Editorial 1 / Against the tide
Editorial 2 / Old expectation
Diplomacy / Patchwork rescue
Fifth Column / Halting on the road to peace
Bridging the growth divide
Document / The way to a technology revolution
Letters to the editor

 
 
EDITORIAL 1 / AGAINST THE TIDE 
 
 
 
 
The prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is emerging like a figure reminiscent of the boy who stood alone on the burning deck and refused to abandon his position. Mr Vajpayee refused to kowtow to pressure about the puja in Ayodhya; he offered only a token concession by sending a representative of the Central government, a civil servant, to accept the stone offerings. He did not mince his words in his condemnation of the barbarous attack on the Orissa Bidhan Sabha and publicly disowned those who had perpetrated the assault even though the marauders had claimed to be members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and had shouted Vajpayeejiki jai. These positions, coming from as august a person as the prime minister, are significant. They mark the great distance that separates Mr Vajpayee from the extremists and militants within the sangh parivar to which Mr Vajpayee still owes ideological allegiance. It will not be an exaggeration to say that Mr Vajpayee, true to his word, has decided to stand up as the prime minister of the country, its Constitution, its civil society and its rule of law, rather than appear as a partisan with blinkers. It is to the credit of the prime minister that when the going was against him, in terms of election results and the overall performance of his government in the maintenance of communal harmony, he chose to stand up for certain principles. This may not have made him very popular with sections of the sangh parivar but it has added inches to his stature as prime minister.

The enormity of the task before Mr Vajpayee can be gauged by the deliberations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in its annual general meeting in Bangalore. At the meeting, the RSS reiterated that Ayodhya is the “core issue”; it condoned the killings of Muslims in Gujarat; and said that the safety of Muslims lies in their earning the goodwill of the majority community. Mr Vajpayee, if his recent pronouncements are anything to go by, cannot approve of any of the three propositions. The RSS’s attitude indicates that even though it is not as militant and violent as the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, common ideological assumptions and a common hatred unite all three bodies. Statements and attitudes of this kind, and the actions, the politics of hatred, that flow from them, will continue to harass Mr Vajpayee and his government — they might even find a few sympathizers among members of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The colour saffron, like the colour red, is a fast one. Only a few like Mr Vajpayee succeed in diluting it with other agents.

The diluting agent that Mr Vajpayee has rightly used is economic reform. He has placed the reform of the economy on high priority. He has also rightly identified politics as the principal hurdle before the economic reforms. He has appealed for a consensus on economic reforms. This will not be easy to achieve as political parties in India think only of votes and not of the country. But the appeal from the prime minister shows that Mr Vajpayee is thinking in the right direction and setting the right priorities. Time may be running out on Mr Vajpayee. But he is determined to go down as India’s prime minister with the tricolour, and not the saffron flag, tied to the mast.

   

 
 
EDITORIAL 2 / OLD EXPECTATION 
 
 
 
 
Appointments to the higher administrative posts in the states have often been the subject of debate. The controversies are usually case-specific, with a different set of norms, rules or customs being questioned each time. The Calcutta high court’s decision to set aside the appointment of Mr Dinesh Vajpai as state director-general of police and inspector-general of police has, in its turn, opened up a field of questions in another direction. The principle at issue here is seniority. In the highest echelons of any service structure, seniority alone cannot be a criterion for fitness. Seniority as a premise for appointments guarantees discipline in the structure up to a certain level. The same experience at the job is thus offered to all employees, and special professional skills can be developed on level ground. But there is an automatic screening out as the most important administrative posts in the higher levels begin to thin out. Ideally, the best people in any organization should be placed in these posts, once they have acquired the mandatory experience. As long as seniority remains the only criterion, the question of merit becomes secondary. Organizations that aim at excellence are hamstrung by the rule of seniority. Besides, this system also means that equally or more deserving people a few months behindhand in seniority of service can no longer be considered for the top posts within their serving lives.

