Editorial 1/ Labouring Men
Editorial 2/ More to rape
At the edge of default
Making it with Dolly
Document/ Rights, requests and executions
Letters to the editor

Labour is in the concurrent list of the Constitution and both the Centre and the states can legislate on labour. Broadly, labour laws can be divided into three heads of wage-related laws, social security-related laws and industrial relations-related laws. The reformer’s argument has been that most labour laws apply to the organized labour force of 8 per cent and also make labour markets artificially rigid. This leads to empirically documented high capital intensity and prevents creation of new jobs. The argument is especially relevant for laws on industrial relations — the Industrial Disputes Act, the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act and the Trade Unions Act. Amendments to both IDA and CLA were promised by the finance minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, in his budget speech, but got stuck between the group of ministers, labour ministry, finance ministry, the Planning Commission and the labour commission. Meanwhile, Mr Sinha was lambasted for having failed to deliver on this budget promise. To try and push matters, the group of ministers was reconstituted under Mr K.C. Pant’s chairmanship and Mr Satyanarain Jatiya was replaced by Mr Sharad Yadav. There is limited movement on IDA. There are several dysfunctional elements in IDA, but the contentious section has been chapter V-B, with provisions that retrenchment, layoff and closure require prior permission of appropriate government. This requirement applies to enterprises that employ more than 100 workers, with some inter-state variations on the threshold.

Chapter V-A requires information about retrenchment, layoff and closure to be given to governments. However, the prior permission requirement of chapter V-B makes the government a mandatory third party to all industrial disputes. The IDA may date to 1947, but the dysfunctional chapter V-B was inserted in 1976 and there is no evidence to indicate that labour was exploited prior to this insertion. Therefore, the Montek Singh Ahluwalia report on employment recommended that chapter V-B be deleted. But this will lead to the labour aristocracy of 8 per cent being up in arms. The budget speech suggested a compromise. Chapter V-B would be retained, but would be made applicable to enterprises with more than one thousand workers. An estimated 95 per cent of Indian enterprises would thus be outside the purview of chapter V-B. Simultaneously, to deter retrenchment and layoff, the compensatory package would be increased from 15 days (for every year served) to 45 days.

This is the proposal that the group of ministers and the labour ministry have now agreed to and labour ministry will prepare a note for the cabinet. With the expected cabinet clearance, there will finally be a bill that will be placed before Parliament. Actual amendments to IDA are therefore several years down the line. But at least a consensus has emerged on IDA within government, if not outside it. Unfortunately, this consensus is not true of CLA and the government seems to have adopted the path of least resistance. Since labour is on the concurrent list, each state is free to do what it wishes and Maharashtra has introduced flexibility into section 10 of CLA to permit outsourcing. This has been approved, with the idea that if the Maharashtra experiment is successful, other states will follow suit. Is it surprising that there are more investments in Maharashtra than in West Bengal?


Indian law needs to broaden its understanding of rape. The law commission’s level-headed revaluation of the rape laws might prove to be more useful than the Union home minister’s unthinking advocacy of capital punishment for convicted rapists. The commission’s 172nd report to the Union government has attempted to reopen the issue of rape at the conceptual as well as the procedural levels. By recommending changes simultaneously in the Indian penal code, the criminal procedure code and the Indian Evidence Act, the report — if taken seriously by the Centre — could mark a crucial shift in the social and legal perceptions of not only rape, but also of sexuality in general.

The report recommends extending the notion of “rape” as a punishable offence to that of “sexual assault”. This is effected principally by unshackling the definition of rape from proven vaginal penetration. This immediately brings within the purview of law forms of sexual violence and abuse that would otherwise have slipped through the loopholes of the existing laws. It could also simplify the evidentiary procedure, and make rape laws gender-neutral. Legal acknowledgment of the reality of males being raped, or sexually assaulted, would indeed mark an important advance in Indian sociolegal attitudes. Significantly, the report also recommends the deletion of section 377 of the IPC. This section on “unnatural offences” is a monument to Victorian prejudice and vagueness, and legitimizes the punitive excesses of a corrupt and homophobic police force. The report pertinently, but shyly, asks whether it is not wrong to continue to treat “non-consensual” penetration “on par with certain forms of consensual penetration (e.g. consensual homosexual sex)”. The relentless details with which the report describes various forms of sexual assault do falter into coyness when talking about the “unnatural”. Commission reports often end up being ignored, and legal reform cannot guarantee social change. But the law commission may have taken an important step towards sexual justice with this report.


