Editorial 1 / Voices within
Editorial 2 / Peso passions
Open to evil eyes
Fifth Column / Food through a faster process
Protecting the young
Document / To keep the home grounds clear
Letters to the editor

Checks and balances can help coalition politics only if they are not reduced to partisan pulls and pressures. It is not quite clear what exactly prompted the senior Forward Bloc minister in the West Bengal government, Mr Kamal Guha, to suggest that there should be a deputy chief minister to ease the workload of Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. What is clear, though, is that Mr Guha is not alone in thinking that such a post is necessary. His party had floated the idea immediately after the Left Front returned to power last May, obviously hoping to get the job if it was to be created, as it is the second largest partner of the front. But the timing of Mr Guha’s reiteration of the idea suggests that it is more a reflection of fresh tensions among the front constituents than anything else. In recent weeks, Mr Guha and other leaders of his party had taken potshots at the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for trying to suppress the voices of its junior partners. Discordant notes rang out from the Communist Party of India and the Revolutionary Socialist Party against the Marxists’ allegedly unilateral decisions on important issues. Differences within the ruling coalition over the proposed legislation against organized crime and the increase in hospital and electricity charges were out in the open. The CPI(M) leadership was so embarrassed over the partners’ public criticism of the government decisions that the front chairman, Mr Biman Bose, slapped a media ban on the dissenting voices.

The contrary signals certainly do not measure up to the New Left that Mr Bhattacharjee had promised to usher in during the election campaign. Not only can bickering partners block the government’s pro-change agenda, they could also send wrong signals about the government’s ability to carry out long-delayed reforms. At long last, potential investors, hitherto scared away by the state’s negative image, are giving a close look at West Bengal. It would be most unfortunate for the state if his cabinet colleagues — and not his political rivals — queer the chief minister’s pitch. It is crucial that Mr Bhattacharjee carries his colleagues with him in forcing the pace of his reforms. He needs also to impress upon his party to be more accommodative towards the partners. There is a great deal of justification in the complaint that the CPI(M)’s “big brotherly attitude” stands in the way of proper implementation of many rural development schemes. Even if Mr Bhattacharjee does not agree with Mr Guha’s idea of a deputy chief minister, he would do well to consider the Forward Bloc’s other suggestion that a core committee of the cabinet be set up to ensure better decision-making and monitoring of the government’s action plans.


That Argentina has defaulted on external debt worth $155 billion — the largest single default in history — is not surprising. This has been pending for more than a year, with popular support expressed for default but not devaluation. The main objective of the interim president, Mr Adolfo Rodriguez Saa, was to resist devaluation of the peso (which would have adversely affected those who hold debt in dollars). This has been ensured through the creation of a third currency that will eventually transit to a new and floating currency. Money raised through third currency bonds will solve liquidity problems faced by federal and provincial governments and perhaps help reflate the economy through emergency social spending. There has been a recession for 42 months, national income has contracted 10 per cent since 1998, unemployment is 20 per cent, real interest rates are high, and tax revenues have declined by 25 per cent in one year. In an attempt to repay external debt, the earlier government slashed spending on public health and security, and it is not surprising that 28 people died in the recent unrest. The army works part-time and soldiers in Afghanistan as part of the United Nations peace-keeping force drive taxis to pay their bills.

Since the default was expected and net lending by banks to Latin America low, the likelihood of a contagion effect is remote. However, questions will be raised, not about the market-oriented reforms that were in place, but about the wisdom of hard-currency pegs and dollarization through variants of currency boards (an euphemism for fixed exchange rates), as opposed to free-floating exchange rate regimes. (Hong Kong is the only other instance of a currency board.) In reacting to the east Asian crisis, opinion was divided between free floats and currency boards. Hopefully, this question has now been settled. Contrary to what may be argued, the problem was not public debt per se, but high real interest rates and negative growth. Questions will also be raised about International Monetary Fund’s surveillance mechanisms (for a long time Argentina was the success story) and rehabilitation mechanisms when there is threat of sovereign bankruptcy and issues of restructuring debt. To what extent must costs be borne by residents and by foreign creditors? In the Argentine case, the priority was foreign bondholders, not domestic workers and pensioners. This is the province of reforming the global financial architecture, on which substantive initiative has been lacking. Should the IMF have insisted on a balanced budget for 2002, when state employees have not been paid for months and disadvantaged groups (the old and the poor) hit the hardest? Should it have refused a $1.26 billion loan instalment on December 5?


