Editorial 1 / Tough test
Editorial 2 / Watching harare
Diplomacy / A failure of intelligence
The answer is blowing in the wind
Document /To make the earth a better home
Letters to the editor

Hindu fundamentalism has placed India’s Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, in a tight spot. On one side, is the rioting in Gujarat in which organizations like the Bajrang Dal are directly involved or are instrumental in the incitement to violence. On the other, is the campaign spearheaded by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to build a Ram mandir in Ayodhya. The BJP is thus under pressure from sections of the sangh parivar. It has also to reckon with the fact that it heads a coalition government and its partners in the coalition are no friends of Hindutva. This is not an easy situation to handle especially as the prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is not known for his advocacy of Hindu fundamentalism and Hindu militancy. But at a time when the BJP is not riding the crest of popularity, Mr Vajpayee cannot afford to alienate the Hindu vote bank which has been the BJP’s staple in elections. The BJP and Mr Vajpayee are thus caught in a series of contradictions to which they have no solutions. The prime minister will be forced to choose between office and ideology; between the VHP and effective government; between surrendering to fundamentalism and maintaining his own credibility. The choice for any other leader would have been an easy one, but it is not so for a BJP prime minister.

Mr Vajpayee’s dilemmas are also set in a particular historical context. After September 11, 2001, there is a global revulsion against any kind of religious fundamentalism and violence driven by religion. Mr Vajpayee, after his new and hard-won friendship with Washington, will be wary of associating himself, his government and his party with such trends. Mr Vajpayee thus has to go to battle on many fronts. He also has to remember that he is not exactly on the top of the popularity charts at the moment. His image and his credibility have taken a beating after the results of the assembly elections. His effectiveness as a prime minister has been questioned after the failure of the government to move swiftly to quell the riots in Gujarat. And the budget presented by his finance minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, has alienated substantial portions of those who form public opinion in India. Mr Vajpayee seems to be riding a disaster wave. There has been nothing in his utterances, actions and demeanour to restore confidence in his abilities to lead the country. Bringing back confidence will not be easy since, the BJP’s writ, and therefore Mr Vajpayee’s as well, does not run in 25 states. These states are ruled by parties opposed to the BJP. In the past, Mr Vajpayee has always fallen back on his political experience to deal with difficult situations. But in the past, he has never faced a crisis of these proportions. His handling of things this time round will determine India’s immediate political future.


The colonial bogey dogs the Commonwealth. This time, at the Australian summit of Commonwealth heads, it is the turn of Zimbabwe and Britain to pick up the leavings of history. Mr Tony Blair would rather have Mr Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe thrown out of this association of nations historically suspended between democracy and empire. But Mr Mugabe has asked Mr Blair to “go to hell”. And the Commonwealth itself has now decided to wait and watch — and then perhaps act. The Zimbabwean elections are to take place this weekend. Anything less than free and fair polls would seal this country’s fate vis-à-vis the Commonwealth. Britain, together with Australia and New Zealand, had wanted Zimbabwe’s suspension for the long, systematic and often violent desecration of the principles of democracy declared 11 years ago, ironically enough, in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. Mr Mugabe was then midway through his transformation from a liberation hero to “almost a caricature of all things that people think black African leaders do”, as the former archbishop of Cape Town puts it. Zimbabwe is now politically, economically and racially devastated, and Mr Mugabe’s relations with Britain deeply antagonistic after the long and bloody dispute over land transfer. The Commonwealth’s decision to wait for action until the Zimbabwe elections has forced Mr Blair to shed “diplomatic language” in expressing his disappointment.

