Editorial 1/ One step forward
Editorial 2/ Figuring it out
Down to the essentials
In the shadow of its sibling
Document/ To empower is to enable
Letters to the editor

A battle, it has been said, is never lost till it is won. Only last week, it had seemed to those who had criticized Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for his statements on madrasahs that the chief minister had been put on the defensive. But it is now clear that such an impression was misplaced. Mr Anil Biswas, the secretary of the West Bengal unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and a considerable power figure in the politics of the state and within the CPI(M), reiterated the essence of Mr Bhattacharjee’s position when he said that minority fundamentalism was as much a problem as majority fundamentalism. He also clarified that Mr Bhattacharjee had not backtracked from his former position and, in fact, that there had been no pressure on him from within the party to do so. He emphasized that there is a lurking danger in West Bengal from the activities of Muslim fundamentalists. Neither Mr Biswas nor Mr Bhattacharjee is tarnishing the entire Muslim population of West Bengal. They are only underlining the dangers involved in allowing a handful of fanatics to vitiate the entire atmosphere of West Bengal. No government, intent on governing the state with a modicum of efficiency and law and order, can afford to ignore the problem of religious fundamentalism and the militancy associated with it. Both Mr Bhattacharjee and Mr Biswas have had the courage to indicate this. Their statements suggest that within the CPI(M) there is a powerful body of opinion that is willing to place governance above the garnering of minority votes.

These statements of Messrs Biswas and Bhattacharjee must be read in the context of the position adopted by the CPI(M) politburo regarding a new law to curb terrorism and organized crime. Mr Bhatt-acharjee has been a votary of such a law in West Bengal. He was thwarted earlier by the politburo. There are indications that the CPI(M) politburo has somewhat modified its earlier rigid position. It appears that Mr Bhattacharjee may have succeeded in persuading his party’s leadership that West Bengal is particularly vulnerable to the ravages of organized crime. There is a growing recognition that West Bengal needs tougher laws that would enable the police to detain criminals. Without such laws organized criminal gangs would continue to see West Bengal as a soft target. Mr Bhattacharjee’s hard line on criminals and religious fanatics is linked to his wider agenda of initiating an industrial renaissance in West Bengal. Violence is the worst deterrent to investment. Mr Bhattacharjee knows that if, under his leadership, West Bengal can be put on the path of economic growth, pampering vote banks will become a thing of the past.


The Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy expects real gross domestic product to be 5.7 per cent in 2001-02. The Central Statistical Organization expects it to be 5.4 per cent. Primarily, the 5.7 per cent or 5.4 per cent is because of better performance in agriculture. Whether the government acknowledges it or not, it is clear that the economy is on a lower growth trajectory in 1997-2002 than in 1992-97. The average trend rate of growth was around 6.7 per cent from 1992 to 1997 and suggested a sharp break from the 5.5 per cent of the Eighties, with plus 7 per cent growth in three successive years raising expectations. The state of India’s statistics is also pathetic, with CSO first estimating growth in 2000-01 to be 6 per cent, then lowering it to 5.2 per cent and finally lowering it to 4 per cent. In this quagmire of advance estimates, revised estimates, quick estimates and final estimates, the suggestion that the growth rate is what the government wants it to be is not inappropriate. A lower base in 2000-01 boosts growth in 2001-02 and makes the finance minister’s fiscal deficit target (expressed as share of GDP) easier to attain. Mr Yashwant Sinha should thank his stars that the parliamentary committee has knocked out all quantitative targets and time frames (on fiscal and revenue deficits) from the fiscal responsibility and budget management bill. With a higher GDP in the denominator, the actual figure will look more respectable.

