English”, Dec 10). However, a closer analysis would reveal that the hostility felt by Asian communities is not because of a lack of English knowledge on their part. The issue is much more complicated. This ranges from political and religious differences to a lack of economic opportunities. Moreover, the idea of making Asian immigrants learn English to enhance a sense of British identity might fall flat on the face and could even create larger distances between the existing groups and the English-speaking community. It would be more sensible on the part of the British government to first ponder on the pros and cons of such a step, taking into account the sentiments of the Asian migrants, before actually implementing it.
Yours faithfully,
Niraj Kumar Saraiya, Calcutta

Shredding faith

Sir — The terrorist attack on Parliament was shocking (“Terror war in last phase: PM”, Dec 14). December 13 was certainly a dramatic day for Indian democracy and for those who are spreading terror in the country. This gory incident once again shows the world the incompetence of the Indian security forces. If this is the state of security cover for members of parliament, then it should not be difficult to gauge the kind of security provided to the country’s ordinary citizens.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as expected, has warned militants of dire consequences. Past strikes by militants, be it the Jammu and Kashmir assembly massacre or the attack on the Red Fort, have been followed by similar assurances from the prime minister. But this has not prevented terrorists from killing civilians in the different parts of India. It is a pity that in spite of getting prior warning from the Mumbai police that terrorists may attack the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Intelligence Bureau in Delhi police failed to act. The attack on Parliament also hints at the probable nexus between the Indian authorities and the intruders.

Stringent measures have to be adopted to counter such militancy, such as restrictions in the use of red light by government vehicles. The passes held by MPs, irrespective of rank , should be regularly checked and a single nodal agency should be set-up. If such measures are not taken, the consequences are likely to be more severe in the future.

Yours faithfully,
Sankar Lal Singh, Calcutta

Sir — The Parliament shootings have taken the gloss off the surveillance and security arrangements which our “pro-active” home minister often boasts of. Atal Bihari Vajpayee not only has been the most inefficient prime minister, but he also has the most corrupt cabinet. Vajpayee ignored a major issue like national security and re-inducted George Fernandes as the minister of defence.

However, the attack on Parliament came as a boon to Vajpayee since otherwise, it would have been difficult for him to shove under the carpet the irregularities in purchasing defence equipment and the recent Kargil coffin controversy. Expecting Vajpayee and Fernandes to give in their resignations would perhaps be asking for too much. But resignation on moral grounds should have been the most immediate step taken by self-respecting leaders.

Yours faithfully,
Aditya P. Chatterjee, Calcutta

Sir — The Parliament attack was one of the deadliest in the history of independent India. The timing, the use of grenades, AK-47s, and the precision with which it was carried out have posed a big question mark on our security arrangements as well as our intelligence capabilities. However, the alacrity and swiftness shown by our security personnel in dealing with the situation should be lauded.

Intelligence reports as well as the modus operandi of the attack point an accusing finger towards Pakistan-based militant outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Although the Pakistan president, Pervez Musharraf, has strongly condemned the attack it does not completely erase doubts about Pakistan’s involvement.

The cowardly act of the militants has only strengthened India’s resolve and determination to fight and root out terrorism. A near war-like situation has been thrust upon the country and we need to be on maximum alert. The sacrifice of the six police personnel and a gardener who laid down their lives for the nation should not go in vain. The opposition should stand by Vajpayee in this hour of crisis.

On the other hand, instead of harping on the Kashmir issue, Musharraf now needs to match his words with action and create an atmosphere of trust and friendship. Both the United States of America and the United Kingdom must realize that India’s patience is running out and that we may be left with no other option but to act the Israel way.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

The other domestic scene

Sir — The decision of the cabinet to finally clear the domestic violence bill is a positive step (“Cabinet clears domestic violence bill, minus teeth”, Dec 5). In India, where a serious social problem like domestic violence has long been ignored, the introduction of a law would definitely help curbing it to a considerable extent. The law would also enable women to seek legal help and take the abuser, be it the husband or the in-laws, to court. However, this does not mean that men are not victims of domestic violence at home, although statistics would reveal that such cases are still a rarity in India.

But the bill suffers from several major inadequacies. First, the Indian legal system has failed to give a comprehensive definition of domestic violence. Instead of widening it, the Centre has limited it to “habitual violence”. This would limit the effectiveness of the bill to a large extent. Another provision that has been dropped is that of an interim order, making it impossible to provide immediate relief to the woman victim. Such legal loopholes would enable the culprit to get away. Women’s rights activists are therefore justified in criticizing the Centre for passing a bill of this nature, which leaves several aspects of domestic violence unattended.

Yours faithfully,
K. Mukherjee, Calcutta

Sir — The notion that domestic violence is always directed against the woman is not entirely correct. In fact, one comes across many instances where the woman is the instigator of violence. It seems that law-makers in our country have not taken this into account when passing the domestic violence bill. They are of the opinion that women can do no wrong and that they are only helpless “victims” of domestic violence. The reverse is equally true. Men often become victims of emotional and mental abuse in the hands of their female counterparts. Why should women enjoy more freedom than men when the Constitution treats both as equal? The Indian judiciary should frame a law which also provides help to those men who are victims of domestic violence.

Yours faithfully,
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta

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