Editorial 1 / More to say
Editorial 2 / Ggeneral readiness
Hints of change
Fifth Column / In the shadow of the liberal
Mani talk / Return to Shimla
Document / Deliberating on the age of consent
Letters to the editor

The American secretary of state, Mr Colin Powell, arrives in south Asia at a critical juncture in the recent history of the region. While the United States of America continues to have considerable influence in both India and Pakistan, Mr Powell would be well advised not to give the impression that the US is interested in acting as a mediator between the two countries. This is Mr Powell’s second visit to the region since the terrorist attacks of September 11. His last visit to Islamabad and New Delhi was to seek and sustain support for the war against the terrorist network, al Qaida, and the taliban regime in Afghanistan. Both India and Pakistan, in different ways, became vital parts of the coalition. While the war against terrorism may not be over, and the taliban and the al Qaida leadership are still at large, the military challenge that had been posed by the terrorists and their backers is virtually over. A regime change has taken place in Afghanistan, and the government-in-charge is committed to restoring stability in the country. Mr Powell’s final destination is Tokyo where he will participate in a conference that focusses on the restructuring of Afghanistan, but New Delhi and Islamabad are more than just stopovers. While Afghanistan is slouching back to some form of normalcy, the region has been witnessing, for the past few weeks, a tense standoff between India and Pakistan. India is determined to end cross-border terrorism perpetuated by elements within Pakistan, and appears willing to use diplomatic and military means, if necessary, towards this purpose.

However, President Pervez Musharraf’s recent speech, probably one of the most significant delivered by a Pakistani leader in recent years, has the potential, if it translates into action, to lead to a gradual thawing of bilateral relations. The US has welcomed the speech, and has hoped that it will lead to the resumption of a dialogue between India and Pakistan. It is critical that New Delhi communicates to Mr Powell the need for the US to continue to exercise pressure on Islamabad to ensure that Pakistan stops using violence as an instrument of its foreign policy against India. New Delhi must signal its willingness to resume a bilateral dialogue as soon as there is evidence of Islamabad’s changed policies on the ground. It is, however, vital that New Delhi use the opportunity of Mr Powell’s visit to further cement its relations with Washington. India’s relations with the US need to be detached, to a degree, from the ongoing problems with Pakistan. While Mr Powell’s immediate goal may be to help diffuse the crisis in the region, India must ensure that the focus is also on the wider dimensions of the Indo-US relationship. Relations between the two of the world’s largest democracies are far too important to be driven by a single point agenda.


Sensitive moments demand sensitive responses. A milder assertion of readiness from the Indian army chief, General S. Padmanabhan, may have gone down better with all concerned, including the security and diplomatic establishments in his own country. The defence minister, Mr George Fernandes, was quick to issue soothing clarifications about the army chief’s comments on the possibility of nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan. This in itself is rather ironical, given the number of times Mr Fernandes’s comments have had to be clarified by other people. Evidently, General Padmanabhan believes in calling a big spade a big spade. No harm in that perhaps. Only diplomacy, however “coercive”, relies heavily on the skill of calling a big spade by any other name. Often it is the tone that matters, rather than the substance. Unfortunately, the substance of the army chief’s remarks, intended to detail the exact nature of India’s military readiness, went beyond the purely practical in its tone. It sounded, whether he meant it to or not, like war drums.

An army chief is a professional army man, and as such he has certain professional responsibilities, not only towards his own personnel but also towards the institutions with which the military establishment is inextricably linked in a democracy. His press conference was timed just before the speech of the Pakistan president, Mr Pervez Musharraf. India’s war readiness may have been one of the messages the conference was intended to convey. But General Padmanabhan’s words seem to suggest a proactive readiness, something that stuck out rather uncomfortably in the atmosphere of carefully calibrated diplomacy. The aggressiveness of his remarks in the context of Pakistan’s possible “madness” in initiating a nuclear conflict cannot be accommodated into India’s present diplomatic air of barely contained but still reasonable patience without such frantic contortions as the ones Mr Fernandes had to get into. Besides Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Union home minister, Mr L.K. Advani, and the foreign affairs minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, too have shown the combination of restraint and firmness that is now necessary. This kind of thing is best left to the politicians, even when they are bumbling. There are distinct spheres of rhetoric, and one should not encroach upon the other. India would not gain if the world perceived it as a country growling to go to war, just about to step over the border. The negotiations are tough but delicate, and nothing should be allowed to upset the applecart at this point, since the negotiations have a chance of succeeding. General Padmanabhan had best not play politician.