Ever since the aborted terrorist assault on the Indian Parliament, there has been abundant speculation on the likely Indian response. Thanks to the electronic media there is no dearth of analysts and panelists who have endlessly been advising on what should be the Indian government’s reaction. The options are as varied as the political or strategic divide. If all this leaves the nation somewhat bewildered, it is not surprising. Without adding further grist to the mill, it is worth pondering why a nation that prides itself as the largest democracy with the fourth largest professional military in the world finds itself in such a sorry security dilemma.

In the course of harnessing public opinion on the prevention of terrorism ordinance, ministers have talked of over 53,000 people having become victims of terrorist attacks in India in the last two decades. It is also well known that for over ten years our security forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting terrorist forces in what has internationally been legitimized as a proxy war. The president of Pakistan today is the very person who, as his country’s army chief, brought indignity to his elected government by intruding in Kargil even as the Indian prime minister was on a bus journey of peace to Lahore. India paid with 500 lives for this short war.

All this while, terrorist attacks within India have grown bolder and more audacious from the Kandahar hijacking to the attack on the Red Fort. While both innocent civilians and the security forces continue to pay dearly with their lives, little concern appears to have been shown by the national polity. One has seen innumerable disruptions of parliamentary proceedings, walkouts and public rallies, but none in support of national security. This seems to be a concept barely understood by the guardians of our democracy who come closest to thinking about national security when corruption in defence deals becomes the subject of debate. When debates and differences invariably run on partisan lines with no consensus even on national security issues, then the nation can only watch with utter cynicism. Democracy is then seen merely as a front for self-interest and winning of elections, rather than being genuinely concerned with national security, or indeed national well-being.

It was this frayed version of democracy that was awakened on September 11. The reaction of the most powerful democracy was instant and the sheer unity of the entire nation across political and other divides was what lent strength to its sense of purpose. There were no jibes against intelligence or governmental failures (although surely there were weaknesses and failures to be redressed), but mere resolve to unite to battle a common enemy. To this writer who happened to visit the United States of America at the time, it was this unity and resolve which one found stimulating being used to the cacophony that passes off as debate in this country. In times of national crises, it is this national resolve that would translate to national morale and security response capability. Such spirit is not easy to destroy, as the remnants of the taliban and al Qaida must now surely realize.

Compare this to India. During the hijack drama, there was pathetic over- reaction with emotional relatives filling TV screens and criticism of every kind from all quarters led ably by our elected representatives leading to un warranted pressures on the government in the midst of a deepening crisis. During the Kargil campaign, whilst Indian soldiers were performing Herculean military feats at great human sacrifice, the nation was privy to the most unsavory political bickering in public and in the media. Champions of democracy rushed to be seen receiving coffins on national TV, but continued their salvo against the government for various real or perceived failures — then and there, not later in Parliament.

The common refrain was that while the sacrifice of the soldiers was admirable, the government had failed. It is fortuitous that at times such as this, soldiers on the front have neither the time nor the inclination to focus on the media, otherwise many would wonder what they were suffering and sacrificing for. This is not how a nation stands behind its fighting soldiers strengthening their morale. At the time, sitting on the side lines, this writer was frustrated enough to appeal to Common Cause for promoting sanity, in the absence of any other rational alternative.

Post-September 11, it should have been obvious to the world that terrorism had entered a new phase, most of all to the Indian security establishment and guardians of our democracy. Being sufferers of terrorism, sponsored and supported by Pakistan for over a decade, we surely did not need proof to convince ourselves of this new challenge, especially as Osama bin Laden had bracketed the US, Israel and India as his three foes. A security-conscious government would have moved into over drive simultaneously on the diplomatic, internal security and the military fronts; and a security-conscious polity and Parliament would not only have ensured that this happens, but also chastised and supported the government towards such laudable objectives.

Instead, the nation was treated with the daily soap opera of the Indian democracy at work, warts and all. Instead of a serious and meaningful debate on the bill on POTO, there was shouting and walkouts. Instead of referring the comptroller and auditor general’s report on irregularities on defence purchases to a parliamen- tary affairs committee, there was further commotion. Obviously, when high-drama politics is being played on the stage of Parliament and being telecast live to millions, even the most mature of actors tends to get carried away.

In an environment where every action seems to be guided by an eye on forthcoming elections, national security appears to be a far-fetched and abstract concept. It is this irresponsible and unaccountable form of democracy that leaves the nation open to evil eyes. And many outside are watching with keen interest. While the brave men who died doing their duty outside Parliament deserve national gratitude, a question that needs asking is what is it that has brought such national shame to this country, where, in a short span of time, the Srinagar assembly and national Parliament can be targeted with impunity?