The best way to solve the problem would be to consider work within each higher grade as a job in itself. Promotion to the next grade would entail going through the procedure of applying and then fulfilling criteria of fitness, as for a new job. As an additional advantage, this would allow the organization to open its doors to new entrants at each level. This was the procedure in the system of higher education until recently. A professor’s chair would be advertised and a panel of likely candidates formed from applicants both from within and outside the institution. The system encourages excellence and enriches the organization, while reducing the complacency that comes from taking appointment by seniority for granted. It is true that law and precedent establish seniority as the chief determinant in the most important appointments. Perhaps it is time the principle was reviewed.

   

 
 
DIPLOMACY / PATCHWORK RESCUE 
 
 
BY K.P. NAYAR
 
 
If the heinous attack on the Prot- estant International Church in Islamabad had not taken place on Sunday, there would have been quite a few people on Raisina Hill looking askance at the United States of America’s assistant secretary of state, Christina Rocca, as she did the talking to them on Monday. Part of the brief for her talks in South Block and Hyderabad House this week was to impress upon the Indian government that the global war on terrorism had provided New Delhi with a once-in-50-years opportunity to work with Washington to help change Pakistan for ever.

It is a big “if” whether the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government would have agreed with the George W. Bush administration’s reasoning that September 11 was the cataclysmic event which persuaded Pervez Musharraf to declare — at least in words — that he was opposed to terror as an instrument in Islamabad’s relations with New Delhi. There are some people in South Block who agree with this reasoning, indeed, any American reasoning. Sunday’s attack on the church has robbed Indians of an opportunity to see if these people would have had their way.

By the time Rocca’s schedule is redrawn and she gets back to New Delhi at a later date, Washington’s assessment of Musharraf’s Pakistan may have undergone a change in the wake of the Daniel Pearl kidnapping and the Sunday killings: unless the general continues to be successful in the charade that he has been playing with the Americans since the week after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. At least, those Americans who run the Bush administration’s war against al Qaida know that the metamorphosis which Musharraf underwent on September 18 when he ditched the taliban was not voluntary.

Washington forced the change on the wavering general with a 24-hour ultimatum that if he was not with the US, then he was against America. Those at the core of policy-making in the White House also know that Musharraf’s celebrated speech on January 12, when he outlined his reformed vision of Pakistan, was not any act of contrition by the chief of the very army which created the Frankenstein monster that toppled New York’s twin towers. It was a response to a second ultimatum, this time delivered through the British prime minister, Tony Blair, during his visit to Islamabad.

Yet, they recognize that Musharraf is the best bet they have in Pakistan. In private conversations, officials of the Bush team frankly admit that it was providential for America that a military junta was in power when Washington decided to declare war on the taliban and the al Qaida. They shudder to think what would have happened post-September 11 if a civilian government was in power in Pakistan with the army perennially on its heels.

For those familiar with America’s foreign and military policies, there are parallels from history between Musharraf and another US war-time ally. The comparisons between Musha- rraf and Nguyen Van Thieu, who presided over the disintegration of South Vietnam at the time of America’s withdrawal from Saigon in 1975, are too stark to be ignored. Thieu, like Musharraf, knew how to dress well. Like the late Vietnamese dictator, Musharraf’s speech is peppered with phrases and expressions in the language of his colonizers: the French in Thieu’s case, the British in India’s. If Thieu deserted Ho Chi Minh and joined the French in an about-turn, Musharraf abandoned his natural constituency, turned his back on the jihadis and embraced America. The similarities don’t end there.

If Musharraf displaced the elected government of Nawaz Sharif, Thieu was key to the plot which unseated the president, Ngo Dinh Diem, in 1963. Both the military dictators accused their predecessors of corruption. Both Musharraf and Thieu declared themselves president two years after the respective military coups. Thieu discovered too late that even his intelligence apparatus was reporting to the Communists. Musharraf has purged his Inter-Services Intelligence agency of its jihadi leadership, but only time will tell if the purge has produced results.

