Editorial 1 / Call of the state
Editorial 2 / Guns down
A change in the General
Fifth Column / Happy end to revenge tragedies
In a perfectly normal job
Document / Open a new chapter against abuse
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / CALL OF THE STATE 
 
 
 
 
Terror immobilizes. But the post mortem of a terrorist attack can provide clues which act as a spur to action. The aftermath of the attack on the police force outside the American Center in Calcutta provides Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, with the best possible opportunity to act against known terrorist groups and those who shelter them. He can, at the same time, crack down on organized criminal gangs. This needs a new law like the prevention of organized crime ordinance, and also a political will on the part of the chief minister. Activating this political will may prove to be more insurmountable than overcoming the opposition to POCO. The first and principal barrier to the articulation of the political will is a perverse kind of political correctness. This dictates that minorities and their institutions, no matter what, be treated with kid gloves. Many of the identifiable terrorist groups have clear Islamic credentials. There is intelligence that members of these groups are coming into West Bengal and taking shelter in Muslim shrines and educational institutions. There is a reluctance to move against such places because of their religious affiliations. This reluctance is related as much to political correctness as to the desire to nurture minority vote banks. The left in West Bengal prides itself on its secularism — read protection of minorities — and the support it gets from the Muslims. Mr Bhattacharjee now faces the challenge of ignoring his party’s ersatz secular assets and to act against a real threat to security emanating from some mosques and madrasahs.

Tuesday’s attack is a loud warning that the time for soft-pedalling is over. Nobody, whatever be his religious faith, should be spared if he has links with the terrorists. There are reports that madrasahs and mosques use their premises to preach jihad: they thus lend themselves to becoming a breeding ground for terrorists or their protectors. This cannot be allowed. The state must act to eradicate such activities. The security of the people is paramount — by people is meant all peace-loving and law-abiding citizens. Islamic militants are using West Bengal as a haven and as an easy target because of the well-advertised incompetence of the police force and the hesitancy of the state government to hurt minority sentiments. Religious faith belongs to the personal sphere. But when this faith is abused and allowed to violate security and the codes of civil society, the state, as the protector of the citizens, must act against that faith. There is nothing communal or non-secular in this logic. Mr Bhattacharjee should thus proceed fearlessly. If and when he does, he will find he has a solid body of public opinion behind him. He has to recognize that he lives in a time when reasons of state are more important than the call of ideology.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / GUNS DOWN 
 
 
 
 
There never was a good war, Benjamin Franklin once wrote, or a bad peace. It is good news that the People’s War Group of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) has accepted the Andhra Pradesh government’s offer of peace talks. It could be asked if the Maoist group’s killings of policemen and “class enemies” amount to a war or if they truly represent the people in whose name they carry out their operations. What is not in doubt is that its three-decade-old politics of the gun has not helped the poor people whose cause it claims to uphold. Neither has the violence helped it grow beyond its strongholds in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar. On the contrary, nearly a thousand of its cadre were killed in encounters with the police between 1997 and 2001 in Andhra Pradesh alone. The group’s first acceptance of the government’s talks offer may have followed the appeal by a retired civil servant, but its own compulsions seem to have contributed to this in no small measure. The outfit has been increasingly put in a corner ever since it was banned under the Centre’s prevention of terrorism ordinance. The unending factional killings and splintering of the organization have also put its cadre in disarray. A stray ambush on policemen or the murder of an unsuspecting politician shows more desperation than strength. Even the raising of a “people’s guerrilla army” two years back has not added substantially either to its cadre strength or to its popular appeal. The PWG’s response to the peace overtures should signal to other extremist groups in the country the futility of the politics of the gun.

While the state government should take the opportunity to try and end one of the most violent political movements in the country, it may do well to move cautiously. The outfit has sought a three-month halt to combing operations and raids by the police in its strongholds to prepare the ground for talks. Before agreeing to this, the government should make sure that it is not a ploy to buy time. The civil rights groups which are known to maintain links with the outlawed organization and have now come forward to facilitate the peace talks must also play their role more transparently. They will serve the people’s cause better by convincing PWG leaders that left adventurism, which Karl Marx himself debunked as an “infantile disorder”, has no place in modern-day politics. It is perfectly fair on the PWG’s part to expect the government to do more to tackle poverty and economic exploitation. But the outfit’s depredations have stalled many development projects which could have benefited the poor. Dissent is integral to democracy, but violence is not only self-consuming but also an enemy of development.