Inevitably, the split in the Commonwealth over Zimbabwe seems to have followed the black and white pattern. But nations like Zimbabwe exist in that grey area between democracy and dictatorship which makes summary suspension a questionable penalty. Unfortunately, there is no dearth of such polities in the Commonwealth. A stringently punitive principle might leave very few countries in such a coalition of the righteous. So far only military regimes like Pakistan have been suspended from the Commonwealth. But it could be argued that suspension would actually put such a regime beyond the vigilance of the scrupulous. Observing the Zimbabwean elections closely while allowing the country to remain within the Commonwealth might prevent the violation of democratic values more effectively. Mr Mugabe has sent packing observers from the European Union. Therefore, the teams from the Commonwealth and the neighbouring South African Development Community countries will have to sustain a more concerted vigilance. Equally important, the international community must also be prepared to act on the conclusions of these observers. This, and only this, could salvage the credibility of the Commonwealth and make it more than a mere relic of the Empire.


When the Union home minister, L.K. Advani, was in Washington in January, some of his American interlocutors thought that they could pin him down on the one issue on which they thought he was vulnerable — his image as a Hindu hardliner and his reputation for being soft on the more radical elements in the saffron parivar. The Americans had been put in a spot by Advani’s impeccable logic: on Pakistan, on India’s long fight against terror to which the United States of America woke up only after September 11, on the logic of Indo-US relations. So they asked him a question on a subject where they thought he would be on slippery ground — about communal violence in India and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s treatment of the minorities. Without blinking, Advani reeled off statistics which floored the Americans. Between 1998, when the BJP came to power at the Centre and now, India had seen the lowest record of communal riots in all of the previous 10 years.

Every year, in February, the US state department’s bureau of democracy, human rights and labour reports to the house of representatives and the senate foreign relations committee on the state of human rights all over the world, including India. In May, the US commission on international religious freedom similarly submits a report to the congress on the state of religious freedom around the globe, including India.

What Advani told the Americans about relative amity in multi-faith Indian society under the dispensation led by the BJP was something which these two US official reports of record had omitted. Rather, it was something which US diplomatic missions in India — the primary source of information for such reports — had failed to communicate to the state department. To those Americans who listened to Advani talk about the BJP-led government’s record of communal harmony, what he said was an eye-opener. For days after he left for New Delhi, in India-centric circles of the George W. Bush administration, it was a subject of much discussion.

The tragic events in Gujarat last week have negated Advani’s case, carefully made out during his landmark visit to the US. It was a case which was imperative for India and needed to be made in Washington. Shortly after Bush was elected president, when many of the sanctions against India were still in place, an unofficial emissary of the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in Washington, was told by prominent Republicans who had just occupied office that with some of the friends that India had in the US, New Delhi did not need enemies.

These Republicans, who share the vision of the ambassador, Robert Blackwill, of Indo-US relations, told the emissary that some Indian Americans were advising the new administration to hold back on cooperation with India; indeed, to even let the sanctions continue to be in force against New Delhi. These groups were reporting to the Bush administration that Christians were being persecuted by the BJP, inevitably described as Hindu nationalists, who were in power in states like Gujarat and at the Centre, albeit in alliance with other parties.

Christian-bashing is an issue which makes waves in Washington — on Capitol Hill, in a Republican White House, but especially in George W. Bush’s Republican White House. Bush would never have been able to leave the governor’s mansion in Texas for Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue if it were not for the solid backing which America’s Christian coalition, particularly powerful in America’s south, gave him during the presidential campaign in 2000. For that matter, it is doubtful if Bush would even have secured the Republican party’s presidential nomination in 2000 if Christian groups had not united behind him for fear of the more liberal senator, John McCain, Bush’s rival for the party’s nomination.

Bush has rewarded these Christian conservatives as handsomely as he could, within the constraints in the American system. One of his earliest actions as president was to set up a faith-based initiative in the White House, drawing howls of protests that America was violating the separation between the church and the state. Then he gave in to anti-abortionists and decreed that US aid will be cut off to any agency or programme which even remotely approved of medical termination of pregnancies. And last month, he set apart tax-payers’ money to promote the institution of marriage, once again drawing huge protests from those who argued that it was none of the state’s business to get its citizens to walk down the aisle.