The Rangarajan committee’s 2001 report on the quality of Indian statistics is a devastating critique. The CSO has no clue to estimating agriculture and services, and the primary difference between growth in the Eighties and the Nineties was owing to services. Slackening service-sector growth largely explains the dip since 1997, although manufacturing was also adversely affected, an effect accentuated by global recession. The government uses global recession as a bogey to argue that the average of 5.4 per cent during 1997 to 2002 is not that bad. However, a country like China, with double India’s export intensity, grows at 7 per cent despite global slowdown. This is because large economies have endogenous sources of growth, triggered by internal reforms. This is where the government has failed to deliver. If India grows at 5.4 per cent, India adds around 25 dollars every year to per capita income. If China grows at 7 per cent, China adds around 60 dollars. The disparity between the two increases over time. India has an enormous amount of catching up to do. Statistical jugglery or looking for external bogeys will not hide the fact that there is a growth crisis. The answer does not lie in Keynesian solutions of government expenditure which fritter away scarce resources, but in substantive reform. The agenda is known. But what is the government biting? The bullet or the ballot?


Finally, the government has decided to do something about the Essential Commodities Act, a promise made in the budget speech for 2001-02. The ECA was up for review and the list of essential commodities under the ECA was also supposed to be reviewed. Of course, what has been proposed so far is only Central government action and will remain incomplete as long as state-level notifications under the ECA continue. The ECA typifies the pathology of over-legislation and under-governance. As with several other enactments, this was introduced with the best of intentions and has gone through various amendments, each ascribed again to the best of intentions. Here is a sample of the justification for such amendments.

Nineteen fifty five — “Under Article 369 of the Constitution, Parliament had power during period of five years from the commencement thereof to make laws with respect to trade and commerce in, and the production, supply and distribution of certain essential commodities. The life of the Essential Supplies (Temporary Powers) Act, 1946 was therefore limited to the 26th January, 1955. The essential commodities to which that Act applied fell into two broad categories, viz., (a) coal, textiles, iron and steel, paper, etc., which are products of industries under Union control; and (b) foodstuffs, cattle fodder, etc., which are not products of such industries. As public interest required that Centre should continue to have even after the 26th January, 1955, the same legislative powers as it had under Art.369 of the Constitution, a Bill providing for the necessary amendment of Entry 33 of List 3 in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution was passed by both Houses of Parliament in September last year. This amendment has now become law, having been ratified by the requisite number of States.”

N ineteen sixty four — “The question of controlling the prices of foodstuffs and other essential commodities and ensuring the supply and distribution in adequate quantities of these commodities has been engaging the close and constant attention of the Government. There has been widespread public criticism of the manner in which some sections of the trade and middlemen were able to get round, and render ineffective, the legal and administrative measures devised for the maintenance of supplies essential to the community. It was, therefore, felt that the existing procedure governing trial of offences relating to the supply and distribution of foodstuffs and other essential commodities and enforcement of the prices fixed for these commodities under the law should be amended immediately, in order to make the trial of these offences quick and effective.”

Nineteen sixty six — “In order to make the administration of the Essential Commodities Act more strict it is proposed to provide for the forfeiture of packages, vehicles, animals etc. involved in the contravention of orders issued underthat Act…It is also proposed to insert new provisions in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, for the confiscation, by Collectors of districts of foodgrains, edible oilseeds and edible oils which have been seized for contravention of any order issued under the Act and for appeals from the orders of the Collectors of State Governments.”

Nineteen sixty seven — “At the Conference of the Chief Ministers in July 1967, at New Delhi, it was suggested that the penal provisions under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, should be made more stringent and their implementation made more effective…Offences under the Act were not cognizable. It was felt that the offences should be made cognizable and bailable and further that the maximum punishment for certain offences under the Act should also be increased from imprisonment for three years to imprisonment for five years. The Act did not contain provision for awarding a minimum punishment to habitual offenders. For the proper working of the Act, it was considered necessary to provide for the award of minimum punishment to habitual offenders and also to empower the Court to direct that any such person shall not carry on any business in the essential commodity (with respect to which he has been convicted) for such period, not being less than six months, as may be specified by the Court.

Persons committing offences under the Act sometimes escaped punishment for contravention of orders made thereunder on the plea that the offences were not committed by them deliberately. It was felt necessary to amend the Act so as to make contravention of an order made thereunder punishable whether the order was contravened knowingly, intentionally or otherwise.”