So cynical have Indian people become that if today there is a modicum of concern expressed by people’s representatives, it is seen not as their concern for national security, but the realization that even they, within their heightened security cocoon, are vulnerable. In short, personal security, rather than national security, is suspected to be the driving concern.

Where does that leave the nation in this harsh world of diminished security? Notwithstanding our improving relations with the US, the latter will act in its own long-term interests. If that means supping today with Pervez Musharraf and asking India to exercise restraint, so be it. How long the honeymoon will last is debatable. The combined dynamics of champions of democracy and human rights, dictatorship, fundamentalism, terrorism, hatred, jihad and fidayeen is too complex even for the players themselves to comprehend.

As for Pakistan, apart from being a dictator, Musharraf also carries the label of betraying not just the taliban but also his soldiers whose bodies he disowned during the Kargil conflict. That he cosied up to the Indian media during the Agra summit and scored some brownie points is typical of his double standards.

There is serious concern amongst security analysts that the Indian polity does not understand national security and its wider ramifications. If true, this is a dangerous pitfall. It is time for the nation as a whole to awaken to this reality. In the ultimate analysis, every nation will act in its own self-interest. Instead of looking over its shoulders, India has to determine where its security interests lie and act accordingly. If indeed our parliamentarians wish to contribute to enhancing national security, let Parliament pursue with diligence and vigour the follow-up actions on the post-Kargil group-of-ministers recommendations on intelligence, management of defence and related issues, and set an outside time limit for their complete implementation. This would not only be a welcome first step towards an integrated national security outlook, but the peoples representatives would also have made a significant contribution to enhancing the nation’s security capability.

The author is retired air marshal of the Indian air force


In a bid to attract foreign investment in the processed food sector, the Union government is likely to come out with a national food processing policy during the forthcoming session of Parliament. The proposed policy aims at removing constraints like the high taxation structure and multiplicity of laws and agencies confronting the sector, besides making investments more profitable.

The government intends to enact an umbrella legislation by synthesizing the plethora of laws governing the agro-processing sector and also introduce a comprehensive food development act. The aim is substantial value addition and increasing the processing level from a meagre 2 per cent, at present, to 10 per cent by 2010, for which an investment of about Rs 1,40,000 crore is required. The policy would not only play a significant role in ensuring the growth of the industry, but also in generating considerable employment opportunities.

Given the levels of investment required for the food processing sector to take off, the Centre wants the states and the private sector to share the burden and has sought private sector investment in setting up a cold storage chain, processing units and food testing labs. The upgradation of the food-processing sector, requires a daunting investment of Rs 1,40,000 crore over ten years, and the government does not have this kind of money to spare.

Tutti frutti policy

It is the sector in which the mismatch between growing demand and supply may lead to an invasion of foreign products. The estimated size of the Indian food processing industry is Rs 2,50,000 crore. India is also the world’s second largest producer of fruits and vegetables with an annual production of around 50 million tonnes of fruit and 70 million tonnes of vegetables. However, only 2 per cent of the total fruits and vegetables produced are processed, as against 40 per cent in other developing countries.

The lack of infrastructure is a great constraint on the industry. It is also baffling why the industry remains regulated through innumerable laws, rules and orders. It also has to cope with a multiplicity of agencies such as the Agricultural Product Export Development Authority and Marine Products Export Development Authority and various commodity boards dealing with items such as cashew, tea and coffee.

With modernization, it is likely that the variety of processed fruits and vegetables would increase in the coming years. It can be hoped that our policy-makers and planners would come up with a target to commercially process at least 35 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables annually.

Break the rules

This would raise the level of commercial processing from the present 1 per cent to about 25 per cent of the total produce. But to achieve this, the industry still requires help from the government.

It is imperative that a Processed Food Regulation Authority is set up. The industry also needs financial help from companies in order to establish a large marketing network and invest in the latest technology. The government should provide soft loans and assistance in the interest of improving the export potential of this sector. Obviously, a value-addition to fruits and vegetables, could result in generating employment in rural areas and also increase the income of farmers, as it is well-known that the processing of fruits and vegetables offers higher economic returns per hectare than cereal crops because of their high productivity and value- addition.

