Editorial 1/ Can’t decide
Editorial 2/ Tap dancing
Some roads not taken
Ground for future shock
Document/ Towards a sustainable policy
Letters to the editor

Deferring a decision, like delaying justice, is defeating its spirit and purpose. Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s decision not to introduce a bill on the prevention of organized crime in the current session of the state assembly is actually a double fault. That he has thus reneged on his promise seems to be the lesser problem. A much bigger disappointment is his explanation for his breach of promise, particularly because, in the same breath, Mr Bhattacharjee once again underscored the need for such a law. He showed himself in a poor light by admitting that the provisions in the current laws are not enough to combat the “new type of crimes” and yet deferring the enactment of a new law. His argument that his government wanted to see how the Centre implemented its prevention of terrorism ordinance before deciding on the state law sounds pathetically hollow. It is difficult to see how he will be wiser by the Centre’s example because he seems convinced that the law is needed urgently for West Bengal. The Maharashtra government did not wait to get ideas from New Delhi when it made its own special law to curb organized crime there and benefited immensely from it. The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has not shied away from invoking the National Security Act to combat communal violence, although the party has opposed the introduction of the POTO in the Lok Sabha.

It seems Mr Bhattacharjee finally buckled under pressure from comrades in the politburo of his party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who had sought to tie his hands on the ordinance ever since he had it approved in the state cabinet. It is all very fine for party ideologues like Mr Prakash Karat to try and score a political point with the Union home minister, Mr L K Advani, on the POTO. But unlike Mr Karat, Mr Bhattacharjee has a mandate — and an obligation — to run an administration for the benefit, not of the party apparatchiks, but of the people of the state. The hope he had earlier raised of keeping the party away from interfering in his administration has been belied, at least over the POCO. His backtracking will not only demoralize the police and other agencies involved in fighting organized crimes, but will also send out a negative signal about his willingness and ability to rise above political point-scoring. The chief minister had earned quite a few brownie points for making welcome noises about changing the way the state administration had worked so long. Some of his initiatives for policy changes in crucial sectors like industry, education and health have been widely acclaimed. Much of this goodwill may be lost if he is seen to be meekly giving in to pressures from his party or dithering on important administrative decisions for the sake of party politics.


In many respects, Calcutta spoils its citizens. To make such a claim for a city which is rapidly becoming a health hazard may sound perverse. But a communist state has its own brand of molly-coddling, particularly when it comes to its urban middle-class electorate. As a result, middle and upper Calcutta feels rather smug about availing itself unthinkingly of most civic amenities. Cheap education, healthcare, transport, water, electricity, telephone and fuel have not only become an entitlement, but also foster a peculiar absence of civic scruples, leading to wastefulness. There is a general unconcern regarding the quality of such services as well. This blasé attitude will be given a much needed jolt by the state government’s imposition of a water tax on a much larger section of urban and suburban Calcuttans. The domestic and commercial use of water will be taxed, and this might even include the “purified” drinking water supplied by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. This will no doubt cause general disgruntlement, politicized into public protest. But the government and its municipal authorities ought to remain firm on this matter. Electoral populism has plagued the state and Central governments quite routinely. But the revised water tax could go a long way in reversing such civic and political habits.

The existing water tax brings in around Rs 17 crore, while the municipality’s water-related expenses come to more than Rs 70 crore. The burden on the government exchequer will therefore be made significantly lighter by this extended taxing. But this also binds the government to maintaining a higher quality of services. And this is what Calcuttans will have to be vigilant about, especially in the quality of drinking water provided by the CMC. Health and hygiene have never been matters of very great concern for the civic authorities. Malaria and arsenic-poisoning both elicit routine indifference and apathy. The city’s main source of water is mythically filthy, and its water-supply system remains colonial. Levying a new tax makes the authorities all the more accountable to the taxpayers with regard to the maintenance of humanly bearable standards. But the taxpayers will also have to be more aware and vigilant about such things. Whether this is to be called a tax or a service charge is immaterial. Equally irrelevant is the role of the World Bank in all this. None of this should be fodder for petty political obstructionism. Surveys have repeatedly shown that even the less privileged citizen is prepared to pay for civic amenities like clean water and garbage disposal, if that ensures certain basic standards. A proper regard for such a demand, and not mindless populism, should be the basis of the government and municipality’s fiscal measures.