   

 
 
A CHANGE IN THE GENERAL 
 
 
BY SHAM LAL
 
 
The first U-turn made by Pakistan when it joined the coalition led by the United States of America was a great wrench for Pervez Musharraf. Since the primary target of the international war on terrorism was Afghanistan run by the taliban, who had made their country into the main centre of jihadi groups and played host to Osama bin Laden and his network of al Qaida camps, it meant taking part in the decimation of a protégé regime in its backyard which provided it with “strategic depth” and control of a wide stretch of the lifeline to the rich oil reserves of central Asia.

Yet, there was no choice for the Pakistan president but to go along with the Big Brother in Washington at a time when his country was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and in desperate need of American help. It was safer to let his client state face the music for its defiance of the only superpower and save what he could from the wreckage of his Afghan policy than risk earning America’s hostility. As it turned out, the rush of events left Musharraf little room for manoeuvre. He did not expect the taliban regime to collapse in less than three months, with large parts of its main cities reduced to rubble. He hated none more than the Northern Alliance and yet could do little to prevent this coalition of Tajik and Uzbek warlords from seizing control of the Afghan capital. Even the US could not wish away the fact that Northern Alliance troops were the only local ground forces available to fight the taliban. That the alliance leaders managed to secure three key portfolios in the interim government further added to Musharraf’s frustration.

All this does not mean that events will follow the road map drawn for Afghanistan’s advance to a democratic polity, a stable regime representative of all ethnic groups and an end to inter-ethnic conflicts. Hamid Karzai, the leader of the interim government, has been frank enough to warn the war coalition that his country can easily slip back into anarchy unless the US and others are alert to the dangers implicit in inter-ethnic rivalries and widespread popular discontents.

In any case, the surviving taliban elements can be depended upon to stir up trouble in a situation of acute economic distress. The new administration was in no position, so far, to stop things from getting out of control for lack of adequate material and moral resources. Now that the coalition partners have committed themselves to an initial aid package of over four billion dollars, there are fair chances of reconstruction work beginning in right earnest.

There is little, however, in the new developments to provide much comfort to Musharraf. Most people suspect that both Mullah Omar and bin Laden, together with their chief aides and remnants of their cadres, have sought refuge in the wild tribal belt of Pakistan bordering Afghan- istan. This makes all the more palpable the danger of making this area the next theatre of war in the campaign against international terrorism.

While the Pakistan president is still struggling hard to contain the adverse fallout of the changed scene in Afghanistan, a still more cruel turn of events has forced him to make an even more painful U-turn, this time in his Kashmir policy. Though he has tried to put a brave face on what he has told his people in his latest televised address to them, he has not been able to hide his sense of discomfort altogether in declaring his opposition to all forms of terrorism. He has rubbished in effect the claim he made at the Agra summit that the jihadi terrorists operating in Kashmir were freedom fighters.

How far Musharraf’s new self-image as a statesman keen to rebuild his country as a modern state and rid it not only of the scourge of terrorism but also of the jihadi mindset, marks a genuine change of heart, still remains to be seen. The certificates of a modernizer, perhaps a new Ataturk in the making, which his Western patrons are handing out to him, are not to be taken at their face value. They are mere tokens of their belief that, though he may be acting under duress, he is their best bet in the prevailing circumstances. They do not want to push him to the point which tempts his opponents to work for his overthrow.

There are many in India who share the same view. The Indian government has, however, good reason to be more cautious in accepting Musharraf’s new credentials. They cannot consign to the memory hole his denunciation of the Lahore accord, his masterminding of the Kargil operation, his ouster of an elected government, and the hash he made of the Agra summit by lauding cross-border terrorists as freedom fighters. Considering this dismal track record, is it unreasonable to wait a little longer before beginning the demobilization, to make sure that such follow-up action as he takes is in accord with his words?

Many commentators in Pakistan have not been too impressed by Musharraf’s attempt to cover up the U-turn in the country’s Kashmir policy. The terrorist attack on Parliament House in New Delhi on December 13 did, of course, force the US administration to pay greater heed to India’s security concerns and increase the pressure on the Pakistan president to put an end to cross-border terrorism. But such a development had already been on the cards for some time.