Eminent economists had praised Argentina’s adoption of a currency board as an effective means of depoliticizing monetary policy. Domingo Cavallo, who became economy minister of Argentina in 1991, had set up the currency board with a parity of 1:1 for Argentina’s peso and the dollar. Growing confidence in Argentina’s currency and the accompanying measures by the government to control fiscal deficit led initially to a remarkable turnaround. Argentines, who had experienced inflationary troubles for many years, felt that Cavallo’s remedy worked. However, this remedy has proved disastrous.

In recent times, the currency board had been advocated by economists led by Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University. Hanke was, indeed, in favour of the currency board as a solution for even the southeast Asian economies in distress. The Indonesian government had itself toyed with the idea of a currency board. But, at that time, the International Monetary Fund under Stanley Fischer’s wise leadership, advised Indonesia against the proposal.

Argentina’s experience shows that the expectations of a sustained turnaround as a result of a currency board set up are misplaced. What the currency board does is to insulate the currency expansion of the country from political pressures since the currency issued for the country under a currency board has to be fully supported by the foreign exchange reserve with the board. The currency board is a legacy of the colonial system. The British had introduced the currency board in their former colonies. The most successful examples of currency boards are those of Singapore and Hong Kong.

When Cavallo became economy minister of Argentina ten years ago, he pushed through the currency board. Some IMF officials, impressed by his success, even recommended the model to other Latin American countries, who fortunately rejected the advice. Cavallo’s experiment had the further feature that it was with a 1:1 per dollar parity. This led to Argentina’s exports becoming noncompetitive. More so in the context of Brazil devaluing its currency, the real. Further, the overall appreciation of the dollar against the rest of the world’s currencies made Argentina’s exports even more non-competitive. Argentina was in a classical bind. It could not increase its exports by resorting to the conventional remedy of devaluation because the artificial peg of one dollar is equal to one peso. All that Argentina had was a psychological boost — that its currency was as mighty as the dollar.

Fiscal contraction came on top of export slowdown and Argentina plunged into a recession. Unemployment rose to 18 per cent. Inflation was controlled, the economy itself was in deep depression. The result was social disruption and political unrest.

The Argentines had looked in vain to Cavallo to repeat the miracle of 1991. Cavallo tried many tricks, but failed. Absence of adequate export earnings and capital fund flows resulted in balance of payments breakdown. The Argentine government with its $135 billion debt had no recourse but to default on debt repayments. An infructous attempt to solve the problem temporarily by asking existing bondholders for a reduction in interest rate misfired. It was rightly mistaken for a default.

Ultimately, Argentina approached the IMF for assistance, but too late. By the time the approach was made, the attitude of the US administration had hardened against continuing bailouts. In fact, the new treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, criticized the Bill Clinton administration’s bailouts for financial irresponsibility through large bail- outs.

While IMF dithered and the US played with the problem, the Argentine public took to the streets with their protests against the severe expenditure cuts and social disruption. The government of Fernando de la Rua had to fall and Cavallo had to resign. A new administration has now taken over, but the problems remain.

Some observers have castigated the Argentine government for too strict a follow up of conventional wisdom on macroeconomic management. Fiscal stability is, of course, a desirable goal. But, fiscal rectitude can sometimes be a reckless obsession, especially when it affects the social fabric of a country. The bondholders of Wall Street do not care for how a government finances its repayment of its dues. They are more concerned with their own bottomline. A bankrupt country, like Argentina, when denied access to foreign exchange resources for whatever reasons finds itself incapable of running its economy.

The remedies that are now being suggested for the Argentine economy follow the conventional lines — “Devalue and settle with the lenders”. If Argentina is to survive it needs IMF’s aid, at whatever cost. The conditionalities of IMF will, of course, lead to further fiscal compression and the deepening of recession in Argentina.

One of the remedies suggested is “dollarization”, which would allow the dollar to circulate in the country in place of the peso. The advocates of this measure cite the experience of countries like Panama and Liberia. Dollarization will not, however, solve Argentina’s basic problem of low growth to the dollar. Dollarization also surrenders monetary sovereignty to the over-lordship of the US Federal Reserve. However superior the US Federal Reserve may be under Alan Greenspan, it would be foolhardy to imagine that Argentina’s interest will count for much in his monetary policy decisions.

The main lessons of Argentina’s default are clear. No gimmick, such as currency board or dollarization, can solve a country’s basic problem when a country lives beyond its means. An unsustainable Bop cannot be made sustainable by devious and ingenious devices. The only solution to the BoP problem is to take holistic reform measures, which would increase export earnings, compress imports and enhance investment flows.