Pervez Musharraf’s much-awaited speech of January 12 has received a cautious welcome in India. “We welcome the now declared commitment of the government of Pakistan not to support or permit anymore the use of its territory for terrorism anywhere in the world, including the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir,” said the external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh. The minister added, however, that India will await effective implementation of the assurance on the ground. Musharraf’s televised address to the Pakistani people covered three interrelated issues: religious extremism in Pakistan, terrorism, and Kashmir. The major part of his speech was devoted to the first theme which, to employ a phrase beloved of the General, forms its “core issue”.

This was not the first time that Musharraf has addressed the burning domestic issue of religious extremism. It must be said to his credit that he had made an attempt to tackle the danger of religious extremism even before the United States of America launched its “war against terror”. On October 17, 1999, in his very first address to the nation, Musharraf spoke about the threat to internal law and order and the devastating effects of sectarian strife resulting from religious extremism in Pakistan. This was followed by an attempt to mop up the vast armoury of unlicensed weapons — estimated to be 1.2 million — floating around the country. The Musharraf government also announced a ban on the public display of weapons and on the forcible collection of funds for jihad. These initiatives ran into heavy opposition from powerful vested interests and turned out to be largely abortive.

The “war against terror” left Musharraf no option but to take the bull by the horns. The extremist organizations were vociferously opposed to Pakistan’s cooperation with the US. Musharraf decided to detain three of their leaders for inciting people to stage violent anti-government protests. He replaced the head of the Inter-State Intelligence who was notorious for his pro-taliban sympathies. Following in the footsteps of Washington, he froze the assets of certain pro-taliban organizations.

Urged by Washington, Musharraf is now turning on the heat against the extremists. “This extremism has been going on for years and now it is beyond limits,” he said in his latest address. “The day of reckoning has come.” Calling for a “progressive, modern and dynamic” Pakistan, Musharraf announced that he would not allow mosques to be used for political purposes and would soon issue an ordinance to reform the madrassahs. Most significantly, he declared that under Islam, only the state has the authority to wage jihad in the form of a militant struggle. He announced a ban on the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, two terrorist organizations the assets of which he had earlier frozen in deference to Washington. He also declared a ban on three extremist groups which were responsible for sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias.

Musharraf made it clear that these measures were being taken in the internal interests of Pakistan. On cross-border terrorism, he offered a general assurance that he would not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist activities in the name of religion. He promised to deal severely with any group found to be involved with the December 13 attack on the Indian Parliament.

The most significant aspect of Musharraf’s speech is that he refrained from repeating his earlier attempts to draw a distinction between terrorists and “freedom fighters”. As Jaswant Singh has pointed out, Musharraf’s statement amounts to a “major shift” in Islamabad’s policy. However, the Pakistani president failed to respond satisfactorily to India’s extradition list, stating that Pakistani nationals would not be extradited to India, while other cases would be considered if requisite evidence is provided. Musharraf’s statement seems to imply that Pakistani citizens charged with committing terrorist offences in India would be granted immunity from extradition proceedings. This retrograde step is inconsistent with Pakistan’s international legal obligations. India should seek a clarification of Islamabad’s intentions in this regard. India’s list of 42 “most wanted” terrorists include some “Khalistan” extremists whose activities had nothing to do with Kashmir. These individuals are now a spent asset for Pakistan. He can turn these terrorists over to India without raising a storm of domestic protest. As an immediate first step, Musharraf should hand over these terrorists without any delay. Failure to do so would rightly be seen in India as proof of insincerity.

On Kashmir, Musharraf simply reiterated the standard Pakistani line, appealing for US involvement in seeking a resolution, accusing India of practising “state terrorism” and demanding a monitoring role for international human rights bodies and the United Nations. It was only to be expected that the general would make a vigorous restatement of Pakistan’s basic position on Kashmir while formally renouncing terrorism as an instrument of his Kashmir policy.

If Musharraf is really serious about implementing his promises, his January 12 address could prove to be a turning-point not only in Pakistan’s domestic affairs but also in India-Pakistan relations. Since the Zia period, successive governments in Islamabad have given active encouragement to so-called “Islamic” militant groups in a failed attempt to further their objectives in Afghanistan and Kashmir. This has resulted in massive internal lawlessness and sectarian conflict, and Pakistan has been steadily drifting towards ungovernability. Inevitably, it has also resulted in a confrontation with India. We can only hope that Musharraf will make a sustained effort to pull the country back from the precipice. He must match his words with action.