Through the Sixties and up until the American withdrawal from Vietnam, Washington looked the other way when Thieu practised his dictatorship. The Bush administration is in no position to push Musharraf towards democracy as the will of the people ought to be exercised in any state with a representative government.

While the similarities are stark, the denouement of America’s dalliance with these two dictators must be different in each case. Vietnam did not ever directly threaten America. Notwithstanding the 60,000 American deaths in the country’s longest war, Vietnam was never central to the US as a nation-state.

That is not the case with the ongoing war against terrorism, at the core of which is Pakistan. How long will Washington wait before it realizes that Musharraf is severely hamstrung in his ability to deliver what the international community expects from him? With every passing day, with every new incident of terrorism within Pakistan, questions are piling up about how much control Musharraf really has on the country which he is supposedly running. In a few days, it will be three months since Pearl was abducted, but not one head has rolled in Pakistan’s law enforcement establishment or its bureaucracy for their colossal failure to prevent the journalist’s kidnapping — or after the kidnapping, to rescue Pearl or at least to find his body.

Omar Saeed Sheikh, the key conspirator in the plot against Pearl, was no faceless terrorist. He had already been indicted in the US for his part in a 1994 plot to kidnap an American. His commitment to the jihadi cause is well known to have been so deep that in 1999, hijackers of an Indian aircraft were prepared to trade 160 hostages for Sheikh’s release, along with two other terrorists.

There was some concern after Pearl’s death became known that Sheikh had surrendered to the Punjab chief secretary, Ejaz Shah, until recently a top ISI official, a week before the Pakistani authorities claimed to have arrested him. But the crucial question in the Pearl plot is why Sheikh’s movements were not watched at least after January 12, when Musharraf made his unequivocal commitment to chart a new course for Pakistan away from jihad. To suggest that this was an oversight and not deliberate on the part of intelligence agencies in Pakistan is to insult common sense.

There are worrying reports that militants who have been rounded up by Musharraf after the attack on India’s Parliament in December are only notionally behind bars. And it was the ultimate irony that the attack on the church in Islamabad took place on the very day the authorities in the North West Frontier Province released the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a vocal supporter of the taliban. Jamaat-e-Islami’s leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, is already out on bail.

Much was made of Musharraf’s decision in the wake of the US military action in Afghanistan to purge the ISI of its top leadership and get rid of generals in the army headquarters who were sympathetic to the taliban. That was four months ago. Since that purge, which made Musharraf secure, very little has been done to cleanse the security and intelligence establishment of men who promoted terror as an instrument of state policy for decades.

As long as Musharraf is unable to act along these lines, incidents such as the Pearl kidnapping and the attack on the church are bound to recur. Not only has the back of the terrorist network in Pakistan not been broken, but also those who want to fight the religious war are clearly regrouping after the stunning defeat of the taliban and the flight of the al Qaida. If anyone in Washington sincerely believes that India has been given a rare opportunity to work with Musharraf and the US to change Pakistan, Sunday’s incident — and its backdrop which has been unfolding in recent weeks — should disabuse them of any such notion. Patchwork undertaken by a politically schizophrenic dictator cannot rescue a failed state. It is perhaps time to look elsewhere, maybe to former Yugoslavia, for solutions to the problems of Pakistan.

   

 
 
FIFTH COLUMN / HALTING ON THE ROAD TO PEACE 
 
 
BY SUDIPTA BHATTACHARJEE
 
 
“May god help us.” With this fervent prayer, a 44-member Naga delegation signed off the statement on their consultation meet in Bangkok earlier this year. It was their rendezvous with leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) “after a thorough review and discussion on the ongoing peace process between the Government of India and the NSCN.”