As the Economic Survey highlights, the economy has both pluses and minuses. In 2000-01, real gross domestic product growth at 4 per cent was the lowest since 1991-92. Industry is in recession and employment in the organized sector has been stagnant since 1997. Investments (both public and private) are flat. Real interest rates are high. What does one expect with the high (Centre plus state) fiscal deficits? On the other hand, regardless of how one measures inflation, there is no denying that the inflation rate is low. This is true even if one does not use measures of headline inflation.

Foreign exchange reserves of more than 50 billion US dollars are more than comfortable. The current account deficit will be less than 1 per cent of the GDP. And although exports have exhibited a lacklustre performance, imports (both oil and non-oil) have not grown, and consequently, the balance of payments is manageable. Foodgrain stocks, soon to touch 70 million tonnes, are a plus as well as a minus, since they also represent a failure to reform procurement and distribution.

The economy has also been resilient to exogenous shocks like the east Asian crisis, global recession, September 11, earthquakes and cyclones. 2002-03 promises to be better, although the 5.4 per cent growth projected in the survey and the budget speech is too optimistic. (But with Central Statistical Organization figures being what they are, no one should hazard a guess about what the final GDP figures are likely to be.) 2002-03 promises to be better still, since the global economy is likely to recover towards the end of 2002. How much better is the question. One of the remarkable features of budget documents is that the nominal GDP growth figure is never mentioned, forget breakup into real GDP growth and inflation.

Working backwards, one can figure out that nominal GDP growth is expected to be 10.7 per cent. This must imply a real growth of 6 per cent and this seems unlikely, considering that problems with the economy are more structural than cyclical. Unfortunately, all revenue projections are based on this GDP growth and since the budget doesn’t do anything directly to stimulate GDP growth, the fiscal deficit target of 5.3 per cent may eventually turn out to be way out of line. Thankfully, all quantitative targets and timeframes have been knocked out of the fiscal responsibility bill.

Not that the budget can do much to stimulate growth. The reform agenda is known and includes agricultural reform, small-scale industry de-reservation, indirect tax reform, law reform (including labour laws), public sector undertaking disinvestments, ending of subsidies, infrastructure (social and physical) and downsizing government. Much of this is under the purview of the state governments and the idea of linking additional allocations to agriculture to state-level reforms is unlikely to work. Within the Centre, many reforms are outside the purview of North Block. Admittedly, there has been some movement on reform, especially disinvestments, and the target of Rs 12,000 crore in 2002-03 may well turn out to be an under-estimate.

Not only can North Block do little about reforms or kick-starting the economy, most expenditure is exogenous. In thousands of crores, interest payments are 117, defence (revenue and capital) is 44, subsidies are 40 and pensions are 21. That adds up to 237 thousand crore, more than the tax revenue of 236 thousand crore. Yet, without more Centrally-sponsored schemes in agriculture and social and physical infrastructure, highlighted in Part A of the budget speech, most people are unhappy. This is regardless of the fact that most such schemes are a waste of money and lead to inordinate leakage. Zero-based budgeting was supposed to have taken place for such schemes and according to the action taken report, the planning commission is busy in this task.

Meanwhile, the ATR will also tell you how much money has been spent on the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, not how many roads have been built as a result. The much-touted National Highway Development Project actually drew very little on budgetary resources. Be that as it may, Part A of this year’s budget speech still has such schemes, although many ministries and departments are unable to spend the money allocated to them and budgetary resources are returned unspent, often in capital expenditure.