If those who have been campaigning against a BJP-led India for its alleged Christian-bashing did not fully succeed in this environment, it was not for want of trying. Nor was it because the Indian American leaders of some of these groups have been exposed as gold diggers who have found a lucrative business in the US in bashing the BJP-led government for its perceived acts of omission and commission against minorities. The exigencies of realpolitik in international relations fortuitously got the better of the reverse bigotry, which these groups have been lobbying for so far.

Advani’s statistics — and his contention about relative communal peace during the BJP’s years in office in New Delhi — gave enough ammunition for those in Washington who did not want religion to be one of the issues to which Indo-US interaction could become hostage. But those who worked to make this official US policy are now finding that Godhra and what followed in its wake have expended this ammunition to New Delhi’s detriment. The state department released its latest human rights findings on Monday, when the secretary of state, Colin Powell, and the assistant secretary in charge of preparing the report, Lorne Craner, briefed the press extensively on the report for 2001. There was not a single question on India, notwithstanding the events in Gujarat, which has been on top of the headlines for almost a week.

The explanation is simple, but it is neither a source of comfort nor is it politically correct to be acknowledged. The prime minister may say the events in Gujarat are a “disgrace to the nation”. But the fact is that India has escaped any significant negative international fallout of these events primarily because, after September 11, it is no longer abhorrent in America to kill Muslims. No one will acknowledge it — least of all the officialdom — but not only in the US, but in many parts of the Western world, it will even be said in private, post-September 11, that such killings are desirable — or inevitable.

But that can only be cold comfort for New Delhi. To those in North Block who have to deal with the fallout of Godhra, it must be clear as crystal that the trigger was pulled on Sabarmati Express after careful planning. Crowds of thousands do not simply materialize at small-town railway stations within minutes of accidental altercations either among rail passengers or between passengers and others.

Indians have a penchant for conspiracy theories, but even after making allowances for those, there is merit in the argument that Godhra is history repeating itself. Nine years ago, almost to this day, another attempt was made to pit Muslims and Hindus against each other in Mumbai in the expectation that the serial bomb blasts which almost ripped apart India’s number one metropolis and brought it to a halt would tear India’s social fabric to shreds.

Because India was able to obtain documentary proof of how Pakistan planned and ordered Mumbai’s serial blasts — evidence which has not been made public — it opened New Delhi’s eyes to a new strategy from across the border. Those sceptics who blame the hotheads in the Hindutva movement for what happened in Gujarat and the secularists who trace Godhra to Ayodhya ought to remember that what was attempted by India’s enemies last week has been tried before.

In the Eighties, General Zia-ul-Haq spent time, energy and resources to turn the Sikhs in Punjab against the Hindus there. He almost succeeded in this mission to avenge the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. Nawaz Sharif failed in 1993 to carry out a similar mission in Mumbai: that time it was Hindus versus Muslims. Sharif failed largely because of the leadership of the Maharashtra chief minister, Sharad Pawar. Pawar fought the then Union home minister, S.B. Chavan, at the Raj Bhavan in the presence of the governor, P.C. Alexander, to have his way in bringing Mumbai back to normal in record time on the chief minister’s terms.

For leaders in Gujarat to be able to rise above considerations of community, religion and vote-banks the way Pawar did, it is necessary to see Godhra in its origins as a conspiracy which did not originate there but was imposed on its unsuspecting people. It was not all that difficult to get to the root of the Mumbai serial bomb blasts because of the intelligence network which exists in the metropolis. And the extent to which the Mumbai police had always penetrated the underworld. It did not take all that long to uncover the Memons in 1993 as the authors of the conspiracy and even trace them to Dubai — and onward to Karachi.

By comparison, the challenge in Gujarat is greater. For those who have believed that India is under siege from external forces, the shoddy state of intelligence in Gujarat has always been a matter of concern. And the only guarantee that the events in Godhra and its aftermath will not be repeated in Gujarat is a willingness to accept these as an intelligence failure — as severe as in the US on September 11 — and take steps to deal with such a colossal intelligence failure.