While a currency board does increase temporarily the confidence of investors through the assurance of convertibility, it also affects the fundamentals of the economy. There is no getting away from the need to adopt sound macroeconomic policies and structural change, which will ensure a more competitive industry and agriculture and a sustainable fiscal balance. Currency boards and dollarization will not enable Argentina to avoid the bitter medicine that the IMF conditionalities will involve.

One consequence of Argentina’s default is that it will find it next to impossible in the immediate future to revive foreign fund flows. This experience reminds me of the counsel received in favour of default, but wisely rejected, at the time of the 1991 crisis in India. A view expressed then was that avoidance of default was a petit bourgeois virtue. It would be much better, in that view, to face the world and show that India had to default. Fortunately, better counsel prevailed and the then prime minister, Chandra Shekhar and his finance minister, as well as the then economic adviser, Manmohan Singh, agreed to the proposal to pledge gold and take a loan to repay the immediate instalment of the short-term loan that had fallen due.

While the ignominy of pledging gold was, no doubt, a political disadvantage, the economic consequences of a default would have been disastrous. It is fortunate that we had at that time the leadership of Manmohan Singh, Chandra Shekhar and later P. V. Narasimha Rao, who decided to adopt a more holistic and courageous approach to the economic problems that India faced. Not for them, the clever approaches of a currency board or dollarization. They faced the issue frontally and adopted the necessary measures that were needed to place India’s economy on a firm footing.

Fortunately for us, the size of India’s commercial debt at the time of the 1991 crisis was not too large. Most of India’s external debt had been taken from multilateral institutions. Rajiv Gandhi’s government, which had been under attack for its alleged omissions and commissions, had in this respect succeeded in avoiding excessive commercial borrowing, in spite of contrary counsel by multilateral institutions, whose representatives told India to resort to more commercial borrowing since global banks had surplus funds. Mention must also be made of the role of Yashwant Sinha, who as finance minister, took the potentially unpopular decision to pledge gold and to go to IMF.

It is now 10 years since India teetered at the edge of default. Argentina’s political confusion arising from default shows the dangers that India avoided. While there may be much to criticize in India’s current macroeconomic policies, Argentina’s problem shows that there is much to fear from policies of reckless rectitude and financial compression. While inflation is, indeed, a danger to be avoided, recession and unemployment are much greater evils for which Argentina’s ruling elite has paid a heavy price.

While India has been lucky to avoid such dangerous extremes as Argentina, there is still a lot to learn from the experience. The present international financial architecture does not too readily help a country in distress. Gimmicks like currency board and dollarization have limited value. A country that depends on external capital flows alone for its BoP does so at risk. When the flows stop, the economy has also to close down. A sustainable BoP is one which depends on a manageable balance of trade and reasonable capital inflows. A wise economic policy is that which encourages the growth of the economy, and incentivizes exports, while maintaining fiscal balance.

The author is former governor, Reserve Bank of India


From gene therapy to genetically modified foods, issues involving DNA evoke ethical rhetoric and fiercely polarized opinions. At the centre of the debate seems to be the possibility of human cloning. On the one hand, cloning may help unravel some of the mysteries of our biological existence and lead to cures for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, spinal-cord injury, heart disease and any other condition involving cell-death. On the other hand, history has often shown the dire consequences of scientific progress motivated by ill-considered ethics and policy. Then again, at the core of this tension may be the fact that cloning challenges our notion of the self and the basic meaning of “being”.

Since Dolly, the cloned sheep, made her entrance several years ago, there has been considerable concern regarding the effect of such a project on human society. In January 1998, as a response to Dolly, the council of Europe drafted a protocol on prohibition of cloning human beings as part of the existing European convention on human rights and bio-medicine. The protocol commits countries that signed to ban by law any intervention seeking to create human beings genetically identical to another human being, whether living or dead, without exception. The reasons, rooted in philosophical and pragmatic concerns, are to protect the identity of human beings, preserve the random character of naturally occurring genetic recombination, and prevent instrumentalization through artificial cloning.

Apart from the political, philosophical, and legal aspects of human cloning, many questioned the science’s feasibility and safety. Many have questioned the feasibility of “generating” human beings and were vociferously opposing any legislation against a process that was yet to prove its viability. The possibility, however, seemed close to reality when two researchers initiating the human cloning project — Panos Zavos, professor emeritus of reproductive physiology and andrology at the University of Kentucky and director of the Andrology Institute of America, and his Italian colleague, Severino Antinori — planned to produce a viable embryo within a year to 18 months.