The expenditure reforms commission has so far submitted 10 reports. These not only talk about food and fertilizer subsidies, but also about downsizing the government in 36 ministries and departments. For six ministries and departments, identification of the surplus pool was supposed to have been done by July 2001, according to last year’s budget speech. In civilian jobs, the recruitment was supposed to be 1 per cent a year. Given the natural attrition rate of 3 per cent a year, this means a decline in the number of jobs by 2 per cent a year. Not that the 3.2 million Central government jobs (1 million in railways and around 600,000 in posts and telegraphs and police) contribute much quantitatively to government expenditure, irrespective of sloth and over-staffing.

Interest payments, subsidies, defence and pensions are much more important. The issue is more of a signal, to persuade citizens that the government is doing its best to curb expenditure. Interestingly, for promises made in 2001-02, the ATR merely says that ERC reports are being considered by the respective ministries and departments. This year’s budget speech says that 42,200 jobs have been found to be surplus and there will be 12,200 fewer positions by March 2002. There is a table numbered Annexure 7 in Volume 1 of the expenditure budget. This actually shows that the number of jobs will go up from March 2001 to March 2002 and go up again from March 2002 to March 2003. This is also true of ministries and departments identified for downsizing. So obviously, the government does not believe that downsizing will actually happen.

Part A of the budget speech also has some movement on capital account convertibility (non-resident Indians and Indian companies for investments abroad), hikes in fertilizer prices by 5 per cent (these subsidies benefit large farmers or fertilizer companies), the end of the administered price mechanism for petro products (lower petrol and diesel prices and higher LPG and kerosene prices) and slashing of administered interest rates on small savings by 0.5 per cent. Barring the last, these are unexceptionable, despite the clamour by the urban middle class, the major beneficiary of such subsidies.

There are two problems with the present cut on interest rates on small savings. First, there is differential treatment compared to situations where the employer makes provident fund contributions. Second, there was supposed to be a specific formula linking such returns with returns on comparable government securities. In the absence of the formula, the 5 per cent cut will strike everyone as arbitrary. Part A of the budget speech also mentions de-reservation of 50 small scale industries products. Why leave the other 750 reservations intact?

This leaves Part B, the tax proposals. Given the Arvind Virmani committee’s recommendation on a unified customs duty, was there any point in differentiating between a 10 per cent slab for raw materials and intermediates and a 20 per cent slab for finished products in 2004? This will only lead to lobbying. And couldn’t some steps have been taken towards a two-slab structure right now? Instead, one has arbitrary and discretionary changes within various commodities, non-ferrous metals and defectives and seconds of iron and steel being examples. While duties on some information technology products have been reduced, the zero duty treatment for IT has been postponed till 2005. Agro duties have unnecessarily gone up, including for pulses, which India imports. The special additional duty is supposed to be equal to state-level taxes.

Yet, the SAD has been imposed on cattle, pigs, ducks and poultry. Every committee says that service sector taxation should be imposed beyond a threshold. Otherwise, this is impossible to enforce and net revenue is insignificant. Yet, 10 new service sectors have been included without a threshold, and these include beauty parlours, cable operators and dry cleaning services. Arbitrariness also characterizes the replacement of special excise duty by the Central value added tax. There are exemptions not only on direct taxes, but also on indirect taxes. Yet, the exemption has gone for granite, but has been introduced for rifles, guns, pistols, thorium oxalate and wattle extract. There is also the matter of special treatment to textiles.

Like indirect taxes, the cleaning up of direct taxes also leaves much to be desired. Can capital gains on real estate transactions really be a function of notional (as opposed to the actual) value of transactions? The dividend tax has already been criticized by several people. In addition to those criticisms, given tax treaties we have with several countries, doesn’t this open up avenues for arbitrage? The surcharge doesn’t add all that much to revenue, but has managed to antagonize everyone.

The adverse reaction to the budget is primarily because the hype has gone out of Part A, compared to last year. This is not undesirable. Unfortunately, regarding the meat of the budget, that is, the tax proposals, this budget also leaves a lot to be desired.