India has a huge potential to produce a wide range of horticultural crops. However, at present around 30 to 40 per cent of the 110 million tonnes of fruit, vegetables and plantation crops are wasted because of the lack of proper storage and processing facilities. The industry and the government need to work out a policy which will remove all obstacles to the growth of the industry. All aspects of supply, structure of the industry, distribution, consumer attitudes and policies need to be examined and overhauled, for the food processing industry to contribute a significant amount to the national income.


Last year in December, a Swiss couple was arrested after activists belonging to the Forum Against Child Sexual Exploitation tipped off the Mumbai police about their involvement in a possible child abuse racket. A year before that, in 1999, a Sri Lankan organization, Protecting Children and Environment Everywhere, in the first such study of its kind in Sri Lanka also concluded that 100 young people are exploited or abused every day on the island. In Pakistan, human rights groups, too, reported the widespread abuse young boys were subjected to in parts of the deeply conservative North West Frontier Province.

Sexual exploitation of children has been recognized as a major threat to the safety of the world’s children ever since the first world congress against commercial sexual exploitation of children was convened in Stockholm in 1996. But while major regions of the world have now set up their own national plans in tandem with international efforts, the children of south Asia still remain vulnerable to the ever-increasing threats of commercial exploitation. And if the Convention on the Rights of the Child is to be believed, there are other more shocking violations of children’s rights besides commercial sexual exploitation.

The CRC, ratified by the United Nations member states in 1989, remains the most comprehensive and the most widely accepted set of principles for the universal protection of children and their rights. Articles 31 to 37 in it outline the rights to education, leisure and development, and establish prohibitions upon various forms of abuse, including economic and sexual exploitation. Yet, in the last three decades alone, trafficking in children and women for sex in the Asia-Pacific region alone has victimized some three crore people. Large numbers are still being trafficked in west and central Africa, mainly for domestic work but also for sexual exploitation. In the world’s most developed nation, the United States of America, the number of child victims is around 325,000.

Trafficking in humans for commercial sexual exploitation has flourished for many reasons, including war, deepening poverty, rapid urbanization, break-up of traditional families, loss of community, consumerist values, and the growing reach of the mass media. At the first world congress in 1996, governments of 122 countries, non-governmental organizations, the End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism campaign, UNICEF and other UN agencies, other concerned organizations and individuals worldwide, committed themselves to a global partnership against the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

After Stockholm, three new treaties came into effect at the global level to address sexual exploitation and abuse — an International Labour Organization convention that called the involvement of children in prostitution and pornography one of the worst forms of child labour; a protocol on trafficking that was added to the UN convention against transnational organized crime, and the optional protocol to the convention on the rights of the child that strengthened international prohibitions on the sale of children.

Since 1996, 21 nations have also adopted extra-territorial legislation to prosecute nationals who have committed offences against children in other countries. Another real achievement was the changes made to the law in certain countries to allow abusers to be prosecuted at home for crimes committed against children abroad. In 1990, the commission on human rights also appointed a special rapporteur with a mandate to collect and analyze comprehensive data and to recommend measures aimed at eliminating the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography at the international, regional and national levels.

Additionally, the congress also sought to promote the development of national plans to combat all forms of such abuse in the specific contexts in which they occur. Thirty-four countries have since developed national plans of action against commercial sexual exploitation of children and 26 more are developing such plans. Still, the UN believes, it has only just begun to scratch the surface of the problem. Moreover, not all of the post-Stockholm legislation and enforcement measures are looked upon from the perspective of the sexually exploited child. A significant proportion of prosecutions fail because children are either reluctant to appear or are not regarded as credible witnesses, and they still lack the power and support structures that enable them to effectively defend themselves against sexual exploitation.

Over the past five years, there has been greater awareness and involvement of the sections concerned. This was evident from the run-up to the second world congress that met in Yokohama between December 17-20. Since mid-2001, there have been a series of UNICEF-organized regional consultations, the most recent one being convened in Budapest, Hungary, to allow a wider number of people to participate in the preparatory process and to focus on regional issues and specificities.

In Yokohama, efforts were concentrated more on the progress made on the global level so far and to assess the work that still remains. However, the measurement of progress has been considerably impeded by the lack of specific details in reports made by member countries on their implementation of the CRC.

This congress saw the participation of children who detailed their own experiences in its opening sessions. Participants also acknowledged the more serious challenges that have emerged since Stockholm, more specifically, the major increase in the availability of child pornography because of the emergence of the internet.