Antinori is a fertility expert who is well known for helping postmenopausal women conceive. Zavos had assembled an international team of experts from the human reproductive field of the last quarter century, including a scientist who cloned mice for the first time in 1979, to develop the project. The purpose of their project as they contended is to help infertile couples have children. Now that an American biotech company declared that it has developed the world’s first cloned human embryo, there remains very little room to ruminate on the scientific feasibility of this project. It would be prudent of nations to draft legislation to ban the misuse of this technology.

Although most countries have gone public against the factory production of homo sapiens, the ground reality as far as enacting laws are concerned does not always represent this animosity. Germany, for example, declined to sign because it felt that the measure was weaker than its own already existing law banning human embryo research. Legislation banning cloning seems to showcase a variety as wide ranging as opinions regarding the science and ethics. The laws range from the exclusion of cloning processes from patent protection in Australia, to the prohibition of the application of federal funding, to human cloning research in Missouri, to penal prohibitions in California.

In the United Kingdom, the House of Lords decided in January 2001 to allow the cloning of human embryos under the stipulation that clones are not allowed to live beyond 14 days. The policy was hailed as placing Britain on the leading edge of medical research. In the arena of human reproductive cloning, however, the policy is not as permissive. In April 2001, the British health secretary, Alan Milburn, announced an initiative that would catapult human reproductive cloning from the licensing arena to the legislative one.

At the time of the announcement, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority could issue a license for cloning experiments. In future, UK plans to ban human cloning by law, not just by license. The government publicly declared its intention in the near future to explicitly ban human reproductive cloning in the UK.

In the United States of America, the issue has caused a ripple in the congress. In March 28, 2001, a hearing held by the house subcommittee on oversight and investigations, and representatives from the industry, academia, and religious and ethical communities presented their views. Critics of current efforts in human cloning, including those of Zavos, declared their opposition to any such effort, pointing out that it is dangerous and irresponsible because of high rates of foetal death and evidence of abnormalities in cloned animals. However, attention was drawn to the distinction between the use of cloning technology to create a new human being and other important uses of the technology, such as cloning specific human cells, genes and other tissues that do not and cannot lead to a cloned human being.

These other important uses are integral to the production of breakthrough medicines and diagnostic procedures, and are considered by many, including the fiercest critics, as essential components of biomedical research. Following the US hearing, several members of the congress introduced legislation prohibiting cloning for reproductive purposes. Of the six congressional bills introduced to date (with an additional one pending in the House of Representatives), four are from the House of Representatives and two are from the senate. Already, five states have enacted legislation to directly prohibit human cloning, and ten states have laws regulating research on embryos and foetuses that could also restrict cloning activities.

Currently, in the US, research using cloning technologies comes under the jurisdiction of the food and drug administration. Researchers must submit an investigational new drug application request to the FDA, which the agency reviews to determine if the research can proceed.

India is yet to draft any legislation that would safeguard against the mala fide use of cloning technology. It is time India took steps to abort effectively any attempt by any scientific groups to take the nation by surprise. Adequate laws should be created to ban the cloning of human beings per se, but keeping provisions for the use of the technology for necessary biomedical research. But before that, the government should formulate definitions of a human being, a live foetus and other such contentious elements, according to our cultural and social norms, bringing biomedical, social and religious authorities together.


If the request relates to a person already convicted and sentenced, it shall also be accompanied by a certificate of the conviction and sentence and a statement that the person is not entitled to question the conviction and sentence and showing how much of the sentence has not been carried out. If the requested state considers that the evidence produced or information supplied is not sufficient in order to enable a decision to be taken as to the request, additional evidence or information shall be submitted within such time as the requested state may require.

A request shall be executed according to the domestic law of the quested state and, to the extent not contrary to the domestic law of the quested state and where possible, in accordance with the procedures specified in the request. The requesting state shall not transmit or use information or evidence furnished by the requested state for investigations, prosecutions or proceedings other than those stated in the request without the prior consent of the requested state.

Any person who is returned to the territory of the requesting state under this convention shall not be dealt with in the territory of the requesting state for or in respect of any offence committed before he was returned to that territory other than the offence with respect to which he was returned, any lesser offence disclosed by the facts proved for the purpose of securing his return other than an offence in relation to which an order for his return could not lawfully be made, or any other offence in respect of which the requested state may consent to his being dealt with...