An interregnum, necessitated by the assembly elections in neighbouring Manipur last month, drew to a close (although not acknowledged as such) with the installation of a new coalition government in Imphal. Focus is once again riveted on the Naga peace process. But just when welcome developments were beginning to take place, discordant notes were struck. To add to spanners to the work, 11 NSCN (I-M) militants were killed in an encounter in Manipur’s Chandel district on Sunday.

The hopes and fears of sincere brokers of truce are better comprehended in the light of these events. First, in a major climbdown from their insistence on holding talks in a third country, the NSCN (I-M) leadership indicated its willingness to come to India, provided the Centre cleared obstacles and ensured their “safe exit” in case the dialogue failed.

Change of venue

The change in the choice of venue follows a meeting with the Centre’s interlocutor K. Padmanabhaiah and NSCN (I-M) leaders in Malaysia last month. It was also prompted by the statement of the Union home minister in Parliament offering to Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah safe passage to India so that they could expedite the peace process.

The second significant development, if one may call it that, is the expression of renewed dedication to the Naga cause by the state government. Buoyed by its poll performance in Manipur, Uttaranchal and Punjab, the Congress in Nagaland, (where assembly elections are scheduled for next year) went into campaign mode last week. Addressing a party meeting chief minister S.C. Jamir called for a logical denouement to the reconciliation process. “The solution to the vexed problem lies within the parameters of national policy”, he said.

His offer to withdraw arrest warrants on and provide safe passage to the NSCN (I-M) top brass to visit Nagaland, however, has drawn flak. Propelled by his legendary survival instincts, Jamir went a step further to convert “animosity” into “pragmatism” by “pardoning” those who had made attempts on his life.

Where loyalty lies

The Isak-Muivah faction, which considers Jamir’s presence positively de trop where talks with the Centre are concerned, shot back: “We do not beg mercy or help from adversaries, including puppets.” But, as the chief minister points out ad nauseum, law and order remains a state subject.

The problem is that this Naga militant outfit does not view Nagaland as a state, or even an integral part of India. What is more, it does not recognize its territorial boundaries either. The encounter in Chandel district on Sunday is indicative of the considerable NSCN presence in Manipur. To add to the complex situation, as per the Bangkok statement, “the Naga people maintain that Great Britain has the moral and legal obligation to clarify her position on the Naga people and their land, which India claims to have inherited.”

The only whiff of a possible rapprochement lies in the final lines of the Bangkok document. “The consultation foresees the need for Nagas to be accommodative in our thinking to(wards) our neighbours, not ignoring their legitimate interests and apprehensions.” But after Sunday’s gunbattle, one wonders whether such magnanimity will prevail.The NSCN (I-M) leadership has already reacted sharply and threatened dire consequences, although Manipur is not covered by the ceasefire. In the footsteps of a laudable reconciliation journey spearheaded by the Hoho, the church, non-governmental organizations and the Naga people, at a time when the climate for talks is conducive, even a minor hurdle would lead to a situation only divine intervention can salvage.

   

 
 
BRIDGING THE GROWTH DIVIDE 
 
 
BY JEFFREY D. SACHS, NIRUPAM BAJPAI AND ANANTHI RAMIAH
 
 
To address the question of regional performance in India, we narrow our focus to the 14 most populous states, excluding the northeastern states and six union territories. The included states have a combined population of 897 million accounting for about 90 per cent of India’s population, and 2.7 million square kilometres accounting for 83 per cent of India’s total land area. The variation in economic performance is large. The per capita state product varies from the poorest state, Bihar, at Rs 1,010 per month and population of 82 million, to the richest, Maharashtra, at Rs 4,853 per month and population of 96 million. Growth performance was equally varied, with the slowest growth in per capita income in Bihar, at -0.2 per cent per year during 1992-98, compared to the fastest in Gujarat, at 7.8 per cent per year.

The differential performance across states has begun to raise important policy questions within India. To what extent are the differences a manifestation of global economic forces acting upon India and to what extent do they reflect differences in economic policies at the state and Union level? Will market reforms tend to make the rich states richer, with the poor states lagging far behind, or will market reforms lead to economic convergence across states?