Musharraf’s assurance that terrorists will not be allowed to operate from Pakistani territory will be truly meaningful only if it also covers Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. We must take note of an important first step in this context. Sikandar Hayat Khan, the so-called “prime minister” of PoK has stated: “I fully endorse the speech of President Pervez Musharraf and we will take action in our area in line with it.”

India will have to exercise patience as it waits to see if, and how, Musharraf matches his words with deeds. New Delhi has already made it clear that a comprehensive dialogue including Kashmir will be resumed only after there is a cessation of cross-border terrorism.

Is there any reciprocal gesture that India could appropriately make at the present stage? New Delhi should consider sending our high commissioner back to Islamabad. In coming days we will require clarification of Pakistani intentions on various issues. The presence of a senior envoy in Islamabad will be helpful in this context. On the same grounds, as well as for reasons of reciprocity, we should simultaneously consider resuming our dealings with the Pakistani high commissioner in New Delhi.

The author is former ambassador to China and the European Union


The removal of the taliban and the establishment of a secure regime in Aghan-istan are not going to send the Americans back home, as had happened after the equally successful Kuwait War. The Americans now have many things to do in the name of peace and democracy. The Cold War politics gave the West the pretext of communism to fight against. Then the Balkan crisis gave the pretext for the need to restore democracy. Now the war against terrorism has provided the United States of America with a legitimacy which is like a master-key to campaign against anyone who does not subscribe to its wishes.

This is a very dangerous turn in the arena of international relations. It will see “liberal” democracies everywhere seeking, by force or persuasion, approval for the actions of the strong against the weak.

This trend can be clearly perceived in the shift of the US foreign policy towards Iraq. The unfinished business left by George Bush senior — the removal of Iraq’s Ba’ath Party government — is once again being planned. For this purpose, the US is trying to link Iraq with global terrorist networks, and if that fails, to highlight Iraq’s continuing refusal to allow teams from the United Nations weapon inspectors into the country.

Turn to Iraq

This shift in international relations is unfortunate because many were hopeful of seeking justice for the weak in the new millennium. Iraq, and many other nations, had been in the process of having their complaints about the misuse of international law and unilateralism recognized. But all such issues are now suppressed by the word terrorism.

The problem that the US has with Iraq is not necessarily with the undemocratic nature of Saddam Hussein’s government. In the same region, monarchs and sheikhs are readily supported. The difference is that Iraq has not allowed any interference with its internal matters, whilst other west Asian countries have exchanged US support and protection in return for the provision of cheap-price petrol, the open market and military bases. “Illiberal” states are tolerated when they are subordinate and economically subservient to the strong.

The US’s demands for democracy and justice for the Kurds and Shii in Iraq may look promising. But one must realize that the same kind of democracy is prevented from occurring elsewhere: the same Kurdish demands and violence in Turkey, next door to Iraq, are described as terrorist by the US.

Similarly, the Shii in Iran are portrayed as dangerous. The right to self-determination is not the issue here; at stake is the right of the world’s one superpower to impose its will.

Biggest losers

Unfortunately, the biggest losers in the war on terrorism will be third world countries and most Muslim majority states. The ability to gain autonomous space in the field of international relations and to follow the basic agenda of the non-aligned movement have been compromised since the beginning of the war on terrorism.

The rhetoric of terrorism currently being used by a host of third world leaders, including our own prime minister, has also had the effect of trapping us within the discourse of the West. The new “cold war” against terrorism, when it is not framed as a clash of civilizations, is portrayed as a fight between the liberal democracies of the West and those perceived “illiberal” societies and barbaric states.

The “liberal” world of the West is based on individualism and the neutrality of the state, that is, those principles which ensure the success of big business. The “illiberal” societies are engaged in maintaining a state that observes religious rights, ethnicity and socio-cultural patterns.

The taliban were representatives of the extreme form of the illiberal society, so they were demolished as easily as the taliban demolished the Bamiyan Buddha. Next on the list is Iraq. Despite the fact that in most “illiberal” societies, Western notions of the nation-state have failed because of our strong historical roots, the US is preparing to homogenize the third world, in the name of limitless freedom.


Well, where do we go from here? Pervez Musharraf has read out a speech scripted in Washington, translated in Islamabad. It says all the things the Americans wanted to hear. Heard music is sweet. Sounds unheard are sweeter. So, there is also some action. Offices have been sealed. Perhaps they have been relocated. Bank accounts have been closed. Or at any rate reopened in other names. Some Most Wanted have been arrested. Most are at large. Pervez Musharraf now asks that the bill be paid for his joining the “global war on global terrorism”. He wants the international community to redress the balance of advantage on our subcontinent which he — and all Pakistanis without exception — perceive as being tilted dangerously in India’s favour.