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


Communists are at Writers’ Buildings and everything must be fine with secularism in West Bengal. So, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh may take their turns through the purgatory of communal fire, but Bengal’s secular paradise will not be lost. A small band of Hindu fanatics in Taldi or Malda or a few Muslim zealots in Murshidabad are so out of joint with the state’s cultural ethos that they can pose only a marginal threat.

Such is the popular perception of Bengal and it seems so true when you look around and see the communal cauldron burning in other places. But slowly, and not so imperceptively, a change seems to be taking place in Calcutta, too. Whether it is the drawing room conversations of the elite or the street talk of hoi polloi, communal overtones are increasingly becoming not only acceptable but also respectable. Traditionally, the Bengali middle class took pride in secularism, which was considered part of a liberal education. To the bhadralok class, religious fundamentalism was not only politically incorrect but also socially degrading. It happened to people living in India’s “cowbelt” or carrying its legacy wherever they lived.

It is perhaps absurd to expect Bengal to be untouched by the churnings that affect the rest of the country. There may not be many instances of ugly street battles or large-scale rioting. But the state cannot be wholly immune to what historian Tapan Raychauduri described, in his Kingsley Martin Memorial Lecture in Cambridge in 1991, as the sangh parivar’s “struggle for the hearts and minds of the Indian people”.

For Bengal, despite the appearance of communal amity, the signs of this “struggle” are becoming increasingly visible in different strata of the society. Not being secular is therefore no longer dishonourable. It is not shameful to sing the praise of Narendra Modi and the charge of the karsevak brigade. In animated conversations on Gujarat or Ayodhya in upper middle class homes, the secularist Hindu is painted as a greater villain than the Muslim. Anti-secularism becomes anti-intellectualism, too. In any case, the secular intellectual is pilloried as a parasite, unrepresentative of the masses and irrelevant to popular upsurges.

This new anti-secularism has two basic claims to respectability. It is no longer the backward putsch of the cowbelt, the revolt of the vernacular-educated underprivileged against the English-educated upper classes. The new champions of Hindu fundamentalism are a far cry from the typical Rashtriya Swa-yamsevak Sangh activists visualized by K.B. Hedgewar or M.S. Golwalkar. These are English-educated, upper class people who otherwise have nothing but contempt for the masses. They supposedly give respectability to what was long perceived as an illiterate cult .

This new cult is also today’s badge of courage that must dismiss secularism as woolly-headed softism. To the urban saffron chatterati, Modi’s marauders are heroic people who had shown the cour-age to take much more than an eye for an eye. The danger is that this unabashed Muslim-baiting is creeping into the consciousness of large sections of the masses, cutting across political beliefs and age groups. It is a threat that emanates as much from the gentry in Calcutta’s club circuit as from the lowly saffron volunteer in some dusty district town.

Therefore there was a general nod of approval when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee spoke of some madrasahs being used to train religious fundamentalists and possibly would-be terrorists. Coming from the Marxist chief minister, this was final proof of what they had always known: that Muslims are conspirators waiting to destabilize “our country and society”. So the sensible thing to do is to strike at “them” before they can strike at “us”. They were not interested in the more important message from Bhattacharjee that Muslims need to be given better education so that the mullahs cannot take advantage of their educational and socioeconomic backwardness.

Not just the madrasah controversy, the Partha Roy Burman kidnapping, the attack on policemen outside the American Center, international events following the September 11 attack on America and closer home, the brutalities on the Hindu minority in parts of Bangladesh combined to create a climate of opinion that came in handy for both Muslim-baiting and secularist-bashing.

It is not that communal incidents elsewhere in India had not had their ripples in Calcutta or other parts of Bengal. The rioting in Calcutta in 1992 following the destruction of the Babri Masjid showed that certain parts of the city, where migrants from other parts of India and Bangladesh formed substantial parts of the population, stayed outside the secular ethos of the majority of the citizens. Worse still, that riot revealed chinks in the armour of organized political parties which failed to bridge the communal divide.

