Editorial 1 / US and them
Editorial 2 / Double action
Protection in perpetuity
Fifth Column / Virtual reality or a mirage?
Lost forever in the shadows
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / US AND THEM 
 
 
 
 
The United States of America has been transformed by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. So has the US president, Mr George W. Bush, if his first state-of-the-union speech is good evidence. Mr Bush entered office in January 2001 as probably the least foreign policy oriented US president in recent history. Not only did his electoral campaign focus primarily on domestic issues, but he had also displayed little knowledge and even lesser interest in international affairs. Recall that Mr Bush could not even identify Mr Pervez Musharraf during the campaign. Consider now the transformation. Much of his state-of-the union address focussed on US foreign policy and the global war on terrorism. There was no sign of the old Mr Bush who had almost acquired the reputation of being an isolationist. Instead, the US president confirmed that there would be a continuation of the new phase of internationalism that has been in evidence in US foreign policy since the terrorist attacks. The main focus of US policy will be terrorists and rogue regimes which threaten US interests. But Mr Bush’s address deserves particular attention for two other reasons.

It is clear that Washington is going to continue the war against terrorism beyond Afghanistan. Already, as the president indicated, “America is acting elsewhere.” In the Philippines, the US troops are helping to train the country’s anti-terrorist cells. American soldiers are working with the Bosnian government to seize terrorists who were plotting to bomb various embassies. And the US navy is patrolling the coast of Africa to block the shipment of weapons to terrorists in Somalia. What will particularly reassure New Delhi is the identification of Jaish-e-Mohammad, with Hamas, Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad as the terrorist groups that the US is determined to fight. What the president also confirmed was that while terrorist organizations may be spread all over the world, Afghanistan, for most of the past decade, has been the principal training ground. Also, the president revealed that there will be a huge rise in US defence spending, the largest increase in two decades. Not only will the new challenge of terrorism be addressed, but traditional threats from countries like North Korea, Iran and Iraq will also be confronted. There will also be no let-up in the construction of a ballistic missile defence system.

Mr Bush obviously feels that Mr Musharraf continues to be the best bet for Washington in Pakistan and will do nothing to undermine his regime. India can take some comfort from the fact that it was bracketed with Russia and China as countries with which the US is working in unprecedented ways to “achieve peace and prosperity” and particularly because a “common danger”, according to the president, is erasing old rivalries. Mr Bush spent the latter half of his address indicating measures that he is going to take to lead the US out of the economic recession. But much of what he said on the economy was small print compared to the huge focus on the war against terrorism. Indeed, Mr Bush, in his new incarnation, may prove to be more internationalist than his predecessors.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / DOUBLE ACTION 
 
 
 
 
The crackdown on a terrorist hideout in Hazaribagh was good news for the investigation into the recent attack on policemen outside the American Center in Calcutta. But it is bad news for Jharkhand. The Naxalites so far posed the biggest threat to the new state’s law and order. The Hazaribagh incident has brought to light other dangers that could be as destabilizing as political extremism. In disturbing revelations since the incident, Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Hazaribagh have been identified as three possible hideouts for terror gangs with links to counterparts elsewhere in the country and abroad. These three being the main industrial and commercial hubs of the state, terrorism-related activities in these places could seriously erode Jharkhand’s economic base and the business community’s confidence. Although no links between Naxalite outfits and terror gangs have yet been uncovered, the administration should have no room for complacence because the illegal arms trade could always provide a common cause for agents of subversion. To compound matters, the disquieting developments have come at a time when the state’s governor, Mr Prabhat Kumar, goes out of office in rather controversial circumstances.

New Delhi must act fast to ensure that Mr Kumar’s resignation does not create an administrative vacuum. Prompt action by the Centre is needed to meet the state’s demand for additional paramilitary forces to tackle the Naxalite threat. Funds must also be made available with the state government to help it raise special units of its armed police so that law enforcing agencies can meet newer challenges more effectively. Jharkhand’s administrative machinery is yet to be fully in place because the division of manpower and assets between it and the parent state of Bihar remains incomplete. It is crucial that the Centre intervenes urgently to complete the process. Jharkhand needs to maintain close cooperation with Bihar in weeding out criminal gangs and extremist outfits. Many criminal gangs and their sponsors have networks that usually operate in both states. In fact, any terrorist or criminal group’s striking power and chances of escape increase when it can move across state boundaries. The Jharkhand government should use the Hazaribagh alert for an emergent action plan.