Musharraf and his aides sensed all along that the war on international terrorism would not end with the ouster of the taliban regime. Western media indeed made no secret of the fact that the war would move on to Pakistan since that was the most likely hiding place for Mullah Omar and bin Laden, and the regrouping of the surviving taliban and al Qaida cadre. That the terrorist outfits in Pakistan, which have been for long working in collusion with al Qaida, are now under attack is therefore no surprise. If Musharraf does not do what is expected of him, the US administration would find a more pliable substitute to undertake the new assignment. In any case, he is too aware of the sanctions America has at its disposal to risk cheating on his pledges.

It is significant that in Pakistan itself almost all commentators agree that the country’s Kashmir policy has failed. The current debate is now centred on the reasons for this debacle. While some hold that the very premise on which it was based — that India would buckle under the pressure of continued militancy because of the mounting costs of counter-terrorism and the increasing alienation of the population resulting from the rising toll of civilian lives — was misconceived. The parallel drawn by some in the past between the Indian governance of Kashmir and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was more a self-serving fiction than a fact.

Perhaps the most cogent analysis is the one made by those who argue that the Kashmir policy took a wrong turn as soon as foreign elements — Afghans, Arabs, Chechens and others — were increasingly inducted into the terrorist outfits, making the whole operation a non-Kashmiri enterprise. The mistake was compounded by giving what was supposed to be a liberation movement an Islamic and, what was even worse, a jihadi colouring. Making the Kashmiri Pandits feel unsafe in their homes and seek refuge outside the valley was the work of foreign terrorists who also deprived thousands of Muslim families of their only means of livelihood by making their state a dangerous place to visit and thus disrupting the tourist trade. The overall result was to rob the very word Kashmiriyat of all meaning.

The only flaw in this reasoning is that without the suicide squads provided by foreign jihadi zealots or mercenaries, the Kashmir problem would not have assumed the ominous dimensions it did. For all the grave distortions it has suffered, India’s democratic system has been resilient enough to keep all separatist demands within manageable limits. That is why the core problem in Kashmir is not alienation of the public, which is the result of the disruption of their daily lives and the fear and anxiety fostered by the depredations of militant groups, but cross-border terrorism.

Musharraf’s contention that Kashmir is in the blood of Pakistanis has justly invited the jibe that in that case his country is badly in need of a dialysis. It may then discover that the kind of transition to a modern state the general promises cannot be made until the contaminating elements in Pakistan’s blood which have kept it backward are eliminated. These are religious bigotry, which has spawned the jihadi mindset and produced the blasphemy law, and the determination of the armed forces to have the final say in all major policy issues even during periods when military dictators yield place to popularly elected governments.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / HAPPY END TO REVENGE TRAGEDIES 
 
 
BY GWYNNE DYER
 
 
The Palestinians are clearly forgetful people, so Avi Pasner’s task is probably hopeless. The Israeli government spokesman said after the recent massacre of Israelis at a bat mitzvah (coming of age) party in Hadera that “we are going to teach the Palestinian authority a lesson they will not forget” — but the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has been administering these lessons to the Palestinians for over 40 years now with no result. The tit-for-tat vendetta that the Palestinians call “the intifada” and the Israelis call “terrorism” has killed just over 800 people in the past 16 months, but it blights 10,000 lives for every one it takes. Two whole communities are forced to live in perpetual fear and anger, and the instinct for retaliation is so deeply entrenched that it is hard to believe it could ever stop.

Abed Hassouna, the youth who shot up the reception hall, was taking revenge for last week’s killing of Raed Karmi, one of the leaders of the al Aqsa martyrs’ brigades, by a bomb planted by an Israeli government assassination squad. They were taking revenge for various killings that they believed Karmi had committed, and he no doubt had deaths to avenge as well.

“And so the wheel turns,” as an Israeli soldier wearily told me 20 years ago during the invasion of Lebanon. That war lasted for 18 years in one form or another, taking lives every month, before Israel pulled back to its own border. But it did end eventually, and this conflict can too.

Two old men

There is an example unfolding right now of how a long and bitter struggle can end, right in the region. It is in Cyprus, where the partition took place only 28 years ago, and where there hasn’t been any fighting for a long time now.

In both cases, it was Muslims versus non-Muslims in a former British colony, though in Cyprus the non-Muslims are Christian Greeks, while in the Israel-Palestine area they are Jewish Israelis. In both cases the non-Muslims greatly outnumber and out-gun their Muslim adversaries, who do not even control a legally recognized state. But both Muslim minorities have much more powerful friends in the region: Turkey for the Turkish-Cypriots and the adjacent Arab states for the Palestinians.

This is a formula for stalemate and, ultimately, tit-for-tat murder and massacre, which is what both places have seen for long stretches of time. It is hard to believe that it can ever end — but it may be ending now in Cyprus.