Nineteen seventy one — “Clause…enables the Central Government...to provide for incidental and supplementary matters including the entry into and search of, premises and conveyances, and the seizure by an authorised person of articles in respect of which any contravention of such order has taken place or is about to take place. That clause does not explicitly authorise the seizure of the coverings or receptacles in which the property is found or the conveyances used for carrying the property…It is, therefore, proposed to amend that clause to empower the seizure of such coverings and receptacles and to authorise the seizure of conveyances or animals used for the transport of offending goods when the person seizing the goods has reason to believe that the conveyance or animal is liable to be forfeited.”

Nineteen seventy four — “The hoarders, black-marketeers are playing hell with the lives of millions of people in the country by violating the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. These man-eaters are too cunning and always escape through the lacunae in the law. Even in cases when they are caught red-handed, they get immediate bail even from the police officer and try to tamper with evidence and foil the process of investigation. So, the administration of justice is reduced to a farce. These undesirable and anti-social elements should be sternly dealt with. To achieve the very object of the Act, to secure effective administration of justice, to ensure a free and fair investigation, it is necessary that such persons, should not be released on bail. Hence, it is necessary to make every offence under this Act non-bailable.”

Nineteen eighty one — “In spite of extensive amendments made to the principal Act in 1976, experience has shown that some of the existing provisions of that Act have not been adequate and effective for expeditious disposal of cases as well as for ensuring the availability of essential commodities at fair prices and for curbing, hoarding and black-marketing of and profiteering in, such commodities. There are large number of court cases pending under the principal Act all over the country and the price rise has continued unabated in the years 1979 and 1980. For dealing more effectively with persons indulging in anti-social activities like hoarding and black-marketing and the evils of vicious inflationary prices, it is considered necessary to make the following special provisions...in order to expedite the process of prosecutions under the principal Act, it is proposed to provide…for the trial, in a summary way, of all offences under that Act; and for the constitution, for the purposes of such trial, of Special Courts…to strengthen the penal provisions of the principal Act with a view to deterring persons indulging in hoarding and black-marketing in essential commodities.”

The ECA was originally enacted in a period of shortages (Defence of India Rules, 1939). “The Act is a beneficial legislation which is enacted for the purpose of improving the conditions of public and society.” Thus interpreted, it no longer seems to be the case that ECA is needed in an era in which shortages do not exist, except to further the cause of bureaucratic rent-seeking. Essential commodity means “(i) cattle fodder, including oilcakes and other concentrates; (ii) coal, including coke and other derivatives; (iii) component parts and accessories of automobiles; (iv) cotton and woollen textiles; (iv-a) drugs; (v) foodstuffs, including edible oilseeds and oils; (vi) iron and steel, including manufactured products of iron and steel; (vii) paper, including newsprint, paperboard and straw board; (viii) petroleum and petroleum products; (ix) raw cotton, whether ginned or unginned, and cotton seed; (x) raw jute; (xi) any other class of commodity which the Central Government may, by notified order, declare to be an essential commodity”.

Are all such commodities listed above still plagued by shortages? Obviously not. That is the reason the ECA has to be scrapped. Among other things, it constrains inter-state movements of agricultural products.

Licensing led to shortages. Shortages would have led to price increases and this led to more and more orders under the ECA. With licensing dead and gone, we do not need the ECA for industrial products any more. And if agricultural reforms take place, we do not need it for agricultural products either. This does not mean that the ECA has to be scrapped. Essential commodities figure in the ECA in two ways. First, Section 2 has a definition of essential commodities. We do not need this definition any more and the items that are now being freed belong to this category. Second, Section 3 gives the Centre and state governments the authority to notify various commodities as essential, should the need arise. This enabling section can continue.