   

 
 
PROTECTION IN PERPETUITY 
 
 
BY PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
 
 
While there are many good grounds on which to question India’s integration into the world economy, the Confederation of Indian Industry’s pre-budget arguments to the finance minister to continue to protect Indian industry by not cutting peak tariff rates further, ought to rank as amongst the more disingenuous. Small scale farmers worried about the corporatization of agriculture, consumers worried about drug prices, the poor worried about inequality and citizens worried about democracy have worries that are at least prima facie plausible. But it seems a little pathetic when the captains of Indian industry, the creators of a system of protection that lasted more than four decades, the biggest beneficiaries of our decrepit licence-quota raj system, claim the exalted moral status of victims of globalization. They have emerged as the unexpected champions of protectionism.

While of course it would be grossly unfair to indict any large class of people and treat them as if they were homogeneous, it is fair to say that many of our old industrial entrepreneurs are deeply complicit in the system that produced poor economic performance. Their demand for more protection, their claim to a perpetual infant status, has little to do with the interests of the nation, or with fairness in trade. It has more to do with the last remnants of the licence quota raj in big industry, clinging on to state sponsored protectionism, rather than reforming themselves. And what better way to do so than to wear the garb of swadeshi?

There are of course real issues in the fairness of international trade and the access that developing countries get to the markets of the developed world. But it is odd to argue that it is the Bajajs of Indian industry who are the victims of this unfairness. The arguments in favour of continued protection of Indian industry seem to run as follows. The main argument is that given the cost structure Indian industry faces: poor infrastructure, high interest rates and so on, subjecting it to international competition will be unfair.

In one sense this argument is, literally speaking, true. It is true that the state’s lower investment in infrastructure and in human resources are all beginning to hamper Indian industry and make it less competitive. But the adverse costs that Indian industry faces are a consequence of not liberalizing the economy earlier. Low productivity, outdated technologies, unprofessional management, poor research and development, lack of proactive marketing: the real weaknesses of Indian industry are a direct consequence of being protected and coddled for so many years. It has also been almost ten years since India started its process of economic liberalization: much of the Indian industry now seeking protection did very little to adapt itself to the changing environment. The CII ought to ask itself: is ten years not slow enough for the pace of reform?

Indian industry has often made this argument that internal liberalization should precede external liberalization. This would allow Indian industry to tap the Indian market, generate more resources and be prepared for external challenges. This argument is good, but only in theory. The main problem is that Indian industry’s idea of entrepreneurship has generally been ill-suited to a genuinely competitive market economy. Most Indian industrial houses made their fortunes by manipulating the state, and their entrepreneurship consisted largely in being able to subvert state rules for their own ends rather than creating products that someone might actually want. Some were masters at this game, transformed themselves to become genuine corporations capable of competing on a global scale.

But most Indian industry, judged by its own whining, seems ill-prepared for the entrepreneurial challenges of a genuine market economy. The trouble with domestic liberalization in the absence of external liberalization is this. Domestic liberalization alone is less likely to have a transformative impact on the culture of entrepreneurship in India. It is most likely to benefit only existing large Indian industrialists by allowing them to increase their domestic market shares, but is unlikely to force them to do the things that viable long term corporations need to do: professionalize their management, constantly innovate, invest in research and development, and have proactive market strategies.

The main problem with Indian industry is probably as much cultural as it is economic. The future of Indian companies will not only depend upon the availability of markets, but also their capacity to function differently in terms of their own internal organization. It is a sad truth about our institutions that they seldom reform unless subject to serious external pressure, and Indian industry most of all needs to be subject to that pressure. Let the real entrepreneurs win.

It is also hardly the case that Indian industry can claim to have been models of corporate social responsibility. Indeed the debate over the proper social role of corporations, their commitments to creating public goods, their ability to invest in education have been made possible largely by a new generation of entrepreneurs in the information technology sector whose philanthropic energies seem more constructively directed than those donning the mantle of swadeshi.