In the other major incident of communal violence in Calcutta since the mayhem of 1946, the provocation for the four-day disturbances in January, 1964, came from the riots that erupted almost simultaneously in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh and several places in Bangladesh over the sudden disappearance of a holy relic from Kashmir’s Hazratbal mosque.

So, when Godhra and Gujarat happened, Bengal’s secular politics faced yet another challenge. The Left Front, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress lost no time in taking to the streets to renew their pledge for communal harmony. But it would be wrong to assume that anti-secularists have given up on Bengal. Their fight for intellectual and emotional space has been sharpened. Their victories may not yet be spectacular, but these may be enough to prepare the ground for future shocks.

This is precisely what the Communist Party of India leader and senior Left Front minister, Nanda Gopal Bhattacharyya, had warned against in a study of the growth of communal organizations in West Bengal some years ago. He showed how the RSS, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal have strengthened their ranks despite the BJP’s negligible presence on the state’s political scene. There is every reason to believe that their number has increased manifold since the publication of Bhattacharyya’s pamphlet. If the rising number of madrasahs in Malda and Murshidabad is seen as ominous, one has to visit Purulia, Bankura and parts of Midnapore to see how sangh parivar schools are mushrooming in remote, tribal-majority hamlets.

The urgency for the secular voice therefore is more, and not less, than ever before even in supposedly safe Bengal. It is also too important a message to be left only to the political parties which can cynically sacrifice anything at the altar of political expediency. Far more important than joining the seminar or the street procession, the battle for secularism has to be joined in drawing rooms, club lounges and in the neighbourhood adda. The communalist has to be shamed and shown his place in civil society, no matter what his pedigree, position or power.


At the local and provincial levels, the responsible authorities are the regional offices of the Bureau of Indian Standards, State Pollution Control Boards, and State Consumer Councils. The view of major groups and the public in general are solicited. Standards and criteria are evolved and finalized only after circulating them for public comments and views. Government programmes, in partnership with industries, consumer associations and others, to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns include: The Ecomark Scheme, Green Rating, ISO 14001 Certificate.

Twenty-four critically polluted areas in the country have been identified and action plans have been drawn up to improve the quality of the environment in these areas (1997)...

The major programmes for new and renewable sources of energy which were developed and enlarged during the Seventh Five Year Plan included national projects on bio-gas development, improved chulhas, solar, thermal energy utilization, solar photo voltaics, wind energy, and conversion of bio-mass into energy, energy plantations, and bio-mass gasifiers.

The process of development is sharply raising the consumption of household energy. It is imperative to support the development of non-conventional or renewable sources of energy to sustain the development process. Sun, wind, water, and biomass are renewable, perennial, dependable, and widely available sources of energy. The generation and utilization of energy from renewable sources have tremendous potential. According to available statistical data..., India accumulates 300 million tonnes of agro residues every year, of which only a small quantity is used as direct fuel. The potential of bio-mass energy is placed at 17,000 MW and of solar energy at SX10l: KWHours/year. Using a conservative assessment, wind power potential in the country is around 20,000 MW and mini hydro-energy 5,000 MW. The total wave power potential from ocean energy along India’s 1,600 km coastline is 40,000 MW. Patterns of consumption by the very poor, even when unsustainable in the short term, must be regarded primarily as survival consumption. Overuse of agricultural land, over-grazing of pasture land, and the depletion of forests for fuel wood are all manifestations of a survival economy. To speak of such consumption as being unsustainable, and hence requiring change, without addressing the human condition that leads to such consumption, is not only unethical but also impractical.

The efficient usage of energy, water and other materials by industries and by households, is gaining recognition, acceptance and picking up progressively. Recycling and reuse has long been an established tradition in Indian society... An extensive and effective collection and recycling system for wastes such as glass, tin scrap iron, brass, rubber, paper, and plastics thrives in the non-formal sector. Consumers are increasingly aware of the health effects of residual pesticides and fertilizers. Textile, leather, and other industries are switching to cleaner technologies. In addition, the use of both recharging and reuse are having significant impacts in changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns.