The author is director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, New Delhi


Hemmed in by mountains and full of green expanses, Uttaranchal must always have been an odd sibling of Uttar Pradesh, its flat, grey, dusty big brother. The separation between the two was as natural as their contrasting landscapes and varying social and political contours. The campaigns for the assembly elections in the two states reveal their differing electoral dimensions and revive an important debate: development versus caste and religion.

In Uttar Pradesh, electoral logic is articulated through the language of caste, its permutations and combinations. The success of each political player depends on the finesse with which he can graft one caste onto another, or craft an alliance between majority and minority religions — a primordial game played by all shades of political parties since the state’s first election. Uttaranchal, by contrast, is not playing by its rules. Both caste and religion are marginal compared to the people’s overwhelming quest for development. The friction between the Brahmins and the Rajputs for a larger slice of power does not have an edge sharp enough to merit attention at this moment.

When the hill enclave resided in Uttar Pradesh, its people went along with the tide of the movement for a Ram mandir. But it was never really our issue, says a resident of the state. It was the same with the fragmented caste mobilizations. Caste and religion were intrinsic to the political and electoral mobilizations in Uttar Pradesh — the people in the hills were never really caught up in this web. Now that they are standing on their own turf, they can only be tied to the anchor of a stable economy, a dream more elusive than ever.

If we expect the political establishment both in and out of the ruling party to talk about what people are thirsting for — a prescription for reviving the economy precariously perched on government jobs, armed forces and tourism — there is only disappointment. Yes, the campaigners did not forget to mention the tardy development of the state. But that was only political vendetta — a way of settling scores with each other. The Congress thrashed the Bharatiya Janata Party for not performing but the people, though fed up with the BJP, were looking for deeper answers, beyond squabbles for oneupmanship.

For them, there are no caste bondings — no Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rajnath Singh, who would improve the lot of their respective castes. In a sense, the demand for development is emerging from an entire people, not fractured along caste or religious lines, as nowhere else in the Hindi heartland. But politicians, more at ease putting together or pulling apart strands of caste and religion, have failed to grasp the essence of the disaffection.

The people of Uttaranchal and political parties choosing to represent them are as estranged as they can be.The gap between what the people want and what the political parties want has widened perceptibly in the last 14 months. There was a time before that when the BJP, now ruling the state, had stood shoulder to shoulder with the common people of Uttaranchal craving a separate homeland, battling resistance from the government headed by the Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Yadav. Since then the people have gone back to their battered homes and politicians to their plush offices. There is no common ground between them.

The Uttaranchal poll campaigns have dwindled in the shadow of the more rhetorical and shrill campaigns emanating from the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Little wonder that the people in the hill state are in the grip of nostalgia for returning to the arms of the big brother which would always get the attention of the nation through its time-tested and emotive channels of caste and religion. How many people would care to know the depths of economic insolvency facing that state? According to experts, Uttar Pradesh is drowning in a Rs 48,000 crore debt. But then as far as elections here are concerned, this is not an issue. Neither is development.

Where caste and religion are not electoral pawns and development is the most visible issue, as in Uttaranchal, political parties have lost their grip on developmental issues. What we hear, not just in this state, but in all other parts of the country is a standard, jargon-ridden speech on development and the economy. Roti, kapda aur makaan is what every party promises in its manifesto. The educated unemployed in Uttaranchal are not impressed with this one-line promise or wild assurances of minting gold from potential electricity projects which Uttaranchal could win for itself.

They have had bitter experiences. Every second person you meet in the heart of Nainital has passed his 12th-standard examination. This is no Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. Even with a relatively better education the young people are forced to sit their time out. Liquor shops, as usual, are flourishing.

The government, despite tremendous pressure from women’s organizations and regional parties like Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, is refusing to declare the state alchohol-free. After all, the liquor trade seems to be the most stable source of revenue in a stagnant economy. Add to this the rift between Garhwal and Kumaon. People in Kumaon feel that their counterparts in Garhwal have run away with a better deal. They have the capital in Dehra Dun — more resources, better options.