We must distinguish between policy regimes, especially the era of state planning up to 1991 and the market-reform period since 1991. In the planning period, international trade played a minor role and industrialization was affected by state investment plans, which attempted — at least mildly — to promote the laggard regions. One great impetus to national growth came via the Green Revolution, which led to sharp increases in grain productivity in regions such as Punjab and Haryana. After 1991, market forces and international trade have played a larger role, though India’s insertion into the global economy has been much less dramatic than China’s. Still, we would expect coastal regions to be in an advantageous position relative to interior regions after 1991, since they face much lower transactions costs in global trade and investment.

This raises an important question as to why some countries or regions demonstrate inter-regional convergence while others do not. In China and India, it appears geographical variations across regions may block or slow the convergence of incomes.

We hypothesize that regional differences in growth reflect regional differences in the marginal productivity of investments by sub-sector. While relative returns on investment in each sub-sector depend on the general business environment to an extent, they depend on specific geographical factors even more.

Agriculture can occasionally be a leading sector in economic growth, either on the basis of a spurt in agricultural productivity or on the basis of cash-crop exports. In India, agricultural-productivity-led growth occurred in one major historical period, the Green Revolution, dating from 1965-66 to the early Eighties. The Green Revolution was centered on short-stemmed, high-yield wheat, and to a lesser extent paddy rice, with both crops depending on irrigation and intensive use of fertilizer. Punjab and Haryana, and to a lesser extent, other states of the north Indian plains (as far east as Bihar) and in the south, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra were at the epicenter of the Green Revolution. High-yielding rice varieties made their impact most powerfully felt in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Note that China, like India, experienced one short burst of agriculture-led growth, with the dismantling of the communes and consequent jump in output during 1978-84.

Almost all the regions among the poorer states (except perhaps most of western Rajasthan and parts of western Madhya Pradesh and southern Uttar Pradesh) have the agro-climatic potential to yield high returns in agriculture because of reasonable to high rainfall and the availability of perennial river waters. A major cause of poverty in such states is thus human failure, rather than natural factors. While it may be useful to identify states with high/low incidences of poverty, there are states, which have high variations within them, both owing to historical/economic antecedents and agro-climatic factors. This is typically true of larger states, though such variation exists in smaller states as well.

The more disaggregated National Sample Survey’s region-wise picture of poverty (head count ratio) shows that, to a significant extent, there are heterogeneities in each state except perhaps Bihar, which is uniformly poor. Sharp contrasts are witnessed in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, though variations can be seen in smaller states like Haryana and Punjab as well. The regions have been segregated by low (up to 20 per cent), medium (21-40 per cent), high (41-60 per cent) and very high (more than 60 per cent) levels of poverty. Southern Bihar, southern Orissa, southwestern Madhya Pradesh and southern UP fall in the very high poverty bracket. These regions are composed of the districts of Chotanagpur and Santhal Parganas in Bihar, Koraput and Phulbhani districts in Orissa, the Jhansi region in UP and its adjacent regions in Madhya Pradesh, including Betul, Khandwa and Hoshangabad. Two features of these regions are that either they are mainly tribal (except Jhansi), or they rocky and dry, yet densely populated because of their agro-climatic features. The major inference drawn here is that tribal areas are predominantly and distinctly poor.

The high priority areas are in Bihar, parts of Madhya Pradesh, inland Maharashtra, northern Tamil Nadu, eastern and central UP and parts of West Bengal. The reasons for the extreme poverty in these regions are that they are mainly tribal, thickly populated and semi-arid areas, which have been neglected historically. Parts of West Bengal have made strides in poverty alleviation. Medium- level poverty persists in regions of western states; a few regions have made more progress than others, compared to the eastern ones where there is uniform poverty. Typical examples are Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and UP. Last, the western coastal regions, entire Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, parts of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which are a continuum of a north-south belt having experienced green revolution, are pockets of low poverty.