To be concluded



It takes two to tango

Sir — Success, they say, has its own pitfalls. The Mahesh Bhupathi-Leander Paes pair was one bright spot in Indian sports. The duo was the most successful ever in Indian tennis, with more than 20 ATP titles in their kitty, including three grand slam wins — two Wimbledons and one at Roland Garos. The pair was world number one, and tennis history beckoned them into the hall of fame. And then the two decided to commit hara kiri — go their separate ways. Only to come together again a year later, for the Olympics. But one could see the magic was missing. They played together, even won a few tournaments here and there. But they did not bump chests again. This latest parting of ways thus will come as no surprise to fans (“Bhupathi move surprising: Paes”, March 12). The only feeling is one of sadness at the waste of talent, and of promise. For these two men had managed — by the dint of their own talent and hard work — to do well, well enough for the world to accept them as the best.
Yours faithfully,
Malati Basu, Calcutta

Heroine of the piece

Sir — Arundhati Roy finally decided to pay the Rs 2,000 fine imposed on her by the Supreme Court in the contempt of court proceedings, rather than undergo simple imprisonment for three years (“Author with a cause chains the rebel”, March 8). While one admires Roy for taking a courageous stand on behalf of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the political and ethical correctness of the decision to pay the fine can be contested on many grounds.

The willingness to pay the fine can be interpreted as an act of submission. That is, she has borne the “cost” of an unjust ruling (thus making a deal) rather than shown a willingness to pay the “price” of her convictions. Moreover, undergoing imprisonment would have amounted to defiance of the unjust ruling itself. Thus, her decision is open to exploitation by opponents of the NBA movement in the future.

The court, in its admission, states that the contempt provision was invoked to protect the sanctity and dignity of the judiciary and not to protect any individual judge. By extension, it can be argued that the sentence pronounced on Roy is not against her per se, but against any citizen who dares criticize the judiciary. In effect, this sentence brings into issue the fundamental right to freedom of speech accorded to every citizen by the Constitution.

A large number of Indian citizens and especially those represented by Roy and the NBA are underprivileged, exploited and marginalized. Roy’s undergoing imprisonment would have signalled her refusal to take advantage of the privileges accorded to her by her position in life and would have been an act of solidarity with those who did not have those privileges.

One of the reasons Roy decided to pay the fine was the evident need NBA activists felt to have her around. But then, this is a case of a leader becoming greater than the struggle. Surely a movement that cannot do without its leader for even three months is not worth much. The NBA has a history that is far longer than that of Roy’s involvement with it. Can one imagine Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Senapati Bapat opting to pay a fine so that they could better contribute to the struggle from outside prison?

By saying that she does not want to become a martyr “for a cause that is not mine”, Roy denies the connection that ties all institutions that enable expropriation and exploitation of the oppressed. Anyone interested in any aspect of social justice cannot thus remove herself from the ambit of struggles that may not seem directly linked to the causes she herself is espousing.

I do not want to cast aspersions on Roy’s integrity, or question the ability of the NBA leadership but the contempt case became something of a theatrical with Roy in the lead role and the judiciary cast as the villain of the piece. But notice how the debate was limited to these two protoganists — the actual NBA struggle becoming something of a backdrop. Roy thus inadvertantly became exactly what she set out not to be — a heroine.

Yours faithfully,
Milind Wani, Calcutta

Sir — The NBA is known for creating a public hoopla. This time it was in the limelight because of Arundhati Roy’s arrest. The arrest did spark some sympathy, but the drama ended fairly timidly with the writer-activist paying the Rs 2,000 fine. Obviously, a three month stay in jail would have been too much for her.