To add insult to injury, the two other states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, born at the same time as Uttaranchal, have fared much better. The people in the hills attribute most of their ills not only to the system but also to the two chief ministers they have seen perform. The first incumbent, Nitya- nand Swami, was written off as good for nothing. The second and present incumbent, Bhagat Singh Koshiari, handpicked by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is pallid compared to his Uttar Pradesh counterpart, Rajnath Singh, who has managed to pull his party and its image out of a morass.

The anti-incumbency factor always works against the ruling dispensation. But in Uttaranchal, disaffection is multi-pronged, not just with one party but with all of them. They are all condemned for failing to cross their familiar terrain of caste and religion and speak the language of development. The BJP, of course, stands the most guilty of them all for having unleashed a movement for a separate state which gave the people only a slice of land and no relief.


Approximately 63.72 per cent of the participating organizations receive some portion of their funds from the government. By giving financial assistance to non-governmental organizations, the government is indeed supporting the work of the voluntary sector and in a way sharing the responsibility. However, it is seen that whenever the government wishes to have a dialogue, NGOs who have a “good record” of cooperating with the government are selected from among those who receive grants-in-aid. This precludes the enormous experience of other NGOs as well as healthy and necessary dissent from many dynamic organizations which do not rely on government aid. The NGOs chosen finally are from a familiar group which basically holds similar views as the state. The NGOs that are dependent on the government for financial assistance find it difficult to express any difference of opinion for fear of losing the grants in the future.

It is interesting to note that the range of percentage of funding varies from 1 per cent to 100 per cent. The average percentage of government funding is only about 24.10 per cent. The disability sector is well aware of the low priority given to it during financial allocation. In the 8th five year plan, Rs 211.50 crore was allocated for all programmes on disability. The allocation in 1994 was Rs 41.90 crore for planned and Rs 17.21 crore for non-planned expenditures. This works out to 0.001 per cent of the total allocation for 10 per cent of the population.

Between 1986-92, 17 per cent of government expenditure was on defence, while on health and education it was a mere 2 per cent. Salary norms laid down for NGO staff, in comparison with similar staff in government rehabilitation organizations, are markedly lower, resulting in the loss of good, commited people to institutions which pay more. If the government is made aware of the extent and complexity of the problems faced by disabled people in a collective manner by the NGOs, there is no reason why the disability sector will not be taken as a priority area of development.

…Although the percentage of disabled people in the general body was 54.23 per cent, their percentage in the executive body was only 22.07 per cent, which is a clear indication of the extent of their participation in the decisions that affect them. Most decisionmakers in development organizations are able-bodied and have never been exposed to the full potential of disabled people. Existing models of project design, no matter how “community oriented”, tend to treat disabled people as recipients rather than as participants in the decisionmaking process. In the conference rooms, disability programmes are discussed, planned and funded with hardly a disabled person present. Among professional carers and the general public, there is a dislike for the militancy exhibited by some disabled people — who, it is assumed, should keep quiet and accept their situation as unfortunate and unchangeable. A social model in which disabled people play a full part in development decisionmaking is not only a realistic and achievable goal, but is also perhaps the only viable way to extend opportunities for rehabilitation and decent living to the maximum number of disabled people. If NGOs that propagate empowerment of disabled people themselves have few such disabled people in their decisionmaking bodies, the situation seems quite dismal.

The social sector has been fighting for gender equality and for equal opportunities for the disabled. The trends emerging from this research study show a definite contrast. Women formed only 28.45 per cent of the entire strength of the decisionmaking bodies of 116 organizations. Though disabled men formed 18.36 per cent of the decisionmaking bodies, disabled women formed a mere 3.71 per cent of the decisionmaking bodies. This needs immediate and serious consideration from all those working in this sector.

Eunice Fiorito and Jim Doherty discuss this issue in great detail in the book Women and Disability. According to them, the male bias which pervades rehabilitation and vocational training schemes for the disabled is also clearly reflected in male domination of decisionmaking in rehabilitation organizations. Women who choose rehabilitation as a professional field become abruptly conscious of this situation once they reach a certain level in the hierarchy. They often join as volunteers and are very soon told how good they are with their clients. As a result, women tend to be concentrated in low and mid-level positions. In a study of rehabilitation professionals, Jacqueline Packer found that above the level of supervisors, all administrative power was in male hands.