If extradition of the same person, whether for the same offence or for different offences, is requested by two states parties, or by a state and a third state with which the requested state has an extradition arrangement, the requested state shall determine to which state the person shall be extradited.

When a request for extradition is granted, the requested state shall, upon request and as far as its law allows, hand over to the requesting state articles, which may serve as proof for evidence of the offence. If the articles in question are liable to seizure or confiscation in the territory of the requested state, the latter may, in connection with pending proceedings, temporarily retain them or hand them over on condition that they are returned. This provision shall not prejudice the rights of the requested state of any person other than the persons sought. When these rights exist, the articles shall on request be returned to the requested state without charge as soon as possible after the end of the proceedings.

Reasons shall be given for any refusal of extradition. If criminal proceedings against the person sought are instituted in the territory of the requested state, or the person is lawfully detained in consequence of criminal proceedings, the decision whether or not to extradite the person may be postponed until the criminal proceedings have been completed or he or she is no longer detained.

The ordinary costs of executing a request shall be borne by the requested state, unless otherwise agreed by the state parties concerned. If expenses of a substantial or extraordinary nature are or will be required to fulfil the request, the state parties shall consult to determine the terms and conditions under which the requests will be executed as well as the manner in which the costs shall be borne. The state parties shall consider, as may be necessary, the possibility of concluding bilateral or multilateral agreements or arrangements that would serve the purposes of, give practical effect to, or enhance the provisions of this annex.




Guess who’s coming to town

Sir — So Cherie and Tony Blair have a new wardrobe of fashionable Indian clothes. In all probability, that is likely to be the bottomline of the Blairs’ visit to India and the much-hyped Confederation of Indian Industry meet (“Cherie model for hubby Blair”, Jan 4). The fact that the technology war between Bangalore and Hyderabad got fuelled is only the flipside of it. N. Chandrababu Naidu need take no exception to the few hours’ halt of the Blairs in Hyderabad. The Bangalore stay has no significance other than indicating that the Bangalore lobby has a stronger hold on the ministry deciding Blair’s itinerary. The Blair’s arrival undoubtedly lends a lot of importance to the CII meet. But the timing seems a bit awry. The arrival of Blair in India with the Indian prime minister away for a southeast Asian association for regional cooperation meet in Kathmandu seems strange. The importance on the attendance at the CII meet is probably to imply that Blair is here more for foreign investment than the subcontinental peace process. Even then it is unlikely that Pakistan will not attempt to arrange a counter-visit of Blair to prove its point again.
Yours faithfully,
T.C. Chowdhury, Calcutta

Lighting their way

Sir — Anuradha Kumar’s “Protecting the young” (Dec 26) and Monobina Gupta’s “Marking the end of innocence” (Dec 31) brings to mind the situation in Calcutta. The number of child prostitutes in the city is reported to have markedly gone up in recent times. A survey carried out by a local daily found that there were as many as 8,000 child prostitutes in the city proper alone. A number which is roughly 30 per cent less than that of the number of adult prostitutes.

Unless the matter is looked into soon, the number of child prostitutes is likely to equal that of the adult population in the flesh trade in only a few years time. On a visit to one red-light area with some non-government organization volunteers I found that girls between 13 and 16, who had apparently joined the profession willingly, were in great demand among customers because they were thought to be less likely to have contracted AIDS. We were also surprised to find that most of them had expressed reluctance to take on any other job offered, which meant that the factor of exploitation is not applicable in all cases.

Poverty and the lack of education are the causes behind the flourishing flesh trade, although there might be exceptions to this deduction as well. Trafficking in women and children is a world wide phenomenon and should be stopped. Legalization of prostitution is not going to help matters. Instead, governments should see that sex-workers are less harassed by the state machinery and at least some improvement can be made in their working environment.

Yours faithfully,
Diptimoy Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — Anuradha Kumar’s “Protecting the young” is exhaustive in its scope, and talks of the existing regulations on the prevention of child sexual abuse as much as the new measures that are required from the government. As Kumar makes it plain, there are a penumbra of regulations to prevent the sexual exploitation of women and children, none which seems to be really working. What could be the solution? It is probably essential that individual governments do a lot more policing in their own territories, particularly in case of the new internet crimes. But what is essential is sensitizing the police and the human welfare organizations that deal with the cases. Monobina Gupta in “Marking the end of innocence” draws attention to this aspect. In fact, it is primarily the workings of these state hands that nullify the advantages of having a good legislation.

