Editorial 1 / Tragic game
Editorial 2 / Wholly politics
Still backwards
Fifth Column / Voting without eggs
Arms and the men in power
Document / Services that hardly ever reach
Letters to the editor

The brutal killing of the American journalist, Daniel Pearl, clearly indicates that the forces of terror continue to be active in Pakistan. There is also evidence to suggest that those responsible for this heinous act form part of a network of terrorists who have, in the past, had close links with intelligence agencies there. The collapse of the taliban had created a dangerous illusion that much of the war against terrorism was over. Pearl’s death now confirms that unless the international coalition is willing to sustain the war against terrorists until the forces of extremism have been well and truly uprooted, there is a danger of a terrorist backlash that will strike first at soft targets like journalists. Pearl’s death demonstrates the extent of the influence of the jihadi forces in Pakistan.

The response of the Musharraf government has been marked by strong rhetoric, but real action on the ground has been weak and half-hearted. Pearl, the south Asia bureau chief based in Mumbai for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in Karachi last month while he was investigating links between the “shoe bomber”, Richard Reid, and terrorist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The group that claimed to have kidnapped Pearl identified itself as the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, and made a series of demands including the release of taliban and al-Qaida prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay by the United States of America. It took the Pakistani security forces a week to arrest Mubarak Shah Gilani, an extremist who Pearl had arranged to meet on the day of his disappearance. The official story behind the arrest of the prime suspect, Omar Saeed Sheikh, is also full of loopholes. Indeed, Sheikh claimed that he had been arrested only after he had walked into the home of a senior government official and a week before the authorities in Pakistan produced him in court. And even when Sheikh confessed to the kidnapping and signalled that he thought Pearl was dead, officials indicated that they thought the journalist was still alive. Indeed, Pakistan’s president even made the absurd suggestion that the government of India may be behind Pearl’s disappearance and that Sheikh may have been working for Indian intelligence.

But it is well known that the British-born Sheikh had had links with the Inter-Services Intelligence. Arrested in India for kidnapping foreigners, he was released in 1999 in exchange for the passengers of the Indian Airlines aircraft hijacked to Kandahar. Sheikh has since been active in Pakistan with a variety of jihadi groups and has also been linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11. In the Pearl killing, his co-conspirator was one of the hijackers of the Indian Airlines flight. While there is a powerful body of international opinion that continues to believe that Mr Pervez Musharraf is best equipped to wage war against the extremists in his country, the killing of Pearl will strengthen those who have had doubts about the Pakistan leader. It is critical that pressure be sustained on Mr Musharraf to persuade him to act with determination against terrorist groups. And if there are serious doubts about the military leader’s sincerity, or it seems that he is losing control, it may become necessary for the international community to search for alternatives better inclined to fight the most dangerous threat to the stability of the region.


Politics and religion, it would seem, are doing a rare dance around each other in different regions of the country. On one side, in West Bengal the chief minister is being criticized for suggesting that education in madrasahs be looked into. In contrast, the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, has been travelling from New Delhi to Dighauri in Madhya Pradesh to be present at the dharma sansad being held there during the birthday celebrations of Swaroopananda Saraswati, the sankaracharya of Dwarka and Badrika peeths. The Congress president and the party leaders accompanying her have also met the other sankaracharyas. The exercise has ostensibly been undertaken at the invitation of the Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Mr Digvijay Singh, and Ms Gandhi’s visit was supposed to be a formal exhibition of respect towards the Hindu religious leaders. It is unclear why the leader of a self-professedly “secular” party should make a public spectacle of homage to the leaders of a particular religion. This makes nonsense of the Congress’s arguments against using religion in the service of politics. During the tiff between the Bharatiya Janata party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad over the proposed construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the sankarachayas had shown leanings towards the court’s — that is, a “secular” — solution. Ms Gandhi’s visit can only be seen as an attempt to win the Hindu dharmagurus over to the political “secular” side.

The timing of Ms Gandhi’s letter to the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asking for an all-party meeting to allay the worries of the secular forces in the country, confirms these speculations. What, however, is most puzzling is why the Congress president should feel the need to have the top holy men behind her before fighting the VHP. The VHP has no business to push through its programme before the court has given its verdict. And if Mr Vajpayee cannot do anything about it, other leaders will have to. Approval from sadhus is not pertinent; it increases the divisiveness in the polity. The Congress’s secular credentials have been weakened by the Dighauri visit.