The largest people’s court in India has finally delivered its verdict, confounding the entire political spectrum and throwing into disarray all predictions of pollsters and analysts. The 403-strong Uttar Pradesh assembly looks even more badly fractured than before. In the neighbouring new state of Uttaranchal, the people have punished the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party dispensation at the Centre with a vengeance. Their verdict is decisive. The BJP is out, the Congress in.

For the people in the hills, the choice perhaps was less complicated. It hinged on a single issue: Performance versus Non-performance. The micro-identities of caste, sub-caste, religion — the genesis of a fractured mandate — were missing from the larger picture. But in Uttar Pradesh they held their own, much to the delight of political parties, large or small. This despite the fact that psephologists maintain it was not just caste but also class which propelled the people to vote in a multi-pronged way.

The election fever has receded and the post-election recovery process is in motion. In UP, the backroom boys are at work, wheeling-dealing to stitch up a rag-tag coalition. As usual, the lure of power is the glue that will stick together a a conglomerate of parties that have nothing in common apart from their cold indifference to the electorate. Governance for long has been a redundant concept as far as the political establishment is concerned. And the people know it. Whether in Uttaranchal or in UP, and the most common question that will be mouthed in every nook and corner of India is: what difference does a political party, old or new, make to our lives?

It was not so long ago that the dominant political class aspired for a pan-Indian identity. But regardless of its claims to an undifferentiated India, there always existed a multi-layered India, with identities as fragmented as the recent electoral verdict in UP. These fragments remained unobtrusive, without claimants who would raise their voices for a slice of governance and the power structure.

The Mandal movement, unleashed by Vishwanath Pratap Singh, for the first time broke this silence and the subaltern classes zoomed into visibility. The assertion of the other backward classes and lower castes hit the upper strata which had remained cocooned in the safe preserves of power. Its subjects came out of their shadows, unafraid to walk past the homes of the feudal lords. History was recast along new lines.

After more than a decade of the Mandal movement, it is no longer a coterie of upper castes — of Brahmins, Thakurs and Rajputs — which can flaunt itself as the “doers” in history. On the contrary, a recent survey conducted in the course of the just-concluded polls shows the Yadavs and Dalits as being equally assertive in their political roles. Mayavati’s Bahujan Samaj Party of “untouchables”, who are still whip-lashed for daring to enter a temple, is the most sought after, at least in the numbers game.

Undoubtedly, the poor and the not-so-poor among the OBCs are no longer to be pushed and kicked around at will. They have an identity they are not ashamed of. Instead, they can now use it to their own advantage — to strike bargains with political leaders at the top. This advantage, however, may have a a short life. Dignity has come but not the means to sustain it. UP and Uttaranchal — the pulsating heart of India — are dying an ignominious death so far as the issues of economy, health, education and status of women are concerned.

Unfortunately, V.P. Singh’s credo of social justice has been reduced to a useful pawn in electoral jugglery and to notch up numbers to form a government.

As every other election, the recent one in UP ended without touching the core of the lives of the people of the state. Did they mind ? Apparently not because they have ceased to have any expectations of their leaders . Muslims are looking for safety; Yadavs and Dalits for state patronage; the upper castes are desperately hanging on to what they once regarded their “fiefdom”. In Uttaranchal, some questions did surface amid the hectic caste lobbying. Where are the jobs? The factories? The public health system? In the hills the people did fling these questions at political leaders.

Not in UP, where the social indicators, at least in education, are far worse. Primary education here is in the doldrums. This is one state where the pulse polio programme is refusing to take off. The administration, busy toting up caste equations and dabbling in religious functions, wilfully ignored the programme. At least that is what officials in the health ministry feel. Eighty four out of 1,000 infants born every year do not survive beyond 12 months. Only 15 percent of pregnant mothers have their deliveries in a medical institution.

All this speaks of the singular failure of the state’s political leadership, which swears by social justice, that it has no space in its agenda for issues that can improve the quality of the lives of their constituencies. The Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is closest to forming a coalition government in UP, has promised doles for the growing army of unemployed in the state.