In part, the case for external liberalization, whatever its economic merits, rests upon a confidence that India has the entrepreneurial capacity to take advantage of its integration into the world economy. The best argument for not giving the industrialists of the CII protection is the one given by the CII itself. In effect, by asking for more protection, by raising the spectre that Rahul Bajaj has raised, that most members of the CII will be reduced to traders, the CII has made a powerful case that it does not deserve protection. For in a roundabout way, it has admitted that those whose interests it represents do not have the capacity to compete. If they do not have the capacity to compete, it is unlikely that they will do much for the Indian economy, protected or otherwise. If they do there is little reason to whine and be afraid.

All of this is not an argument against seeking nuance in the terms of our engagement with the world economy. But it is to suggest that this plea for nuance and protection is ill-deserved in the case of Indian industry, or at least that part of the industry the CII seeks to represent. After all, one of the few unnoticed facts about the Indian economy in the last few years is this. We have been able to maintain relatively low rates of inflation despite running high fiscal deficits. There is something of a case to be made that this is due to import liberalization and lowering of tariffs. Indian industry, for a long time, ill- served Indian customers. Perhaps even more than the state they exemplified our corruption, inertia and closed minds. The only way to reform them is to subject them to external competition.

The author is professor of philosophy, law and governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / VIRTUAL REALITY OR A MIRAGE? 
 
 
BY DIPANKAR DAS
 
 
Sometime ago, an indebted farmer in Andhra Pradesh decided to bypass the bureaucracy by sending an email to the government. The concerned minister received the mail within minutes. But thereafter, a printout was taken of the mail which was then relegated to a file, along with thousands of other manually received petitions. The indebted farmer was one of the many in the state to commit suicide.

Now that the year 2001 — ambitiously designated the “year of e-governance” by the information technology task force — has ended, it is time to examine whether e-governance has become a virtual reality or if it continues to remain a mirage.

Almost 40 per cent of the IT ministry’s e-governance targets are yet to be achieved. Ironically, the reason for this is not the lack of funds but the entrenched culture of red-tapism within the government. The lack of IT awareness among decision-makers, poor management of knowledge and human resources, non-compatibility of IT projects and business processes and over-ambitious projects have led to a gulf between the government’s ambitions and their realization.

Digital divide

For one, few employees have been trained in computer usage. Although senior officials have been allowed access to the internet, only a handful of self-motivated and tech-savvy individuals actually use it. Andhra Pradesh is a case in point. In wired Cyberabad, the staff at the Mandal offices have computers and are aware that these can work wonders. But they have never used one. A 15-day training course was held, but did not produce the hoped for computer literacy. Like the heaps of files, the computers in almost all the 16 Mandal offices in the Hyderabad district are gathering dust.

A few initiatives like the twin cities network services project are, however, bearing fruit. Under this project, 12 integrated service centres will be opened, which will allow citizens of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad electronic access to any of 18 services — from birth certificates to death certificates, from building permits to trade licenses.

One e-governance project, most likely to span the digital divide and be of relevance to the common man is Madhya Pradesh’s Gyandoot model. The statewide network, accessed through local internet kiosks, allows farmers and traders to get good deals for farm animals and agricultural products.

If the Indian government needs any proof of the benefits of e-governance programmes, it need only look around the globe. In the last few years more than 500 e-governance initiatives have been launched worldwide.

Fast forward

A few years ago obtaining an import or export license in Singapore required filling out 21 different forms and waiting for 20 days. Ever since the government launched TradeNet, applicants only need to submit one on-line form and receive their licenses 15 seconds later. Singapore’s eCitizen portal allows access to all government services from a single site. More than 30 per cent of tax returns in the United States of America are currently filed on-line. The intention being, to put citizens on-line, not in line.

Far from being a financial drain, e-governance can actually reduce the costs of governance. For example, the US government hopes e-governance will help it cut procurement costs by over $ 100 billion. In Arizona, renewing a vehicle’s registration on-line costs the state only $ 1.60, while it costs $ 6.60 if it is done in person.