The United States, for its part, is only too keen to do for India and Pakistan what it has been doing for Palestine and Israel, emerge as the arbiter of other peoples’ destinies. Jaswant Singh might protest that there is no role for any third party in matters relating to India and Pakistan. But he is like the Arab in the cautionary tale who let the camel into his tent. If any one person, next only to Osama bin Laden, is singularly responsible for American intervention in our affairs it is the self-same Mr Deep Baritone who now protesteth too much. So, where do we go from here?

The immediate consequence of the Musharraf speech is likely to be an escalation of terror in the valley to show that the banned outfits are still very much in business. Over time, however, there is likely to be some reduction in the role of foreign mercenaries in the insurgency. That might abate the smoke. It will not put out the fire. And so Pakistan will insist that it has done all it can, it is now for India to do its bit. And the US will respond, “Not all, but quite a lot”. And India will then be pressured to do its bit — talk to Pakistan with the US hovering over the table like Banquo’s ghost.

This will enable the Americans to ensconce themselves where they do not belong. And while peace will not be restored, American officials will be given the opening to shuttle between Islamabad and Delhi, as they have been flitting between Tel Aviv and Gaza City, showing the world — and, more important, the folks back home — where Rambo’s muscles ripple. And in the highly unlikely event of their actually brokering an agreement (remember the Oslo accords?), the Americans will stay on to guarantee it. Was it to secure US paramountcy that we struggled to end Great Britain’s? The only way of remaining the Captains of our Destiny and the Masters of our Fate is for India (and Pakistan) to do of their own volition what they will otherwise have to do at the behest of others — get talking. In a single phrase, Return to Shimla.

In a single phrase, not a single phase. For there are two essential preliminaries before getting down to substantive bilateral dialogue. One is to recognize that cross-border terrorism is the adjunct to domestic terrorism and unless we address the domestic dimensions of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, in both its internal security and political aspects, settling with Pakistan will matter as little as blaming Pakistan for all our troubles. The second we will come to in a minute. First things first.

The worst of Kargil is that it has diverted attention from the priority to be accorded to the domestic dimensions of Jammu and Kashmir. It is instructive to remember that the words “cross-border terrorism” are a post-Kargil invention. If cross-border terrorism is, in fact, the root of the problem, then it is for Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh to explain why they signed the Lahore declaration and memorandum of understanding without insisting on the incorporation of these three little words in those documents. The fact is that it is the boiling of the cauldron in the valley that has enabled the Pakistanis to poke their ladle in the cauldron. Our authorities have proved utterly ineffective in controlling and rolling back the militants. The contrast between the determined riposte to Pak-based terrorism in Punjab and the ineffective riposte to Pak-based terrorism in Kashmir is stark. Much better intelligence, much better police action, much more effective use of our security agencies and paramilitary forces, and much better sealing of our borders and the line of control are required. The government cannot be allowed to divert attention from its lapses on internal security by focussing exclusively on Pakistani malfeasance.

However, even top-class internal security measures will be of no avail unless accompanied by sustained political action to tackle with sincerity and sensitivity the roots of Kashmiri discontent. This calls for a political dialogue stretching across the spectrum of political opinion in the state and comprising all its regions and communities. The kind of ill-conceived, sporadic and contradictory initiatives we have suffered post-Kargil — now lurching towards the Hurriyat without telling the National Conference; now abandoning the Hurriyat for the Hizb-ul-Mujahedin; now abandoning both to embrace a miffed Farooq Abdullah; now talking of the sanctity of the Constitution, now mouthing sentimental nonsense about “insaniyat ki dayire mein (within the framework of humanity)”; now telling the dissidents they can go to Pakistan, now telling them they cannot; now announcing a ceasefire, now talking of a “moonh-thod jawab” (a jaw-breaking response); now setting deadlines, now resiling — all this confusion and chaos on the domestic front will have to stop. We need to have going a sensible, structured internal dialogue before we can embark constructively on a structured, sensible bilateral dialogue with Pakistan.