With the spectacular growth of information technology and communications industries, new companies that did not exist even ten (or less) years ago are now larger than the giants of earlier years. Some people even talk of India jumping the industrial age to the service age, as have the post-industrial economies, such as that of the United States of America.

This is nonsense. India is still a very underdeveloped country. Penetration of purchase of manufactured consumer goods is still far behind even that of countries like Thailand and China, not to speak of the highly developed economies. Our use of steel, cement, aluminum, electricity, or a host of “old economy” basic products is very low per capita. That shows how very small our manufacturing base is. It is the size of our population that enables us to claim being among the largest manufacturers in the world for a variety of manufactured goods, or even natural ones, because even a low per capita usage multiplied by a large population makes us large in absolute terms.

Information technology and communications are closely related to the growth of our manufacturing. It is the absence of large and growing domestic demand that has led to so much of our information technology volumes being export-driven. The low penetration of telecommunications is not merely owing to shortages. It is also related to the backwardness of so much of our economy. The rapid growth of manufacturing and agriculture is therefore fundamental to a better life for most of our people. China has a higher share of manufacturing in its gross domestic product, despite China being a more developed economy than India. We should be alarmed at the low and declining share of manufacturing in our gross domestic product.

It is not merely in these “hard” areas that we are backward, and will remain so until we can substantially improve our physical infrastructure and the manufacturing base. It is also in the “soft” areas of ideas and what Krishna Palepu has called the “intermediaries” that we have the form but not the function, the rhetoric but not the reality.

We have corporate chairmen who talk about how people are their greatest asset. Yet, little is done in most companies to involve all the people. There is little participation and consultation with the vast majority of blue and white collar workers. What there is is confined to a few managers at the higher levels. More often it is the “promoters” who hand down new directions and strategies to the rest of the company for implementation. There is little sense of ownership of change over the organization as a whole, and its implementation is not whole-hearted.

Productivity from the same technology and equipment is many times much lower in India than in many other countries. Developmental training is confined to the managers. Rarely is the low-level employee identified as having potential to contribute a lot more, and given training and exposure for doing so. Most companies have “glass ceilings” that stop non-members of the promoter families from rising in the hierarchy. Instead it is close members of the “promoter” family, distant members and trusted friends and retainers who hold the key decision-making or responsible positions.

People may be the company’s greatest assets but little effort is made to get the maximum return from them. These mindsets in Indian industry were not suicidal to companies in the days of the “license and permit raj”. Now that licensing has almost disappeared, the economy is subject to much lower import tariffs, domestic and foreign investment can enter most areas and take-over of companies has become common, the mindset has to change fast.

Corporate managements in India have paid little attention to adding to the value of the investment by other shareholders than themselves. As “promoters” they were the satraps, and enjoyed the benefits that possession of ownership and control gave them. But the shareholder and the value that he perceives are now very important determinants for a company’s future. It is the lack of it that has led to the stagnation in the primary equity market and the consequent inability of companies in the last five years to expand capacities and grow. Investors do not trust most company managements to look after their interests.

Apart from mindsets, the evidence is that except for a small fraction, most companies continue to pay little attention to development of designs, products and processes. Cost reduction and improvement of productivity and quality are not at the core of the values of most companies. The customer, identifying his concerns and satisfying them, are not a priority for most. This makes their future competitiveness very doubtful. Instead, most companies plod along in their old ways. They spend little in building the intangibles in their business, namely adding to their knowledge capital and to building their own brands.

We have been unjustifiably proud of the development of “intermediaries” for industry in India. In financial markets they include chartered accountants, auditors, cost accountants, banks, venture capitalists, merchant bankers, mutual funds, credit rating agencies, well-informed and meticulous financial press, responsible members of boards of directors, and so on.

The US has these intermediaries in a well-developed form. Yet it has been possible for debacles like the recent unravelling of Enron with the apparent collusion of its auditors, to take place. It has brought out the conflicts of interest of the most reputed firms of chartered accountants and their willingness to countenance wrong practices in companies that gave them much additional incomes. As in India, their appointments depend on the managements of the companies. There is, therefore, a possible tendency for them not to be objective in their audits. The US has seen the self-regulatory body of accountants impose severe penalties when they find out about wrong practices. In India there has been little of this. Rarely have accountants been punished for certifying false or misleading accounts.

Similar is the case with the other intermediaries. Merchant bankers have blithely pushed out prospectuses that contained information that was wrong and led directly to great losses to investors. Mutual funds have rarely demonstrated great competence in safely managing the funds of their investors. Credit-rating agencies have been known to give good ratings to bad companies. Reputed individuals who deserve the public trust have served on corporate boards without understanding (being charitable to them) that their first responsibility is to the shareholders, and not their cronies who appointed them to the boards. Our financial press and television most times peddle gossip in place of thoroughly investigated analyses.