The manufacturing sector is a much more consistent engine of growth, and it has played a greater role after 1991 with the opening up of the economy. The most likely site for sustained manufacturing growth in India, like China, is along the coast, especially at the four large port cities of Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai and Kandla. Coastal, urban-based industry can serve both the internal and international market, and can more readily make logistical links with foreign suppliers and customers than can interior-based enterprises. New export-oriented units are therefore heavily concentrated in the coast. Manufacturers in interior regions can of course service the domestic market, particularly in consumer goods such as processed foods, but the potential for rapid growth based on the internal market tends to be more limited than the growth based on exports.

High-tech services, such as information- and communications-based industry, or financial services, almost always rely on a network of universities and an urban labour market. These sectors are much less dependent on coastal access, since much of their business can be transacted over telephone and the internet. A high quality of life in the location, as an attraction for highly mobile skilled workers assumes greater significance in these sectors than in any other. The most important state for service-sector activities is Maharashtra, as it combines the country’s financial centre with an important information technology-based industry. Other key states include Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi, and Andhra Pradesh.

Foreign investors have multiple motivations: to service the domestic market; to exploit site-specific natural resources (like mining); and in low-wage countries, to establish export platforms in labour-intensive goods, or labour-intensive stages of the production process, or in standardized technologies that are easily transferable to lower-wage settings. In general, coastal access is a huge benefit for all export-platform manufacturing, as seen in China. More generally, foreign direct investment is attracted to urban areas and to natural resource deposits. Interior cities (like Bangalore and Hyderabad) may be attractive for IT-based activities, which do not depend on coastal access. A simple regression confirms that FDI flowed mainly to urbanized states and to states with large mining sectors as a per cent of gross national product (especially Orissa and to a lesser extent, Madhya Pradesh).

Taken in total, these considerations suggest that urbanization is likely to be a key determinant of economic growth in the Eighties and Nineties. We would expect that already existent urban areas will be the preferred location for new investments in manufactures and services. The extent of urbanization varies widely, between a low of 13 per cent in Bihar and Orissa, and 38 per cent in Maharashtra as of 1991, with the relative proportions of urbanization by state relatively constant over the past 30 years. The degree of urbanization itself depends on underlying geographical factors, especially the location of the main national ports as well as the agriculture productivity in the region. Regions of high agricultural productivity tend to support a larger proportion of the local population in an urban setting, while regions of low agricultural productivity tend to have a high proportion of the population in peasant, subsistence agriculture.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is director, CID, Harvard University, and the Galen Stone Professor of International Trade at the Department of EconomicsNirupam Bajpai is development advisor at CID and the director of the Harvard Indian Programme Ananthi Ramiah was a summer intern at CID when this study was undertaken in 2001

To be concluded

   

 
 
DOCUMENT / THE WAY TO A TECHNOLOGY REVOLUTION 
 
 
 
 
India has a large infrastructure of technology support institutions, some of which are undergoing reform to make them more relevant to industrial needs.

A number of universities, especially the Indian Institutes of Technology, are increasingly interacting with industry on technological matters, while others are outside this circle. Environmentally sound technologies are essential to achieving sustained economic growth and sustainable development. They encompass a total system which includes know-how, procedures, goods, and services.

Agenda 21 emphasizes the need for access to and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on favourable and preferential terms as mutually agreed.

This would take into account the need to protect intellectual property rights as well as the special needs of developing countries for the implementation of Agenda 21. The implementation of the commitments on the transfer of environmentally sound technologies and technical know-how has been disappointing.

Issues of natural resource conservation and agricultural growth cannot be effectively tackled in the absence of an appropriate technological base. In addition, technology is essential for increasing the competitiveness of the Indian economy in international markets.