The second essential is to structure a sensible, sustained dialogue with Pakistan, so structured that, unlike the jerky, sporadic, quickly-abandoned initiatives of the past, the dialogue now is so structured as to render it uninterrupted and uninterruptable. If we persist with the idiocy of confusing summitry with dialogue, and poetry with diplomacy, only the Americans can save us from our folly. But if we use this temporary forthcoming pause in cross-border terrorism for talks about talks which will lead to a sustained external dialogue, to reinforce a sustained internal dialogue, we can then, and only then, truly turn to the Americans and say, “Hum aapke hain kaun (And who, pray, are you to us)?”

I have no doubt Vajpayee, Advani and Jaswant lack the wisdom, individually and collectively, to do the sensible thing. May Allah save our freedom.


In the definition of sexual assault in section 375, there should be an explanation saying that penetration shall mean penetration to any extent whatsoever, inasmuch as the penetration is never complete in the case of children.

(d) Explanation (2) of draft section 375 (which says that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, does not amount to sexual assault) should be deleted. Forced sexual intercourse by a husband with his wife should equally be treated as an offence just as any physical violence by a husband against the wife is treated as an offence.

Following the same logic, they submitted that the words “unless the person subjected to sexual assault is his own wife and is not under 15 years of age, in which case he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description or a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both” in section 376(1) of the Law Commission’s draft...should also be deleted. Section 376A should also be deleted, they said, on the same reasoning.

(e) In the first proviso to draft section 376(1) (in the draft of the commission), the words “the father, grandfather or brother” should be substituted with...“a person holding position of trust vis-á-vis the other person” and further to add an explanation saying that the said expression shall include father/step father, brother/step brother, teacher, instructor, guardian and the like.

(f) Consent should be defined to mean “unequivocal voluntary agreement”...At the end of the discussion on the first day, it was indicated to the persons mentioned ...that if they wished to suggest any changes of a procedural nature, whether in the Criminal Procedure Code or in the Evidence Act, they could send the same... Though the “precise issues” did not speak of any changes in the procedural laws (and was confined to amendments to Indian Penal Code only), we were of the opinion that unless certain changes are effected simultaneously in the relevant provisions of the CrPC and Evidence Act, the purpose underlying the changes in the substantive law IPC may not be fully served. It is for this reason that we suggested to Sakshi to come forward with their suggestions, if any, for amendment of procedural laws to achieve the purpose underlying changes in substantive laws. Accordingly, they came forward with as many as 14 suggestions proposing amendments not only in the Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act but also in the Indian Penal Code (Annexure-D). The procedural amendments suggested by them are to the following effect:

(1) The 84th report of the Law Commission had suggested that where the statement of a girl-victim below 12 years of age is recorded, it should be done by a woman police officer or by a woman belonging to an organization interested in the cause of women or children.

The said recommendation should be accepted with certain changes set out in their note.

(2) The present proviso to sub-section (1) of section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code should be substituted by the following proviso: “Provided that no male person under the age of 16 years or a woman shall be required to attend at any place other than his or her home or place of his or her choice.” (3) A new sub-section, namely, sub-section (6) should be inserted in section 160 CrPC to the effect that the statement of a male person under the age of 16 years or a female, during the course of investigation, should be recorded only in the presence of a relative, a friend or a social worker of the person’s choice.

(4) A new section, namely, section 164A should be inserted in the Criminal Procedure Code stating that as soon as a case of sexual assault is reported to a police person, he shall have the person (allegedly assaulted sexually) examined medically by a registered medical practitioner and that such medical practitioner shall after due examination, prepare a report setting out the various specified particulars. This proposal is a slight modification of the recommendation contained in the 84th report of the Law Commission.

To Be concluded



A state in decline

Sir — The article, “The costs of popularity” (Jan 11), has rightly pointed out that faulty government policies have been responsible for the decline of Uttar Pradesh which was once considered to be one of the most well-governed states in India. In a state which has always prioritized caste and class-based politics, the failure of successive governments to look beyond their immediate short term gains has resulted in economic disaster. Be it the foolhardiness of a Mulayam Singh Yadav or the overt generosity of a Mayavati towards the Dalits, UP has seen it all. Instead of allocating funds for the development of infrastructure, successive governments have tried to outdo one another in catering to the needs of the backward classes and have in the process exhausted most of the state’s resources. What UP needs right now is a stable government and a chief minister who will be able to take some tough decisions even if it means losing some votes.

Yours faithfully,
Anuradha Dasgupta, Calcutta

No great shakes

Sir — The president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, has once again demonstrated his diplomatic prowess before the leaders of southeast Asia by trying to steal the show at the recent summit of the south Asian association for regional cooperation (“Iron fist clasps velvet glove”, Jan 6). Despite the fact that Musharraf surprised everyone by shaking hands with the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his lack of sincerity was more than obvious. The handshake was a well-rehearsed gesture aimed at conveying the impression that Pakistan was ready for a warmer relationship with New Delhi.