More than 3,000 representatives from governments, the UN and voluntary groups adopted what is now being called the Yokohama global commitment. It says that the inaugural conference five years ago in Stockholm had generated a greater awareness of the problem. But new forms of abuse that were emerging, particularly through the trade of child pornography on the internet, needed to be urgently tackled. Several NGOs were critical of the fact that over 50 countries have been drawing up plans to combat the sexual exploitation of children, but they had remained empty promises. The more urgent need was additional funding to tackle the problem seriously. Several countries so far have been remarkably tawdry in translating programmes, which anyway remain on paper, into legislation.

But if nations and delegates need to be goaded into action, they only need to tune in to an unusual radio programme that is broadcast weekly in the central Philippine island of Cebu, where the victims themselves offer a way out. With its many air and sea links to adjacent Filipino islands like Mindanao and Negros, Cebu has become a significant trans-shipment point for children being trafficked from the poorer southern Philippines to Manila and the north. This occurs in spite of the fact that children in the Philippines are protected by a powerful and progressive legislation — Republic Act 76/10.

The programme that is aired each Sunday, Tingog sa Kabataan (or Voice of the Children) is a forum for youngsters who have, at some point of time, been victims of sexual abuse in one form or another. The 30-minute broadcast, that is a medley of music, chat, laughter, also has harrowing first-hand testimony about the many trafficking, pornography and prostitution networks that operate on the island. These youngsters hope to warn other impressionable children about the dangers of being lured into the commercial sex trade.

Voice of the Children is a rare success story in the campaign against the sexual exploitation of children. As some activists say it is a Filipino value to keep children quiet. But programmes like this will only provide more venues for children to speak up, and more people are listening to these. While they might not like what they are hearing, they are, at least, listening now.


States parties shall take appropriate measures, before granting asylum, for the purpose of ensuring that asylum is not granted to any person in respect of whom there are reasonable grounds indicating his involvement in any offence... State parties shall cooperate in the prevention of the offences....

By taking all practicable measures, including... adapting their domestic legislation, to prevent and counter preparation in their respective territories for the commission, by whomsoever and in whatever manner, of those offences within or outside their territories, including;

Measures to prohibit in their territories the establishment and operation of installations and training for the commission, within or outside their territories, of offences...and

Measures to prohibit the illegal activities of the persons, groups and organizations that encourage , instigate, organize, knowingly finance or engage in the commission, within or outside their territories, offences...

By exchanging accurate and verified information in accordance with their national law, and coordinating administrative and other measures taken as appropriate to prevent the commission of offences...

Each state party...shall take the necessary measures to enable a legal entity located in its territory or organized under its laws to be held liable when a person responsible for the management or control of that legal entity has...committed an offence .... Such liability may be criminal, civil or administrative.

Such liability is incurred without prejudice to the criminal liability of individuals having committed the offences.

Each state party shall ensure in particular, that legal entities liable... are subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal, civil or administrative sanctions. Such sanctions may include monetary sanctions.

Upon receiving information that a person who has committed or who is alleged to have committed an offence ... may be present in its territory, the state party concern ed shall take such measures as may be necessary under its domestic law to investigate the facts contained in the information.

Upon being satisfied that the circumstances so warrant, the state party in whose territory the offender or alleged offender is present, shall take the appropriate measures...so as to ensure that person’s presence for the purpose of prosecution or extradition.

Any person regarding whom the measures... are being taken shall be entitled to; communicate without delay with the nearest appropriate representative of the state of which that person is a national or which is otherwise entitled to protect that person’s right or, if that person is a stateless person the state in the territory of which that person habitually resides;

Be visited by a representative of that state; be informed of that person’s rights...

The rights ... shall be exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations of the state in the territory of which the offender or the alleged offender is present subject to the provision that the said laws and regulations must enable full effect to be given to the purposes for which the rights...are intended.

The provisions... shall be without the prejudice to the right of any state party having acclaimed to jurisdiction ...to invite the International Committee of the Red Cross to communicate with and visit the alleged offender.

When a state party, pursuant to the present article, has taken a person into custody, it shall immediately notify, directly or through the secretary-general of the United Nations, the states parties which have established jurisdiction...and if it considers it advisable, any other interested states parties, of the fact that such person is in custody and of the circumstances which warrant that person’s detention. The state which makes the investigation... shall promptly inform the said states parties of its findings and shall indicate whether it intends to exercise jurisdiction.