As the bat mitzvah guests were dying in Hadera, two old men (joint age 159) were meeting in Nicosia’s abandoned airport. Greek-Cypriot leader Glafkos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have known each other since they first squared off against each other in the courts of the erstwhile British colony in 1950, and they haven’t much time left. Clerides will retire next year, and Denktash is seriously ill with diabetes.

Why can’t they?

It is not just two old men in a hurry who make this umpteenth round of talks about Cyprus so hopeful, however. It is the imminent prospect of Cyprus joining the European Union that has finally provided what may be the right incentive: the Greek-Cypriots want in because it will bring them greater prosperity, and the Turkish-Cypriots want in because it will save them from great economic misery.

The problems are just as thorny as in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and success is not guaranteed. Where should the boundaries run? How many refugees can return? How is mutual security to be guaranteed?

But there is a message here for those who are tempted by despair. When the conditions are right, a deal becomes possible.

For Cyprus, right conditions include 20 years with virtually no shooting, a more equal balance of power on the ground than prevails on the Israeli-Palestinian front, a more even-handed approach by outside powers, especially the United States of America — and some really big incentive for compromise. So the Israelis and Palestinians will still have to wait for a while (and some more of them will die). But it can be done there too. Sooner or later, it probably will be done.

   

 
 
IN A PERFECTLY NORMAL JOB 
 
 
BY MONOBINA GUPTA
 
 
Feminism is essentially about empowering women and improving their status. But since long the movement has become split into a number of different movements. Feminist ideologies are now as varied as there are opinions on the relevant subjects. Little wonder that there should be acrimonious debates among women activists at the grassroots level or among women’s organizations.

Legalization of prostitution is one subject that has divided opinion the world over, particularly among feminists. One section advocates legalization as a means to improve the lot of sex workers while another rejects such a move outright. In between is a grey area inhabited by feminists who, despite accepting the positive aspects of legalizing prostitution, believe that there will be pitfalls.

Women’s organizations affiliated to political parties in India do not have a stated position on the issue. The subject has a strong “moral” underpinning which keeps them from speaking out. Similarly, the organizations withdraw when asked to take a position on lesbianism and sexual choice.

The government at the Centre recently passed an amendment to the Immoral Traffic (Prohibition) Act, recommending a deletion of the clause that makes sex workers “soliciting” and “seducing” in public, offenders in the eyes of the law.

Is this a precursor to legalizing prostitution? If so, a whole range of feminists are going to go up in arms opposing it. They have been warning that such a move will prove counter-productive and that legalization does not ensure better health or counselling facilities for sex workers. Nor does it act as a shield against police harassment and violent, abusive clients. If anything, legalization, they argue, will attach a permanent stigma to sex workers since identity cards certifying women as sex workers will be issued by government and local authorities.

Fortunately, for India, countries in the West have already tried out the legalization experiment. And there is a repository of information to fall back on. In 1999, the government in Netherlands passed a bill abolishing the ban on brothels, sex clubs and windows. A year later, this was translated into a law, legalizing voluntary prostitution and strengthening penalties against traffickers and pimps. The law strictly barred the entry of minors and those without a residence permit into prostitution. It laid down specific conditions with regard to the size and location of brothels, health and safety regulations, the use of condoms and fire escapes.

In Sweden, a similar law was passed around the same time in 1999 penalizing buyers of sexual services. Unlike in the Netherlands, the law in Sweden aimed mainly at stemming the flow of women into the flesh trade. It also put the clients and not the sex workers in its line of fire. The Netherlands policy chose to draw a line between voluntary and forced prostitution. But in Sweden prostitution was labelled a “social problem”.

Interestingly, the experiments in the two countries underlined the fact that the law was not able to bring within its purview a large number of sex workers — minors and illegal immigrants, who dodged the legal network. Reports from the Netherlands showed that there were roughly 25,000 prostitutes and almost half of them were not from countries of the European Union. In order to escape the law, they had migrated to the neighbouring countries. And the law seemed to have been turned on its head.

Sex workers without residence permits went under cover and worked in more dangerous conditions than before. One of the main aims of legalization — providing better healthcare — was defeated. Health and community workers found it difficult, if not impossible, to track down a large number of sex workers.