India has all the labels for a modern industrial economy, but the labels hide a great deal of hollowness. These hollows have to be filled if we are to become a modern economy. They require considerable change in mindsets. Equally, they need a regulatory framework that is knowledgeable, with strong investigative ability and the powers to enforce compliance with well-thought rules of behaviour. This will not happen so long as we have only the government bureaucracy from which to source these regulators.

When President F.D. Roosevelt created the securities and exchange commission to regulate the stock markets, he appointed Joseph Kennedy, a notorious market manipulator to head it. His explanation was that he had to “set a thief to catch a thief”. We need more such “thieves” or highly qualified professionals to look after the underbelly of Indian industry. We also need our managers and “promoters” to realize that they are trustees of other peoples’ money, which they have to manage honestly and add to its value.

The author is former director general, National Council for Applied Economic [email protected]


As in many constituencies that went through byelections recently, the result in Andipatti was a foregone conclusion. It knew what political role it had been called upon to perform, had known it since last year, and has confidently carried it out. Not often does a sacrificial lamb show so much enthusiasm. If Amma had to reach her throne, she had to walk over it, as she had to over her own men lying prostrate at her feet.

And wasn’t Andipatti being prepared for it? Ever since June last year, when the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam stormed to power, extra care has been taken in fattening it up. There has been a slush of welfare and development projects — drinking water schemes, a Rs 1.19 crore dam project at Theppampatti, welfare aids, concrete roads, pension schemes, allocations of Rs 50 lakh each from the local area development fund of five Rajya Sabha members with a specific request that the fund be used for Andipatti alone. All so that Andipatti could express its profound gratitude to its benefactor when the time came.

The time came on February 21. J. Jayalalithaa, suddenly relieved of the Tansi and hotel cases, turned to Andipatti to get back to the chief minister’s chair. It was only natural that the party legislator, Thanga Tamilselvan, serving as caretaker, should resign to serve the greater cause. Never mind if model democracy needed no such byelection for Andipatti. Amma’s interests demanded it.

Brushes with fame

The demand was so overwhelming that even the Election Commission appears to have responded to it. While the EC’s secretary found massive discrepancies in the way electoral roll officers had worked in both Saidapet and Vaniyambadi assembly constituencies, no such madness seemed to have gripped EROs in Andipatti, where there had been similar complaints. There could not be lapses in Andipatti, for any delay in getting a verdict would deprive Jayalalithaa of the comforts of her kursi.

But why have the people of Andipatti decided to play the role chosen for them? For MGR, they believe. The matinee idol, M.G. Ramachandran, gave Andipatti its first brush with fame by his victory in the 1984 from a Brooklyn hospital. Even before that, he had left in Andipatti a sweet taste of his magnanimity by distributing food to the locals on the sets of Matturkaravelan, a film shot extensively in the area. MGR’s generosity is now folklore in this part of the world. Little wonder that the old and the womenfolk, die-hard MGR fans who defy all political logic, emerged the targets of Jayalalithaa’s five-day-long hectic tour through the constituency before the polls. Women voters, some peeved with the AIADMK for not having distributed saris and dhotis this Pongal, even clarified that their vote was not so much for Amma as for the two leaves she represented.

Meal deal

But why? Why do they still pin their hopes on a man dead and gone and whose two leaves have not brought them much besides a few roads, a sugar factory and a spinning mill in all the years they decided to remain loyal to him? The answer probably lies in M. Karunanidhi’s roadshow against Jayalalithaa. Not having been able to thwart her juggernaut with allegations of electoral fudging, Karunanidhi arrived at the last moment in Andipatti with his sons and some film-actors in tow.

His allegations were that the AIADMK had not done enough for Andipatti. He chose to elaborate in the following way. One, Amma was wrong in claiming Andipatti as MGR’s territory. The star had had his maiden foray from Alandur in 1967. Shouldn’t she then have tried to contest from Alandur? Two, the AIADMK’s mid-day meal scheme had been good, but Jayalalithaa had taken the egg off the menu. Could such outrageous logic move Andipatti? Andipatti could have provided Karunanidhi with more concrete evidence against the AIADMK if only they had bothered to look. But he chose to concentrate on caste manipulations and other ways to nitpick

Thereby hangs Andipatti. The people know that once the elections are over, Jayalalithaa will not even come to the constituency. Yet this arid countryside, which remains in the backwaters of development, cannot let go of this chance to see a few more roads and lavatories. This is as good as it gets for them.