Though Musharraf managed to score a few early points, Vajpayee responded to the latter’s overtures during his speech. The Indian prime minister was right in pointing out that a mere handshake will not accomplish anything. It would be interesting to see whether the Pakistani president responds to the mounting pressure from world powers like the United States of America and Britain, both of whom have been urging the two sides to resume dialogue as soon as possible.

Pakistan has once again adopted double standards by handing over Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, former taliban ambassador to the US, while refusing to hand over the 20 terrorists India has asked for at the same time. If Pakistan is sincere about the renewal of dialogue between the two countries, then it should put an end to cross-border terrorism and build up an atmosphere of trust.

Though the summit ended on a positive note with a joint declaration endorsing India’s long standing views on combating terrorism by making no distinction between “the good terrorists and the bad terrorists”, it would nevertheless be an exaggeration to describe the summit as a success.

However, despite the failure of past ventures like Vajpayee’s bus diplomacy and the Agra summit, efforts must be made by both countries to continue the peace process. Unless there is a semblance of normalcy in the subcontinent, other issues such as hunger, poverty and greater economic cooperation between the SAARC countries will remain on the backburner.

The SAARC summit has once again demonstrated the fact that the US is only too eager to act as a mediator between the two neighbours. The external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, has rightly expressed displeasure at the US move to sent a special envoy to the subcontinent as this would amount to third party intervention.

Yours faithfully,
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur

Sir — The meeting between Vajpayee and Musharraf took place in the presence of other SAARC leaders and lasted between “five and 15 minutes” which is in itself an indication that the two could not have had the time to discuss any issue at length. What was even worse was that while the American media and its Pakistani counterpart insisted that the two leaders did meet for a duration of about 45 minutes, the Indian external affairs ministry chose to deny this fact initially. While one can appreciate the Indian side’s cautious approach, the initial denial only made India look stupid.

The summit was not, however, a complete failure given that the joint declaration to which Pakistan was a signatory “pledged to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”. Further, since Pakistan will be holding the next summit in 2003, Musharraf will now be under pressure to make some concessions to India.

Yours faithfully,
Mitul Sengupta, via email

Bad faith

Sir — The smiling face of M. Damodaran, the chairman of the Unit Trust of India, is unlikely to reassure investors who have lost money in US 64, which was once considered a safe investment avenue by most people. What is even more shocking is the fact that the UTI has presented its investors with a dubious new year gift by raising the repurchase limit from 3,000 to 5,000 units at a net asset value of Rs 10 per unit. Given that investors like myself had purchased US-64 at Rs 14.65 per unit, it is indeed ironic that UTI now proposes to do the same at Rs 10 per unit.

Leaving aside interest, I have lost about 32 per cent of my principal. Greed and bad financial investments are responsible for the present state of the UTI, which is now no better than a “cheat fund”. Further, large investors like the major industrial houses decided to withdraw their money from UTI as soon as they were aware of its financial situation.

Yours faithfully,
Phani Bhusan Saha, Balurghat

Sir — It is pathetic to hear M. Damodaran say that other mutual funds have net asset values lower than that of the UTI and that exit options with assured returns exist for those who want a way out. While investors with less than 5,000 units have the option of exiting at administered prices till May 2002, those with more than 5,000 units can only seek redemption at NAV.

The editorial, “Not trustworthy” (Jan 2), has rightly pointed out that unless the government is willing to amend the UTI act to ensure greater accountability and reduce government intervention in the day-to-day functioning of the organization, a government bailout will not accomplish much. Financial institutions under the finance ministry or under other ministries must be held accountable for any misappropriation of funds or bad investments. It is shocking to see the inaction of the finance ministry despite the innumerable scandals that have occurred in the last few years.

Yours faithfully,
Debalina Majumder, Calcutta

Parting shot

Sir — Nowadays it has become a cliché to talk about love especially if you are a celebrity. It is really unfortunate that despite being rich and famous, Janet Jackson is still searching for love (“Janet needs love, not husband”, Jan 11). It is also true that we live in an increasingly materialistic world, which also gives one the recognition that makes others envious. Further, marriage does not guarantee love. There are very few people who are lucky enough to get both from marriage. Being a die-hard fan of Janet Jackson, I hope she gets the love and happiness that she is looking for.

Yours faithfully,
Rajesh Kumar Sharma, North 24 Parganas

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