It is however another matter that the state’s exchequer is in the red and can ill afford to offer money to the large numbers who will queue up for the dole, that is if the Samajwadi Party government comes through at all. In Bihar, the Rashtriya Janata Dal government suffers from a similar myopia. Despite the successive victories of his party, the RJD president, Laloo Prasad Yadav, remains contemptuous of the very word “development”.

These are the same leaders who flagged off the Mandal movement and questioned the character of development that has taken place in this country since independence. Development for whom? Now that they have the administrative machinery at their beck and call, an entire bureaucracy to execute orders, it should not be so difficult to deliver, to make sure that the benefits of development reach the poor whose cause they claim to espouse. But instead of toning up the system, these leaders have invested their energy into perfecting the art of political patronage. The Yadav couple has crammed vacancies with members of their own fraternity.

The Dalits, left out in the cold, have stood loyally by Mayavati and her party, as borne out by the latest poll results. Will she deliver to her people? There are no definite answers. She had her stint at ruling the largest state in India, but most of her time was spent taking on either the upper castes or the OBCs.

But caste and religion cannot be held the only “culprits” for derailing governance. Uttaranchal is one example where even without the fractious presence of caste and religion the ruling party has failed to deliver. In fact, it floundered so badly on every aspect of governance that the people threw it out of power even though they did not wholly trust the alternative — the Congress.

You may blame the failures of governments on caste lobbies or discursive communal politics. But a comparison between Uttaranchal and UP shows that all political parties can be lumped together as non-performers when it comes to giving some relief to the vast majority of people they claim to represent.


Programmes have been carried out to nurture technical experts and professionals in international relations through the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. The areas of project formulations, project management and implementation require strengthening. Technical experts, managers and administrators are coordinating their efforts to ensure cooperation is relevant and practical...

India increasingly recognizes the critical role of technology. It has a strong base in technology and research and development institutions. As regards Environmentally Sound Technology, India still needs technical and financial assistance. These issues are the current priorities in the programmes/policies being implemented in achieving sustainable development. Public investment for sustainable development through fiscal incentives and concessions has always been emphasized. Since energy-efficient technologies and non-conventional energy technologies protect the atmosphere, several tax concessions, 100 per cent depreciation allowance and investment subsidies have been made available.

The promotion of ESTs through international cooperation is mainly in the form of foreign direct investment joint venture. However, ESTs...are not being transferred to developing countries on fair and favourable terms and conditions...

The goal of Agenda 21 was in part to raise additional external funds for sustainable development activities by increasing bilateral and multilateral Official Development Assistence to 0.7 per cent of the gross national product of donor countries. Many developing countries experience a net outflow of resources. The average ODA in the post-Rio 1993-95 period has been lower than in 1990-92, both in absolute terms and as percentage of GNP. In fact, ODA at an average of 0.29 per cent of GNP in the 1993-95 period has been the lowest in decades.

We have to find adequate financing for environmental measures either from our own budgetary resources or by generating funds from the private sector. Domestic resources will continue to be an important source for financing sustainable development and countries need to develop an enabling environment to encourage the mobilization of additional financial resources. Key elements include a sound macroeconomic framework, a dynamic private sector, governance and participatory mechanisms. Special attention is being given to fiscal and budgetary policies, tax collection and transparency.

The following sources are being tapped for financial assistance...Bilateral sources other than ODA, private (FDI, joint ventures, and so on) and multilateral sources.

The ministry of environment and forests functions as a nodal agency for the United Nations Environment Programme, South Asia Cooperation Environment Progra- mme, International Centre for Integrated Mountain and Development, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and various international and regional bodies and multilateral institutions.