The rehabilitation system is deprived of the rich experience women have in this area, as they are not allowed a fair share in programme direction and leadership. If it is valid to say that women are especially effective in working with people, then the system loses a great deal when the ability is confined to lower levels. Women who have gained insights through day-to-day dealings with clients and the experiences of disabled women themselves could provide useful inputs to planning sessions.

To be concluded



Work more, talk less

Sir — The verdict of the people of West Bengal in the assembly polls does not seem to have provided enough hint to the Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Banerjee, that she desperately needs to rethink her political strategies for the future (“Mamata proposes, public disposes”, Feb 9). That is probably why she once again found her latest proposal being cold-shouldered. Banerjee had proposed the bifurcation of Burdwan on the lines of Midnapore and found her offer met with vociferous protests from a section of her own leaders and practically no response from the people to whom it would matter. Political gimmicks and false promises from didi have taught the people to be more wary of her rhetoric. The sudden flurry of “constructive” activities and proposals for the welfare of West Bengal from Banerjee only indicates her desperation to be in the limelight. It is good to note that the media no longer goes overboard in matters concerning Banerjee. The apathy on part of the media and the electorate of Bengal has certainly succeeded in cutting didi to size. The problem is her ego will never fit into that size.
Yours faithfully,
Kakoli Das, Calcutta

Give them their share

Sir — The Central government’s decision, as part of its recent economic reform initiative, to introduce the voluntary retirement scheme has left most Central government employees feeling insecure. According to the report, “Govt handshake for surplus staff” (Feb 6), the government has decided to offer VRS only to employees identified as surplus by the Geethakrishnan committee on expenditure reforms or are yet to be declared surplus. Which means that almost every government department will be affected as each department has a large number of employees who are entirely dispensable. The government has also stated that those unwilling to accept VRS will be provided appropriate professional training for absorption in other departments within a year, failing which they will be retrenched. Since almost all government departments are over-staffed, it seems that absorption of surplus employees will be an impossible task. Thereby, the only option that remains for these employees is VRS.

Earlier, the government had taken a decision to curtail 10 per cent of the staff strength of each department every year for three consecutive years. This reduction has still not taken place. The latest decision is to shed about 5 per cent of the workforce, made up of 35 lakh people, in two years. The Centre has also suspended the leave travel concession facility for the sake of economic reform. In such a situation, the decision to introduce VRS bodes ill for all government employees. The finance minister, Yashwant Sinha, should review the effect his decision is likely to have on government employees before he implements it.

Yours faithfully,
Ashim Dasgupta, Calcutta

Sir — The report, “Govt handshake for surplus staff”, reminded me of the last time the government had intervened in labour regulations. In keeping with global trends on the superannuation age, the Central government had accepted the recommendations of the fifth pay commission and raised the retirement age of all Central government employees, including those in public sector units, from 58 to 60 years on March 13, 1998. Accordingly, the ministry of surface transport (ports wings) issued directives to raise the retirement age from 58 to 60 years in the Calcutta Dock Labour Board, Calcutta Port Trust, and various other Central government undertakings.

However, in a subsequent circular issued on October 13, 2000, the ministry directed all government undertakings to roll-back the age of superannuation from 60 to 58 years. While Central government undertakings rolled back the age of superannuation, the Centre did not effect a reduction in the age of superannuation of its employees. Such a volte face by the government within a short span of time has placed the professional lives of government employees in complete uncertainty.

The Central government, before floating the VRS, ought to have considered the economic fallout of such a major policy decision on the exchequer. A reduction in the retirement age would have done away with the huge wage bill of employees on the verge of retirement, but the government preferred to give in to vote bank politics and sat on the issue. The government is now faced with the prospect of having to cough up large sums in the form of retirement benefits — provident fund, pension, gratuity — for its ever increasing work force.