A website was created and maintained for this purpose by IBM, which receives two per cent of the fee for each on-line renewal. Malaysia too has joined forces with IT companies like Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Electronic Data Systems, to employ and train local manpower.

But e-governance cannot work miracles by itself, it has to work in tandem with other welfare measures. The transparence and accessibility of the internet give citizens a sense of involvement in the government. As a McKinsey study rightly says, e-governance doesn’t mean just buying and stocking hardware, it requires a paradigm shift in attitudes. Unfortunately, the “year of e-governance” has not brought about this critical change in India.

   

 
 
LOST FOREVER IN THE SHADOWS 
 
 
.BY RAJU MUKHERJI
 
 
The despicable apartheid policy of South Africa was universally deplored. And rightly so, since it reeked of blatant racism. But the equally reprehensible attitude of Australia towards its own native inhabitants somehow escaped condemnation.

The Australian aborigine population has not received the best of opportunities to come into the mainstream of Australian life, especially in the arena of sports. Only a handful of aborigine sportspersons have had the opportunity to leave their mark in international sports. Evonne Goolagong, the tennis player, and Kathy Freeman, the athlete, are among the major exceptions. They were indeed fortunate that the sports controlling bodies of rugby, athletics, boxing and tennis did not discriminate against the aborigines because of their racial lineage. But Australian cricket has never shown such humaneness, nor such maturity. The most prominent victim has been Eddie Gilbert, the fearsome fast bowler from Queensland. Born and brought up in one of the aborigine reservation camps, young Gilbert showed early in life that he was capable of generating blistering pace. Loose-limbed, he was a natural athlete with all the genetic traits of his race. His magnificent performance for Queensland Colts pitchforked him into the Queensland state team in 1930. In two seasons, with 22 and 26 wickets, he was their main warhead. Then he missed two seasons.

But in 1934-35, he came back with renewed energy and vehemence. Against New South Wales, he was at his ferocious best. His first delivery to Don Bradman knocked the bat out of the great man’s grip. Within two more deliveries he had the prized wicket as Bradman left for nought, caught behind. It is to Bradman’s credit that in his book, Farewell to Cricket, the great Don wrote that Eddie Gilbert’s pace was the fastest he had ever faced. Mind you, this compliment came from a man who had dominated the fastest of bowlers, including Harold Larwood, in the Thirties and Forties.

Yet, for all his outstanding merit, the name of Eddie Gilbert does not feature among the test players of Australia. Ironically, in the Thirties, the Australian pace attack was weak in comparison to those of England and West Indies. Even then, the fastest bowler in the world was not chosen to represent Australia. If this was not crass racism, what was? To hide their own shortcomings, those running cricket in Australia began a campaign that Gilbert threw his deliveries. Umpires could be easily found to back the conspirators. And so, almost overnight, Eddie Gilbert was taken away from cricket and sent back to the aborigine reservation camp. Disgusted, disenchanted, the world’s most fearsome fast bowler became a recluse and in time was sent to a lunatic asylum, where he died in 1978. Earlier still, similar inhuman treatment was meted out to the aborigine cricket players by the white Australian administrators. Their racial prejudice ran deep and wide.

In the late 1880s, an aborigine athlete, Jack Marsh, from the outback of New South Wales, was making headlines as a sprinter and hurdler. He was a natural athlete and took part in grade cricket in Sydney. He possessed lightning speed and had a dipping break-back that rattled the best of batsmen. Warren Bardsley, the eminent Australian test batsman of the time, rated him at par with Fred Spofforth, Charlie Turner and the great English bowler, Sydney Barnes. Bardsley was an educated, cultured soul with an upright, liberated mind. He never subscribed to the racial bias of his countrymen. Unfortunately, there were few like him in the influential corridors of Australian cricket at the time.

One of the major influential persons was none other than the New South Wales selector, Monty Noble, who later led Australia. Noble once categorically mentioned that Jack Marsh did not have the class to represent Australia in international cricket. By class, Noble meant not Marsh’s ability but his social rank. Unfortunately, similar sentiments, full of racial prejudice, guided Australian cricket at the time, and even later. Jack Marsh played just two seasons for New South Wales. In 1901 he topped the bowling average with 21 wickets at just 17.38 from only three matches. The following season he bagged 34 wickets at 21.47, but by then the Australian cricket authorities had decided to label him a “chucker” and ruin his cricketing career.