One of the main drawbacks of the legalization discourse is that sex workers have been left out of it. For instance, Canada, in 1992, launched a police project targetting clients without considering the existing cultural, gender and economic relations. “This reduced the power of women to negotiate for safer sex,” said a report on the project. Men who were married and thereby “respectable” did not want to risk being trapped in the police dragnet. Sex workers, instead, had to deal with “criminally” inclined men who did not mind being exposed before the public.

The project was not able to reduce the “supply” of sex workers, since it did not seek to alter the socio-economic conditions. But the demand came down. Sex workers had to work long hours. To avoid police surveillance, they moved to more isolated and unsafe locations. Competition among sex workers increased after the project brought down prices. In one interview a sex worker said, “Earlier I worked between five and nine in the evening. Now the hours have increased since finding clients takes more time.”

Germany has witnessed a strong movement for the rights of sex workers. The German civil code describes prostitution as an offence. And some of the country’s laws are decidedly derogatory to sex workers who, despite registering with the authorities, do not have full employment rights and are not entitled to social security benefits or health insurance.

There is also another aspect to this debate which cannot be ignored. It reflects a controversial feminist position on the right of a woman to express her sexuality. A London sex worker in an interview to the Feminist Review questioned the stereotyping of clients as abnormal, violent men. She said she had chosen to spend hours in the club where she worked despite being an author. This was because it gave her an opportunity to express her sexuality. It was purely voluntary and many of the clients she and her colleagues had were “perfectly normal, intelligent, attractive men” you see in everyday life.

The moral question is undone in one stroke by this interview. These and other reports from Western countries stress that legalization of prostitution is not an issue that is going to be resolved by a simple yes or no. Recognizing sex workers as workers in just any another industry is expected to give them the dignity that has always been denied them.

It is also expected to give them safety from the police as well as abusive clients. But given our experience here in India and elsewhere can we really expect the police to treat sex workers with any respect? Legal rights for sex workers are necessary, but what would be more welcome is an attitudinal change among those who will implement the law and who often twist it to cater to their warped mindset.

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / OPEN A NEW CHAPTER AGAINST ABUSE 
 
 
 
 
We therefore recommend that a new section, namely, section 376E be inserted in the Indian Penal Code in the following terms: 376E. Unlawful sexual contact (1) Whoever, with sexual intent, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of another person, not being the spouse of such person, without the consent of such other person, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.

(2) Whoever, with sexual intent, invites, counsels or incites a young person to touch, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, the body of any person, including the body of the person who so invites, counsels or incites, or touches, with sexual intent, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object any part of the body of a young person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

(3) Whoever being in a position of trust or authority towards a young person or is a person with whom the young person is in a relationship of dependency, touches, directly or indirectly, with sexual intent, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of such young person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation: “Young person” in this sub-section and sub-section (2) means a person below the age of 16 years.

3.6. In the light of the change effected by us in section 375, we are of the opinion that section 377 deserves to be deleted. After the changes effected in the preceding provisions...the only content left in section 377 is having voluntary carnal intercourse with any animal...

3.7. Amendment of section 509. So far as this section is concerned, the only change we are suggesting is enhancement of punishment. We recommend that the existing section 509 be amended as follows: “509. Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman. Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

3.8. New section 166A, IPC. The 84th report of the Law Commission had recommended...that a new section, namely, section 166A, be inserted in the IPC. The object behind this new section was to punish a public servant who knowingly disobeys any direction of law prohibiting him from requiring the attendance at any place of any person for the purpose of investigation into an offence or other matter or knowingly disobeys any other direction of law regulating the manner in which he shall conduct such investigation and which act of his causes prejudice to any person.

The representatives of Sakshi... requested that a new section as recommended by 84th report of the Law Commission be recommended to be inserted in the IPC. This provision must be understood in the light of the fact that in the next chapter, we are recommending several measures with respect to the manner in which the statement of women and children... should be recorded, the place where it should be recorded and so on.

3.8.1. New section 166A of the IPC recommended. Accordingly, we recommend that a new section be introduced in the IPC in the following terms: “166A. Whoever, being a public servant (a) knowingly disobeys any direction of the law prohibiting him from requiring the attendance at any place of any person for the purpose of investigation into an offence or other matter, or (b) knowingly disobeys any other direction of the law regulating the manner in which he shall conduct such investigation, to the prejudice of any person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both.”