The question uppermost in the strategic circles is no longer whether a war will break out between India and Pakistan. It is now the question of how long the Indian military will be asked to remain at its battle stations. War was never an option for India despite the political leadership’s war rhetoric. It is now more than ever unlikely that the loud talking leadership will attempt a military venture. There is therefore a sense of deja vu and of regret, that the political leadership had apparently not thought through the strategic implications of placing the nation's defence forces on battle readiness against Pakistan.

The national outrage at the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament was a genuine one. Public opinion was in favour of strong action against Pakistan. The government’s decisions on stopping PIA flights over India, recalling the ambassador from Islamabad, reducing the consulate staff and so on were well received by the public. The military deployment which followed was a strong card played by the government in New Delhi. The deployment itself was unprecedented both in scope and purpose. Never before had India deployed its defence forces in war readiness so clearly and menacingly. Its defensive and strike forces had taken up battle positions. Mines were laid, which are never done other than in anticipation of war. The deployment was linked to specific demands made from Pakistan.

The Indian political leadership had two aims in mind. One was obviously to put Pakistan on notice for the need of a change in it policy of using terrorism as an instrument of policy. The other and more important objective was to force alarm bells to ring in major capitals around the world. The Israeli example of raising the ante and the risks of all-out war, to draw and retain the attention of the major world powers, had apparently been absorbed in New Delhi. The results showed up quickly enough in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, leading them to combine their efforts to pressurize Pervez Musharraf to stop abetting terrorism.

The outcome was the January 12 speech, which was hailed around the world as a bold step by the beleaguered Pakistani leader. He stated categorically that he would not allow terrorist activities from Pakistan, and went so far as to say that terrorist action using Kashmir as a shield would not be permitted. He went on to arrest thousands of activists and ban some major Islamic militant outfits engaged in terrorist acts in Jammu and Kashmir. That was a good moment to wind down the Indian military deployment, with the warning that Musharraf will have to provide action to back up his brave words.

The Indian leadership, carried away by its rhetoric and believing that a deployment for war can continue to bring additional political dividends, continues to demand further action from Pakistan. It wanted action on the list of 20 fugitives, an end to cross-border terrorism, and to Pakistani support to terrorist groups. On none of these would Musharraf be able to deliver in ways that would convince India. That is because other than the list of 20, other Indian demands are not quantifiable. There is no yardstick by which one can measure whether Pakistan has really produced results. India thus becomes the sole arbiter of Pakistani good faith. As for the list of 20, no one knows how Indian and Pakistani honour can be assuaged. It is unclear if two or twelve of the twenty will satisfy either side’s national prestige. Unless some of them do what Omar Sheikh has done — kidnap or kill a Western hostage — there will be no pressure on Pakistan to act on the matter.

How long should the military deployment continue? If going to war is not an option, what purpose will the continuing deployment attain, other than what it already has? Not only is the political leadership in New Delhi now on the horns of a dilemma, but is already at the risk of demonstrating a lack of foresight in strategic matters.

If it continues with the deployment, it confirms its inability to work a military or political advantage from it. If it winds down the deployment without Pakistan delivering on the three demands, it would look even less credible in its use of the military deterrence. That will damage its credibility for firm action. More seriously, this will create doubts about its ability to handle nuclear deterrence if the occasion arises for it. Its implications can be farreaching.

It is easy to be gung-ho about using the military. It is easier to start a war than to terminate it. “Have-army-will- use-it” cannot be the national security strategy. Strategic wisdom and statesmanship lie in knowing the limits of military deterrence and when to change track. Continuing with the military deployment will only lead to gaining greater speed in the diminishing returns from an inadequately thought- through exercise. The political, military and diplomatic instruments available to the nation need to be applied with synergy. That cohesion and integrated approach to policy is sadly not in evidence at present.

The US military presence in Pakistan is likely to be a long lasting one. In addition to the bases earlier provided to the US, Musharraf has added Karachi as a military facility. Allowing US military presence in the country’s largest sea port and centre of economic activity has clear ramifications for India. Consequently, in a future war, naval action by India against Pakistan can be effectively ruled out. US aircraft flying the Pakistani air-space will place severe constraints on India’s superior air power being applied against Pakistan. The advantage of air and naval superiority having been reduced through US military presence in Pakistan, India’s ground forces will be operating against serious odds, if there is a war.