Apart from the tremendous strike rate, what is still more amazing is the economy rate of Jack Marsh. Very rarely have the fastest of bowlers been able to bowl with such accuracy. Yet for all his skills, the career of the great fast bowler was strangled at birth by racial bias at its worst.

Later, in 1916, he was literally assaulted to death by a band of white Australians. Such was the level of animosity towards the aborigines that the white judge, David Bevan, even observed that probably Jack Marsh had deserved to be lynched. Obviously enough, the white assailants were acquitted. Tragic but true, this has been the tradition of Australian cricket. There have been innumerable other instances where the white-dominated Australian society has ill-treated the original native Australians, the aborigines. No pure aborigine cricketer has ever been given the opportunity to represent Australia at the international level, even though time and again, they have proved themselves superior to the white competitors in the Australian first-class scene.

The names of Mullagh, Cuzens, Two-penny and Bullocky would come readily to mind. All of them had gone to play in England with the first-ever Australian team in 1868. The team comprised only of aborigines with a white man, Charles Lawrence, to lead and coach. These four players in particular gave an excellent account of themselves in the unfamiliar English conditions and against decidedly more superior and experienced English teams. These four were rated to be good enough for county cricket in England at the time. This surely was no mean achievement.

Then there was Sam Anderson, a prolific scorer in district cricket in New South Wales at the time of Bradman’s emergence in the late Twenties. But he received no support from any quarter and quickly faded away. Another exceptionally gifted fast bowler, Albert Henry of Queensland, met with disastrous fate. He was very successful as a sprinter, rugby player and cricketer. But the white Aussies could not tolerate his extrovert nature. He was falsely implicated, imprisoned and finally died of tuberculosis at just 29 in 1909. More recently, there have been other aboriginal cricketers like Ian King, Roger Brown and Michael Mainhardt, who were considered good enough for first class cricket. But they too could not make it to the international arena.

Racism in sports has been in existence for centuries — in every country and in various forms. South Africa was condemned because it had made apartheid an official policy. Other countries escaped censure because they practised apartheid on the sly. Australia and South Africa, despite their continual sermonizing about conduct codes, have been and still remain the worst offenders.

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Morning shows the day

Sir — Diplomats around the world, particularly the Americans, must have sighed once again at the news of the missile test firing in India on the eve of the Republic Day (“Muscle flexing with missile”, Jan 26). It will be hard to create any international sympathy for an act of belligerence designed to provoke further border tensions. The test itself was strategically pointless. India has already tested missiles roughly of the same range of 700 kilometres. It can therefore be interpreted as further proof of the fact that the government of India does not consider its nuclear weapons as “strategic deterrents”. A Pakistani spokesperson has demanded that notice be taken of such “Indian behaviour”. The Americans and the international media have done so. Is it not sad that on the 52nd Republic Day, the prime minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, can offer nothing to suggest to the world that India has become a mature and responsible democracy?

Yours faithfully,
Lakshmi Ghatak, New Delhi

Normal concerns

Sir — Monobina Gupta’s article on the legalization of prostitution, “In a perfectly normal job” (Jan 24), was thought-provoking. While feminists differ over the issue of legalization of prostitution, there is no different opinion on the fact that the rights of women in prostitution are violated and these have to be protected. The discourse that believes that prostitution is inherently discriminatory, abusive and violent also believes that women in prostitution are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. It recognizes this to be an institution that runs on the basis of the exclusive male prerogative to buy sex from a woman. While a counter-argument will point to the existence of male prostitutes, it must be remembered that the majority of them serve other men. Nowhere in the world is there a brothel where men prostitute for women. This is a strong indicator of the male sexual privilege.

The idea that prostitution is in some ways linked to sexual expression is utterly misleading. There are of course unhappy middle and upper middle class housewives who are trapped within the confines of home. Their venturing out to find self-expression does lead to personal and sexual liberation.But it would be misleading to generalize this sort of sexual practice resorted to by middle or upper middle classes or to compare it with that which is resorted to by thousands of women in Sonagachhi, Kalighat, Bowbazaar or Kidderpore brothels. Poor women and children in India do not think of taking up prostitution as a way to express their sexuality. They actually have little choice.