To be Concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Chariots of fire

Sir — On one side of the border there was Pervez Musharraf, who surprised all by stating that politics and religion needed to be delinked. And on this side of the border is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad setting out on yet another rathyatra, which is bound to aggravate all the old wounds left behind by the first (“Ram rath rolls before polls”, Jan 21). What is even more shocking is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s support for it. With the assembly polls in mind, the BJP realizes the dangers of antagonizing its cadre. And so, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has washed his hands off the affair by saying that as long as law and order is not disrupted, the Centre would not interfere. Such double standards will not get either Vajpayee or the BJP very far. If Vajpayee expects Musharraf to stop encouraging anti-Hindu sentiments in Pakistan, then he can hardly expect to get away with spreading anti-Muslim sentiment in India. But of one thing one can be sure — there will be no communal harmony as long as the rath rolls on.

Yours faithfully,
Anshika Sharma, Mumbai

Transfer deal

Sir — After two years of negotiations, the West Bengal government has finally allowed Purnendu Chatterjee’s The Chatterjee Group 51 per cent majority stake in Haldia Petrochemicals Limited (“Purnendu gets Haldia control”, Jan 14). Chatterjee, who earlier held only 43 per cent share in HPL, had tried his best to get the company moving but the West Bengal government’s holding majority stake in the company had often held him back.

However, after prolonged dithering, the state chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, seems to have realized that control of HPL would be better off in the hands of professional managers, and not politicians. Chatterjee has the expertise required to manage HPL and the wherewithal to further its growth.

Bhattacharjee’s decision to transfer power in HPL will hopefully be followed by other sensible actions. As the editorial, “Resurrection” (Jan 16), states, the state government should concentrate on creating an ambience of investment rather than insist on having a stake in industries in the state.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — The state government’s decision to hand over management control of HPL to The Chatterjee Group is commendable. While this decision is a step in the right direction, the same cannot be said of the government’s move to set up the state investment promotion board, headed by Somnath Chatterjee, chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (“Big guns to get Bengal booming”, Oct 19).

Only last year, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had ordered an investigation into mismanagement in the WBIDC after it was discovered that the company had run into losses totalling crores of rupees. At least some of this money was spent by the WBIDC chairman on fruitless foreign jaunts in the past five years. The comptroller and auditor general has also pointed out several irregularities in the WBIDC’s accounts. Despite all this, one wonders why Bhattacharjee decided to appoint Chatterjee as the head of the new state venture.

The state government should desist from such arbitrary decisions regarding the investment sector if it wants an improvement in the economic condition of the state.

Yours faithfully,
Angshu Ray, Calcutta

Sir — Purnendu Chatterjee has been lauded by the media for managing to pull off the HPL coup. But the media seems to be going overboard in its praise of Chatterjee. Instead of focussing on Chatterjee’s business acumen, it is his personal life — his affinity for fish, his love for his family and so on — which seems to occupy the media (“Never say quit”, Jan 19). Readers are not interested in such banal details. It would be more pertinent to stick to Chatterjee vis a vis HPL, for example, dwelling more on what plans he might have for its revival.

Yours faithfully,
Shebanti Rawat, Jaipur

Rudely yours

Sir — The article, “How rude are we?” (Jan 13), is right in saying that the politeness of Indians is largely mythical. While most of us behave politely at home, our public behaviour is often rude, witness the noisy altercations that are the inevitable result of any difference of opinion.

Nevertheless, the rudeness displayed on the Star TV game show, Kamzor Kadii Kaun, is disconcerting. Television and films not only provide entertainment but also influence popular behaviour. However, when the host and participants of such a popular show engage in petty behaviour and mudslinging, they encourage others to do the same.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — It is heartening to read that Star TV has decided not to telecast the second installment of Temptation Island (“No temptation please, we’re Indians”, Jan 18). It is no surprise that 70 per cent of Indian viewers replied in the negative when asked whether they wanted to watch an Indian version of the show. Although Indian society has changed much over the last few years, most Indians continue to be conservative. It is cable TV that has exposed the Indian youth to the world of American soaps and game shows. Thanks to satellite TV, on-screen nudity and vulgar songs from Hindi films have invaded our living rooms.

It is a pity that neither the Indian government nor the cable networks have tapped into satellite TV’s immense potential. For example, there could be a separate channel helping viewers to learn languages like Sanskrit or Tamil. A separate slot could be set aside for special programmes on medical emergencies. There could also be programmes offering advice to farmers or raising awareness of women in rural areas. Given that nearly half a million infants die of diarrohea or cholera every year, owing to a lack of awareness among rural women, such a move would undoubtedly be of greater relevance in a country like India.

Yours faithfully,
Vandana Rathi, Calcutta

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