A war with Pakistan will require that it should lead to an outcome which will force its leadership to concede to Indian demands. That outcome is possible when Pakistan loses vital territory or a major part of its ability to fight the war. Neither of these objectives is likely to be met by a short and limited military action. A long war which can bring about the desired outcome will force Pakistan to bring its nuclear weapons into play. That would be a catastrophe unacceptable to the major powers, who will stop it before things get out of hand. A war, therefore, is more likely to be indecisive in its strategic and political outcomes.

The Indian political leadership is now faced with serious dilemmas. These were inherent in the recourse to military threats to begin with. The military deployment had obtained the result of forcing Musharraf’s hand. Indian action had helped add to the pressure the Pakistan president was already facing. Any expectation of him coming forth with the olive branch is unrealistic. Time has come for New Delhi to switch to the political arena from the military one in dealing with Musharraf. Military power operates best in combination with diplomatic and political initiatives. This must now be demonstrated in action.

The author is director, Delhi Policy Group, and former director-general military operations


Having hostel facility would increase options of education and employment for disabled people. However, only 34.45 per cent of the respondent nongovernmental organizations are providing this facility. Approximately 60 per cent of the beneficiaries are children and more than 70 per cent are males. Hostel facility for working persons and the elderly was found to be as low as 5.09 per cent and .64 per cent respectively. Only five of the respondent NGOs are providing hostel facility for persons with “other” types of disabilities like autism, learning disabilities, etc.

If the target of reaching 60 million disabled people in our country has to be met, the focus needs to be on training. More professionals and para-professionals in the field of rehabilitation are required to work in the rural areas. There is a virtual absence of suitable training to develop ecologically relevant, employment-oriented treatment and education, suitable to the needs of different communities in vastly varying environments, living mostly in rural and urban slum areas that have least access to services. Many of the respondent NGOs are conducting post-graduate diploma courses in special education and in speech and hearing therapy. A few are running courses in orthotic and prosthetic aids manufacturing and in Bachelors of Education. Only National Institutes have mentioned Masters and PhD courses. The majority of the ...NGOs conduct short-term training courses for parents, siblings and volunteers. A few...also conduct short-term courses in community-based rehabilitation. However, because of the high levels of qualification needed for most of these courses, the number of people who can apply for them is limited.

Nearly 60 per cent of the organizations that provide aids and appliances, give prosthetic and orthotic aids, including postural, mobility, vocational, educational and activities of daily living aids. Suppliers and fabricators of assistive devices are centralized in four major states and cater mostly to the locomotor disabled in comparison to the hearing and visually impaired. Appropriate aids can play a major role in making a person with disability independent in a particular activity. However, most of the aids available are suitable only for urban households and terrain. A major lacuna in the system is the lack of services for maintenance and repair of aids. If the target of NGOs is mainstreaming disabled people, the focus needs to be on designing appropriate, strong, consumer-focused and low-cost aids. Training of professionals in this area, availability of good quality material, improving technology, inputs from disabled people themselves and their parents in designing aids, all needs to be reviewed.

Families with children with disabilities perceive greater financial and other forms of stress when compared with families with non-disabled children. Services like scholarships, loans, bus travel concessions, old age pensions, housing facility are limited and do not reach those most in need. Government welfare provision is characterized by barriers to access. There is a general lack of information about benefits and for those that do not apply, the poor attitudes of government employees, and the bribes that they demand, are the greatest barriers. The NGOs need to raise awareness among the beneficiary group about these services and work with the government to reduce the lacunae and corruption in the system.

Only 20.17 per cent of the 119 respondent organizations themselves provide client services. Whereas, a one-time service like scholarship for studies, can be of a long-term benefit for a disabled person.

To be concluded



What’s on TV?

Begging to differ Sir — The first information report which has been filed against Ekta Kapoor and Balaji Telefilms by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation was a long time coming. According to the report, “Beta begets trouble for Saas” (Feb 24), the serial Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi showed one of the characters undergo a sex determination test. Upon learning that she is to give birth to a boy, she is congratulated by the doctor. This is in direct violation of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technology (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act of 1994. The act bans the test and its publicity in any form. Television serials have for a long while been showing characters involved in various illegal activities, such as bigamy, and have shown them as immune from the law. Production houses must realize their responsibility to the public. Instead of concentrating on the lack of clothes on models on FTV, maybe it is time Sushma Swaraj looked closer home and did something about the incorrect information that is being churned out on Indian serials to a highly impressionable audience.