There are other aspects also, as Kumar points out — the voice of the exploited which is completely muffled in most countries, and especially in India. They need to be given the opportunity to speak and the privilege of being heard. What the government and NGOs could ensure is that these voices are made louder without being commercially exploited again. Shouldn’t the FM step in as the air waves have done in Philippines?

Yours faithfully,
Jayabrata Sinha, Calcutta

Sir — During the recent Tehelka controversy, there was a lot of furore over the way the dotcom company had gathered its information. Prostitutes had apparently been put into service by tehelka.com and politicians invariably raised the question of the morality of news-collecting. But can we really say that women were exploited by the agency to nab the politicians? The women “employed” by tehelka.com were already in the flesh trade. Besides, prostitution is not necessarily about exploitation. Every day, it has been variously reported, a good number of women opt to be in the profession.

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh Kumar, via email

Sir — Recently, an eight year old girl was reported to have been raped repeatedly by a school bus driver and a helper. Such crimes are increasing at an unprecedented scale. An immediate amendment to the Indian penal code should be made in the Parliament so that the guilty are given the death sentence. Related laws should also be modified so that the culprits do not take refuge under some pretext or the other. The criminal has to be punished within 30 days of the crime. Till such string-ent laws are framed, school buses should have female attendants.

Yours faithfully
A.S. Mehta, Calcutta

Neglected sisters

Sir — The decision to shift the special service board from the seven sisters to guard the Indo-Nepal border is another indication of the step-motherly treatment meted out to the Northeast by the government at the Centre (“N-E faces blow to intelligence”, Nov 19). The SSB was set up after the Chinese aggression in 1962 and gradually spread to other states in northern India. The main aim of the SSB is to train the youth of remote villages to defend themselves at the time of foreign aggression, to collect intelligence about threats to national integrity. It is a peoples’ organization. It also absorbs the local population in its lower ranks. This will no longer be feasible if the SSB is employed for other purposes. Thousands of youths who have been trained in Haflong for recruitment will now have to find other avenues of employment. This is unfortunate. The government had already sounded the death knell of the organization by closing down the women’s advance training centre in Kashipur, Silchar. Shifting the SSB from local life will further hamper the scope of development of women.

At present the SSB is involved in a lot of development work like the construction of community halls, library, crematoriums, public urinals, bus stands and so on. It distributes aid and appliances for the disabled, helps in the construction of intra-village road and water schemes. The SSB medical team frequently visits villages and distributes free medicine for both humans and livestock. It also holds educational youth exchange programmes. It also opens up opportunities for self-employment by giving training in poultry, piggery and rabbit farming among other programmes. The Centre will be depriving the people of the region of a lot of benefits if it goes ahead with its plans of putting the SSB to guard the borders alone.

Yours faithfully,
B.C. Bora, Tezpur

Sir — It is painful to see that big tea brokers are discriminating against the small estates and producers of Assam in the Guwahati auction. They have concentrated their time and funds on the big tea producers alone. Assam is the biggest producer of Indian tea. So this region should not be neglected. Also, it should be remembered that to the small producer, the tea auctions are very important,unlike the big corporate houses, which can export directly or market tea.

Yours faithfully,
H.C. Dass, Guwahati

Styles of life

Sir — It is sad to see that The Telegraph has found no other subject but to focus on the projected monthly expenses and lifestyles of the upwardly mobile (“The lifestyle trap”, Dec 8). The much-hyped lifestyle irrelevant to the common man and its celebration is in bad taste. The affluent’s sermon to live a comfortable life today without worrying over the future may suit them well for their astronomical salaries and executive benefits will see them through hard times. But if this lifestyle starts being emulated by the less-privileged ones, the consequences will be very different. Consumerism has been seen to corrupt the poor, and widen the social gap between the rich and the poor. In all, the rich do not deserve precious newsprint.
Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — The craze to blindly imitate certain Western practices can culminate in a disaster for India. Take for example the concept of “living together”. Couples in the West are often found to live together till a child is conceived or born. The marriage follows only after funds and other contingencies suit the partners. This arrangement rules out the unhappiness that may lead from negotiated marriages. Even if the partners are unable to take care of the child, in the West, the state comes forward to bring up the child. The situation in India is very different. The percentage of working women, who can take care of their finances alone, is very small. So even in a live-in relationship, they become dependent, both for themselves and for the child that may follow. Will the courts of law wake up to the situation?

Yours faithfully,
Maitreyee Chatterjee, Calcutta

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