The move to decriminalize soliciting, as opposed to legalizing prostitution, has been welcomed by most campaigners. But as Gupta’s article points out, legalizing the trade often leads to an increase in trafficking of women and children. This menace could be controlled if pimps and brothel owners were effectively targeted. That, however, would require a fundamental shift in the attitude of the police and the wider community. But possibly they realize what the fallout of a legalization of prostitution can be — increase of child marriage, domestic violence and atrocities on women.

Yours faithfully,
Roop Sen, Calcutta

Sir — Monobina Gupta has been quite right in stressing that legal recognition of sex workers will not necessarily alter their lot. Pimps and brothel owners may even feel encouraged, and police harassment of sex workers might increase as a result. Gupta has stressed the need for an attitudinal shift and the improvement of economic conditions. Let us hope that voices like hers get to be heard more often.

Yours faithfully,
Pabitra Majhi, Calcutta

Sir — Monobina Gupta is careful. She supports legalization of soliciting by sex workers but not the legalization of the trade of which soliciting is only a part. Isn’t that a halfway house? How could you announce that the means is lawful, but not the end? The government’s idea itself is hare-brained and Gupta, by pledging it media support, is leading to further confusion.

The government is refusing to give prostitution a legal status because that would mean no end to troubles. Sex workers will have to be identified and have badges put on. But that is probably the least of the problems. There will be others. For one, it would never put an end to sale of bodies clandestinely, that is without valid licences. Which otherwise would also mean a free run for pimps and the police. This again means that healthcare, the reason for all social activism, will remain the least cared for aspect.

Yours faithfully,
Sanjukta Patra, Calcutta

Watering the plants

Sir — It is good that the National Council of Educational Research and Training is taking steps to lighten the burden of education on children (“Lighter schoolbags, livelier classrooms”, Jan 22). The sight of little children going to school every morning, carrying bags that are larger than themselves is painful. The modern system of education has turned today’s generation into robots, who run for after-school tuition and remain glued to the computer for the rest of the time that is left.

Parents will also welcome the introduction of a new subject on health and physical education, with chapters on HIV, AIDS and drug abuse. Simplifying mathematics in the upper primary classes will help children cope better. Squeezing social science into one text book upto class X is another good move, as is the introduction of contemporary history. Many of today’s youth will probably know when the first battle of Panipat was fought or when Akbar was born, but have no idea of when China invaded India or the Bangladesh war was fought.

Yours faithfully,
Purnima Vasudeva, Calcutta

Sir — The report, “Lighter school bags, livelier classrooms”, showed that we are just beginning to understand the plight of children. School-going should be a pleasure, not a chore which involves heavy bags and increasing homework. A lighter curriculum will release the load on the children and help them enjoy their childhood better. Hopefully, the dream of creating fully qualified professionals by the age of 10 will eventually be nipped in the bud.

Your faithfully,
Priti Kumari, Bokaro

Persecuted

Sir — Corruption is a good thing but exposing it is evil. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government has demonstrated the veracity of this statement by its actions. The vicious persecution of the main investor of tehelka.com, Shankar Sharma, and his wife, Devina Mehraand, since the tehelka exposé is sickening. The Sharmas have allegedly been prevented from working, travelling abroad or living a normal life since the story broke last March. Sharma is now in Tihar jail on charges that do not usually warrant the denial of bail.

The Sharmas are not criminals. They were among the country’s highest taxpayers. Their company is India’s finest financial firms. On the other hand, there is hardly anyone in the Vajpayee government who would deny the corruption in defence deals. Yet, instead of punishing the guilty, as the prime minister initially promised he would, we now find his government punishing one of the country’s most brilliant entrepreneurs.

Yours faithfully,
Preeti Kaul, Dubai

Letters to the editor should be sent to:

The Telegraph
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street
Calcutta 700 001
Email: [email protected]
Readers in the Northeast can write to:
Third Floor, Godrej Building,
G.S. Road, Ulubari, Guwahati 781007
All letters [including those via email] should have the full name and full postal address of the sender
   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company