India is a signatory to the following important international treaties/agreements in the field of environment: (i) International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling; (ii) International Plant Protection Convention; (iii) The Antarctic Treaty; (iv) Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (v) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna; (vi) Protocol of 1978 relating to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships; (vii) Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer; (viii) Convention on Migratory Species; (ix) Basel Convention on Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Substances; (x) Framework Convention on Climate Change; (xi) Convention on conservation of bio-diversity; (xii) Montreal Protocol on the Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and; (xiii) International Convention for Combating Desertification.

The ministry and its agencies cooperate with various countries such as Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Australia, United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Japan, Germany among others, bilaterally, and with several UN and multilateral agencies such as the UN Development Programme, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (Japan) and ODA (UK) for various environmental and forestry projects. Sustainable development is an important consideration in bilateral trade agreements that India has signed...India has been the spokesman of G-77 and China on Climate Change and has played a major role in UNEP...

India is among the countries which are at the vanguard of environmental protection. India has environmental standards for products and processes, environmental impact assessment and has introduced environmental audit as well as an eco-labelling scheme. India believes that environmentally harmful processes should be stopped and that over-exploitation of non-renewable resources should be controlled. However, the specific production process to be used would depend upon the absorptive capacities and development priorities of the country concerned and hence, no global harmonized standard for production process can be developed.

To be Concluded



Sunday is a lucky day

Luckless Sir — Even at the risk of sounding disrespectful to the dead, it must be said that the report, “Sunday curse claims Balayogi” (Mar 4), needlessly plays up the fact that G.M.C. Balayogi died on a Sunday in a helicopter crash. The report links up other such accidental and violent deaths that happened on Sundays — notably that of the two young and promising politicians, Rajesh Pilot and Madhavrao Scindia — and tries to infer that Indian politics in recent times has been possessed by a “Sunday curse”. Yes, the loss of three such “youthful” talents (Balayogi was 51) will hit Indian politics — where the average age is sixty plus — hard. But is coincidence not explanation enough? Why must we resort to such superstitious mumbo-jumbo, and read into the Lok Sabha speaker’s death some kind of astral design? Perhaps the truth is that in Indian politics populated with geriatrics, those who are important enough to be written about either don’t die, and when they do, land up in a hospital bed. Someone should first make a study of the number of young politicians dying on Sunday and compare it with that of those dying on other days of the week before propounding the Sunday curse theory.

Yours faithfully,
Mala Nair, Chennai

State in limbo

Sir — With the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections resulting in a fractured verdict, it was evident that forming a new government in Lucknow would take much horse-trading, affecting of defections, exchange of money, and so on (“Raid on Mayavati goldmine”, Feb 27). Given the political atmosphere in India today, such undemocratic practices have become par for the course. There is also nothing to feel shocked at either the victory of a known criminal like Mukhtar Ansari or at the fact that he is playing a lead role in the Samajwadi Party’s machinations to get to the magic number of 202 to come to power in UP. The Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Mayavati, has emerged the star of the UP elections, thanks to her aggressive courtship of Dalit and Muslim voters in the state. However, her efforts to form a government with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party have come to naught. Now Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party leader, has put a spanner in the works by trying to split the BSP.

In such a turbulent political scenario, there can be no doubt that democratic — and ethical— norms are being flouted. Such unholy goings-on happen not merely in UP but in many other parts of India, all because our democratic process lays inordinate emphasis on numbers. This has deprived citizens of good and effective governance, as well as leaders with integrity and commitment.

Yours faithfully,
Niloy Sinha, Murshidabad

Sir — Yet another round of assembly elections is over. And since this time Uttar Pradesh was one of the states that went to the polls, the electoral activities were even more frenzied and significant. What was sad about the election campaign in UP — and the results reflect this — was that none of the parties had anything constructive to offer to the electorate. Perhaps that is why all of them had to resort to having filmstars pull the crowds at rallies.

The media too was busy highlighting the caste equations in different constituencies of the state, instead of pointing to the failures of the incumbent government. Not that the blame lies only with the media. The politicians, knowing that they did not have a single achievement to cite to voters, resorted to babbling about religion, caste and so on. What has our Indian democracy come to? Are our politicians real?