Yours faithfully,
Shailja Aggarwal, Mumbai

Different schools

Sir — According to Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, Maulana Ainul Bari, who teaches in a Calcutta madrasah, and his associates are justified in demanding proof of the clandestine funding of madrasahs by anti-national elements, before being accused of fomenting terrorism (“World beyond the madrasah”, Feb 16). Even the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, has recognized that a large number of madrasahs are training grounds for terrorists and militants. If Musharraf can accept this, why does Datta-Ray insist on standing up for the erring madrasahs?

Datta-Ray’s statement is both surprising and illogical. It will not be easy to gather evidence of illegal funding or infiltration of madrasahs by terrorists. To wait for such evidence is to give the rogue madrasahs time to carry on with their activities. Maulana Bari’s demand for proof is similar to Musharraf’s demand for proof of the terrorist activity indulged in by the 20 men whose names have been sent to the Pakistan government for extradition.

Datta-Ray also says, “I have not seen a figure for the number of ‘unofficial madrasahs’ — if any — in West Bengal”. What is of greater significance? The number of such madrasahs, or their existence? Surely the intelligence report with the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, cannot be passed off as entirely unreliable. That Bhattacharjee could not stick to his guns regarding his blanket statement against madrasahs is not unexpected.

Obviously, Bhattacharjee should put national security before his party. But national security would have been endangered if Bhattacharjee had stuck to his statement that “all” madrasahs harboured terrorists. That statement was not true, and Bhattacharjee did the right thing by retracting. Datta-Ray’s illogical stance is akin to that of today’s so-called secular politicians.

Yours faithfully,
H.C. Johari, Calcutta

Sir — Sunanda K. Datta-Ray rightly states that merely saying that a few madrasahs are breeding grounds for militants is not good enough. Sufficient evidence of this needs to be gathered before the government starts shutting down the supposedly errant madrasahs. While madrasahs should definitely be monitored, their importance in imparting education to the poorer sections of the Muslim community should also be realized. Until the state government can ensure easy access to education for the poor, whatever religion they belong to, Bhattacharjee cannot shut down the madrasahs. This would only lead to the dearth of educational institutions for those Muslims who cannot afford to study anywhere else.

Yours faithfully,
D. Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s call to reform madrasah education has been sadly ignored by educators and politicians alike (“Hard lesson”, Feb 8). The introduction of modern educational techniques in madrasahs would have been a boon for the students of these institutions. But, Muslim educators seem to believe that modernizing madrasahs will distance Muslims from their religion. This is an inaccurate premise on which to base their opposition to the modernization of madrasahs. One hopes that for the students’ sake at least, these educators realize their folly.

Yours faithfully,
Mohammed Moinuddin, Calcutta

Sir — I was anguished to learn that Asia’s oldest madrasah library in the Calcutta Madrasah College has become a hub of criminal activity at night and an open lavatory in the morning (“Lesson for govt in library’s lost pages”, Feb 8). The college which should have been maintained by the government has been ruined by its apathy. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has voiced the intention to uphaul the madrasahs in West Bengal. One hopes he will devote at least a part of his energies and attention to the dilapidated college library and restore some of its past glory.

Yours faithfully,
Phani Bhusan Saha, Calcutta

Sir — It was shocking to hear of the deterioration in one of the oldest government educational institutions of India, the Calcutta Madrasah College. But the deplorable condition of the college is not restricted to the library.

The surroundings of the college are completely unhygienic. The western quarter of the college is being used as a garbage dump. The malodour from the garbage hampers the studies of the children in the morning section. In the south, the Gol Talab acts as a shelter for criminals, despite the Taltala Police Station being in the vicinity. The state of disrepair of the college can be further seen from the shanties, north of the campus.

There have been many a drive in recent times to beautify and preserve the heritage buildings of Calcutta. But strangely, the college seems to have escaped the attention of the authorities concerned. The local councillor and member of legislative assembly too seem to be quite satisfied with the state of affairs in this institution.

Also the Calcutta Madrasah Anglo-Persian department, situated on the ground floor of the college for the past 148 years, has had no headmaster for the past decade. Institutions such as the Calcutta Madrasah College and the Anglo-Persian department would greatly benefit from the chief minister’s drive to modernize the madrasahs in West Bengal. Before opposing these reforms, Muslim legislators and educationists should realize that madrasahs need all the help they can get.

Yours faithfully,
S.A. Rahman Barkati, Calcutta

Sir — Why is such a fuss being made about madrasahs, when primary schools all over the state are in such a bad way?

Yours faithfully,
Rama Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

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