Roy’s remark that she was not interested in becoming a heroine sounds filmi. She should concentrate on writing books, which she is good at. I am sure her one night stay in Tihar will have given her food for several novels.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — The top billing given by the national and international media to Arundhati Roy’s arrest has helped create awareness about the plight of the thousands displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Project. Dams are an inevitable part of progress, but they should not be built at the cost of increasing the suffering of the downtrodden. The government should arrange for the proper rehabilitation of the thousands who will be displaced by the SSP, as the NBA has been demanding.

Yours faithfully,
Phani Bhusan Saha, Balurghat

Sir — Arundhati Roy did the right thing by paying the fine and getting out of Tihar. The jail is a fine place to write novels in, but it is good for little else. As things stand, she more than made her point. The nation and the media have taken note of her dissent and supported her. Roy is not alone in opposing the courts. Many of us will agree that the Indian courts will have to go some way further before becoming ideally free, fair and fearless. And this is apart from the apparently endless delay in the disposal of cases. It would seem that some judgments are particularly unexpected, suggesting manipulation, and there is sometimes the smell of money. Perhaps the judges should remember that the respect of the nation is important, especially since people have given up on politicians.

Yours faithfully,
Sush Kocher, Calcutta

While Modi fiddles...

Sir — For over 48 hours, the Gujarat government did nothing as thousands of innocent Muslim civilians were assaulted, robbed and killed, ostensibly in retaliation against the burning down of a train carrying kar sevaks in Godhra on February 27. It continued to do nothing even after the riots spread to new areas, two days later.

A few years ago Christians were similarly persecuted in the Dangs district. The media had then highlighted how the state administration did not restrain the hooligans of the majority community or mobilize the police force to contain the violence. Instead, the then chief minister, Keshubhai Patel, claimed the situation was under control. His government later pleaded helplessness, not admitting that it had waited too long to seek the Centre’s help, giving the arsonists time to carry on with their rampage. What is needed now is to enforce a ban on all organizations which fan communalism, arrest their leaders and charge them under the prevention of terrorism ordinance.

Yours faithfully,
Sukumar Mondal, Calcutta

Sir — The editorial, “Price of folly” (March 5), demanded the removal of the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, on the plea that “the local administration took no steps to disperse the crowd” at Godhra. This is akin to holding the managing director of a company personally responsible for a traffic violation by a driver of a delivery van of his company’s products, and arresting him for the resulting mob violence.

As the sankaracharya of Kanchi has said, it is precisely this kind of extreme view that brings out the worst in both communities.

Yours faithfully,
Sunil V. Khaitan, Calcutta

Sir — Narendra Modi has exonerated the activists of the Vishwa Hindhu Parishad and Bajrang Dal of involvement in the violence in Gujarat. He has based his statement on the fact that not one of the over 1,000 people arrested in connection with the riots belonged to either outfit. This can only mean that the Gujarat government favours these outfits, and is consciously trying to paper over evidence against them. Remember how L.K. Advani, after the Graham Staines’s murder, had stated confidently that the VHP and Bajrang Dal were not involved? Why do Advani and Modi always jump to the defence of these outfits, and not of any other?

Yours faithfully,
S.M. Fernandes, Calcutta

Sir — Instead of sympathizing with the victims of the recent violence in his state, Narendra Modi has blamed them for the fate they met with at the hands of the rioters. If a chief minister of a state holds such views and airs them publicly, is it any wonder that people are increasingly losing faith in the various arms of governance?

Why must an entire community become the target of attack for the act, however heinous, of a few miscreants? Does Modi mean to say that the entire Muslim community of Gujarat was responsible for the Sabarmati Express arson in which 59 were killed? And hence, the violence against them was justified? So the police could, with impunity, be kept on stand-by, while they were taught a lesson?

But be that as it may, one can be sure that Atal Bihari Vajpayee will not step down himself or recommend president’s rule for Gujarat or even ask for Modi’s dismissal. Such barbarisms, as were on display in Gujarat, did not touch his poetic feelings, after all.

Yours faithfully,
Aditya P. Chatterjee, Calcutta

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