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubajyoti Ray, Mankundu

Sir — The Uttar Pradesh elections have showed once again how much Indian democracy needs to evolve. Given the unclear verdict, crores of rupees must be changing hands as the various contenders try to muster the numbers to form a government. No doubt, those who have invested the money will do everything to earn it back as soon as they manage to grab a position of responsibility. If the government formed through such means does not last, president’s rule will be imposed, followed by another election and yet another hung assembly — the state exchequer bearing the huge monetary burden of all this electioneering.

A few pragmatic decisions can help solve this problem. Electoral processes should be reformed to include strict rules on poll percentages. Say, if less than 60 per cent votes in a constituency, the election in that constituency should be declared void. For two years after that, the area can be governed by a qualified representative chosen by an independent body. This appointee’s remuneration must depend on his performance, while non-performance would be punished with sacking. The idea is that none should be allowed to take things for granted.

The same policy may be applied to members of state and Central legislatures. If they fail to account for the money given to them for the development of their constituencies, they should be sacked and, again, qualified independent officers appointed instead. It is time for tough decisions. There may be some resistance initially, but as Robert Schellur said, “Tough times never last, tough people do.”

Yours faithfully,
Asheem Kapoor, Calcutta

Sir — Some political analysts have taken the BJP’s poor showing in the Uttar Pradesh elections as evidence that secular forces are gaining popularity in the state. They are confusing religion and caste, since caste played an equally important role in UP. The question now is whether the “secular” forces will come together for the development of the state in the same way they were united in their opposition to the BJP.

Yours faithfully,
V.A. Gopala, Bangalore

Sir — The defeat of the BJP and its allies in the assembly elections in four states is the result of the anti-people economic policies of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre. The only beneficiaries of the NDA’s economic policies have been the rich, while more than 80 per cent of the population has become poorer. The latter, seething in anger, have grabbed the first opportunity to teach the BJP a lesson. Why else would even the Ram mandir issue, which had mobilized thousands of voters in earlier elections, fail to sway voters?

Historically, it has been seen that the party or coalition that ruled UP had an edge at the Centre. It follows that the BJP’s days of glory are as good as over. There is only one way out for the BJP now: to formulate new economic policies which prioritize development for the downtrodden. This entails abandoning privatization of industries and encouraging labour-intensive industries in order to generate more employment opportunities. In the villages, land reforms should be initiated and food for work programmes implemented. This might seem like a tall order for the BJP, but the warning sent out by the four states should not go unheeded.

Yours faithfully,
Sanmay Ganguly, Calcutta

Sir — The BJP raised many issues — the prohibition of terrorist ordinance, building the Ram temple in Ayodhya, even its strong stand against Pakistan — in its bid to sway voters in Uttar Pradesh. But it failed in everything. Indian citizens, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, want employment, good healthcare, and economic development. Building a temple will not fill stomachs. I also do not think the BJP will ever allow a temple to be built because it will then lose an emotive issue with which to win elections.

Yours faithfully,
Iftakhar Latif, Guwahati

Parting shot

Sir — The report, “Cops in minority panel line of fire” (Feb 14), was surprising. Save the first sentence of the sixth paragaraph and the eighth and the ninth paragraphs (except the last sentence of the ninth paragraph) all other information has been deliberately twisted, concocted, fabricated and put into my mouth out of context.

I have never blamed the police for excesses as I did not notice any during my stay in Malda. There was an inquiry on a madrasah within the English Bazar police station in Malda around midnight, but there was no police raid. I have been reported as having said, “Police excesses have to be stopped to restore confidence among minority community.” This is absolutely incorrect. Your correspondent ascribed to me criticism of the chief minister. This is wholly based on his imagination and is far from the truth.

Such deliberately incorrect and distorted reporting is quite unhealthy for good relations between the two major communities.

Yours faithfully,
K.M. Yusuf, chairman, West Bengal minorities’ commission, Calcutta

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