To Be Concluded



Losing her touch

Sir — Mamata Banerjee seems to have finally lost her grip over reality (“Mamata grabs at fissures in Front”, Dec 25). Her desperation is clearly evident from her attempt to take advantage of the recent criticism of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) by the Forward Bloc, which is the second largest constituent of the Left Front. Banerjee’s naivete and political immaturity come to light in her statements regarding a possible understanding between her party and the Forward Bloc. Unlike her, front partners are known for their constancy and do not switch loyalties regularly. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Banerjee’s innuendos have invited a sharp retort from the Forward Bloc secretary, Ashok Ghosh. The assembly elections this year have already pointed towards the declining popularity of the Trinamool Congress leader. It is time Banerjee tried devoting her attention to constructive politics, that is, if she wants to avoid political isolation.

Yours faithfully,
Gautam Lahiri, Calcutta

Left side story

Sir — Leading communists, if they also happen to be columnists, can seldom resist the temptation of bringing in politics even when they are discussing sports (“Crusade on the field”, Dec 7). It is this mindset that prompts Ashok Mitra to draw a parallel between the foreign policies of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the performance of the Indian cricket team abroad.

In fact, while analysing the Mike Denness episode, Mitra repeatedly betrays his warped logic. That decisions on the cricket field are often influenced by racial prejudice is a well known fact. However, to say that the United States of America’s victories in Afghanistan further buoyed Denness’s racial superiority and “hauteur” is a bit much. For Mitra, Denness’s conduct is symptomatic of a crusade declared by the “whiteys” on the non-whites. He, perhaps, deliberately glosses over the fact that the US is the only country where racial minorities enjoy equal rights and are playing an important role in society.

It is also interesting to note that most leftist intellectuals in our country are only too quick to take out processions to protest against US policies in Afghanistan. However, the indiscriminate killing of security personnel in Kashmir or the torture of Hindu minorities in Bangladesh do not get the same amount of attention. Mitra could well ponder over this inconsistency. It is strange that Mitra should use the opportunity to take potshots at the external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, who is in no way involved in the issue.

Yours faithfully,
Pabitra Kumar Das, via email

Sir — Ashok Mitra is right in pointing out in “Crusade on the field”, that cricket would lose much of its appeal and glamour if countries like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka stop playing it. The last decade has been marked by the phenomenal rise of players from the subcontinent — Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya, Wasim Akram and many others. While the Australian team has proved its standing as one of the best teams in the world, the fortunes of the English cricket team have fallen with the younger generation preferring football to cricket.

Mitra’s tongue-in-cheek analysis of the issue was not only entertaining but also accurate. He fittingly points out that instead of punishing the likes of Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag, Denness should have directed his attack on Tendulkar alone. That Tendulkar was guilty is a fact that has been acknowledged even by his most devout fans. By targetting Tendulkar, Denness could have avoided the unnecessary controversy and the embarrassment of being removed by the United Cricket Board of South Africa.

Yours faithfully,
Ishita Ganguly, Calcutta

Sir — It is a pity that the English are yet to forego their colonial mindset. While cricket was traditionally a game played by “whites”, it is the non-whites, or countries like West Indies, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka that have played an important part in popularizing the game. It is also surprising that while a Ricky Ponting or a Glenn Mcgrath can get away with aggressive behaviour on field, a Sourav Ganguly gets punished. Racism is an ugly word and Ashok Mitra should realize that his criticism of Mike Denness notwithstanding, there is very little that he or anyone else can do about prevailing attitudes and prejudices. The only way to fight back is to give a fitting reply on the field.

Yours faithfully,
Debalina Majumder, Calcutta

Stick to the line

Sir — Despite the constant flow of passengers between Durgapur and Bokaro city, there is a paucity of trains running on this route. While the Shatabdi Express remains the bastion of the elite, ordinary middle-class passengers have to go through the rather harrowing experience of a ten hour overnight journey on the Howrah-Bokaro passenger train. There is an urgent need for new trains. Alternatively, the authorities could ensure the extension of the Coalfield or the Black Diamond Express up to the Steel city as a stop-gap measure.

Yours faithfully,
K. Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — A great deal has been written about the removal of hawkers from the platforms of Sealdah station. However, the administration is yet to take any action. I commute regularly between Howrah to Bandel and have noticed that railway platforms have become the permanent hunting grounds for vendors. Many of them have even constructed permanent shops and are overcrowding the platforms. Passengers find it difficult to board or disembark from trains. It is particularly risky for elderly people and for women and children. It is a pity that both the state government and the railway authorities have failed to realize that this is not the right way of providing employment to people. It would be nice to see clean platforms in the major railway stations in West Bengal. The railway authorities cannot go on neglecting the interests of the commuters for much longer.

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti Ray, Mankundu

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