The VRS has turned out to be an eye-wash on the eve of the assembly elections in four states. For one, it is optional and cannot be forced on surplus employees. It would be more appropriate if the government tried to prune its bloated workforce and optimize its use. A simultaneous roll-back in the retirement age would facilitate the rationalization of manpower. Till this is implemented, a moratorium should be imposed on the further enhancement of employee benefits for about two years. The bold step taken by the Kerala government to curtail salaries of all state government employees by as much as 40 per cent is laudable. A similar move, though harsh, could prove effective.

Yours faithfully,
Sankar Lal Singh, Calcutta

Look again

Sir — The triple talaq, which is the most misused Islamic law these days, is actually a law which recognizes that divorce is necessary for unhappy couples. It is also intended to make it difficult for the man to leave his wife because it takes into consideration that a divorcee may face social ostracism (“Secular but not uniform”, Jan 16). It is actually called the Talaq-ul-biddat and requires a husband to say each of the three talaqs after a gap of a month and abstain from any physical relationship with his wife during this period. If the man fails to abstain from such a relationship he will have to repeat the entire talaq process.

I agree with Nirmalendu Bikash Rakshit that a uniform civil code is necessary in India. Since outdated Hindu personal laws have been re-worked and even removed, the same must happen to personal laws of all other religions. If Muslim countries like Turkey have successfully established a uniform civil code, there is no reason why the Muslims in India should object to a uniform civil code for India.

Moreover, the right to justice of every individual must be the priority of the state, especially when this right comes into conflict with religious laws. It is embarrassing that an Islamic state like Pakistan has made it illegal for a man to have more than one wife, but our own secular legal system remains silent on this issue.

Yours faithfully,
Indrani Bhattacharya, Howrah

Sir — As cited by Nirmalendu Bikash Rakshit in “Secular but not uniform”, Pradip Kumar married a Hindu wife according to Hindu rites in 1983 and was still married to her when he converted to Islam in 1991 in order to marry a second time. This is a blatant misuse of the shariat laws caused by their misinterpretation. Such instances can happen only in India. A uniform civil code is not being introduced because the government in India fears that such a step might draw negative responses from its vote bank. Islamic governments like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Turkey do not accept such medieval practices. India should emulate the neighbouring Islamic countries and implement a uniform code which will ultimately help protect the rights of women in India.

Yours faithfully,
Rajib Sarkar, Uttarpara

No ball

Sir — Sachin Tendulkar was sensible enough to decline the offer made by the national selectors to be stand-in captain during the recently concluded one-day match series against England in Chennai. Tendulkar by this time knows that the expectation of Indian cricket fans often reaches heights of absurdity when it comes to him. This puts too much pressure on the player, particularly if he also happens to be the captain. Tendulkar’s gesture also indicates the sorry state of Indian cricket. Part of this is because of the role played by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Also, the selectors have consistently axed one skipper after the other if he failed to deliver the goods, even if it were a single match. It would be heartening to see the board of selectors give adequate time to the captain to prove his mettle. This certainly will do a lot of good, both for the team in general and the skipper in particular.
Yours faithfully,
Neel Ray, Calcutta

Sir — The one day international cricket series against England makes it clear that our side depends only on two batsman, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar. Inconsistency among the junior players is a matter of concern not only for the team but also for the captain. Indian captaincy appears to be contractual and this helps keep sustained pressure on the captain. When international cricket was passing through a recessional period, crippled by match-fixing and other shameful incidents, it was the Indian skipper who had kept the morale of the team high. Ever since Ganguly took over as captain, Indian cricket has regained its fighting spirit. Ganguly should be given a longer term to prove his ability to lead the Indian side.

Yours faithfully,
B.K. Chakrabarti, Calcutta

Sir — Sourav Ganguly has served his term, during which he was unable to break the old habit of throwing away a match. Probably, he should take a break.

Yours faithfully,
Gour Nitai, Calcutta

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