Indigenous development of technology is therefore of the highest importance and deliberate planned steps need to be taken to increase national technology self-sufficiency. Rapid technical progress is altering fundamentally the skills, knowledge, infrastructure, and institutions needed for the efficient production and delivery of goods and services.

So broad and far-reaching are current technolo- gical developments that many see the emergence of another industrial revolution driven by a new technological “paradigm”.

This paradigm involves not only new technologies and skills in the traditional sense, but also different work methods, management techniques, and organizational relations within firms. As new transport and communications technologies shrink international “economic space”, it also implies a significant reordering of comparative advantage, and trade and investment relations between countries.

There is a need to strengthen technology foresight programmes to analyse the implications of emerging technologies, domestic strengths and weaknesses, and target future technologies for local development...

In India, the department of science and technology has played an important role in terms of institutional support for building national strengths in scientific fields, and technology assessment and forecasting. A number of technology status reports on energy efficiency, environmentally sound technologies for pollution control, and many other areas have been published...

In India, the department of biotechnology has constituted 16 task forces for the generation of resources and development projects for the development of biotechnologies/ techniques/ processes, the perfection of techniques/technologies developed, and their field evaluation and transfer to industries for commercial- ization.

This is to benefit the country in general and the affected population in particular. These task forces are: aquaculture and marine biotechnology; animal biotech- nology; biological control of plant pests, diseases, and weeds; biotech process engineering and industrial biotechnology; basic research in biotechnology; biotechnology based programme for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes population, and weaker sections of society; biofertilizer; crop biotechnology and plant molecular biology; environment and conservation biotechnology; food biotechnology; human genetics; medical biotechnology; microbial biotechnology; medicinal and aromatic plants biotechnology; plant tissue culture; and sericulture biotechnology.

These task forces consist of experts in the respective areas from different parts of the country. All the task forces have identified the needed thrust areas in the Indian context.

To be concluded

   

 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Let the war begin

In the beginning Sir — As if the gruesome murder of Daniel Pearl was not enough to convince Pervez Musharraf that all is not well in Pakistan (“Church attack jolts Musharraf”, March 18). The Sunday attack on a church service in Islamabad, which claimed five lives and injured several, explodes the myth of Musharraf’s success in his “war” against terrorism. This frightening event goes to prove that Musharraf lacks vital control over parts of his country despite his loud claims of making arrests of several extremists. What is appalling is that he should have waited for the jihadis to strike a blow to civil society before relaunching measures to counter terror in Pakistan. Not surprisingly, the United States of America has chosen not to criticize its ally, although Musharraf’s failure is proving to be costly to the Americans themselves. The need of the hour is an all-out campaign against terror, especially in the land of its exporter — Pakistan.

Yours faithfully,
Soumitra Hazra, Calcutta

Voices loud and clear

Sir — Ramachandra Guha’s article, “Voices from the field” (March 9), does not mince words while condemning the Hindu right for the carnage it has precipitated in Gujarat, and even earlier in other places. Guha deserves to be commended for speaking the truth in a language that only the honest dare to use.

As college students who belong to the minority community, we are not concerned about the mandir-masjid matter. What is disturbing us, and other like-minded people, is the question of maintaining communal harmony and facilitating peaceful co-existence. If the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s belligerent attitude continues, the situation might reach a point of no return. What is appalling is that the international secretary of the VHP, Praveen Tagodia, and his loyal followers claim that their movement is backed by the entire Hindu community in the country. Yet, as Guha points out, there is the “Hindu middle ground”, the “millions of thus far silent Hindus”, who do not share the philosophy and ideology of the VHP.

In observance of the present situation, we feel that Muslim leaders involved in solving the Ayodhya dispute should display some sort of leniency and arrive at an amicable solution, taking into full consideration the sentiment of Hindus as well. It is likely that Guha’s will remain a cry in the wilderness. There seems to be none in the sangh parivar who is ready to listen to the voice of reason, and worse, in the Hindu middle ground who is unafraid of seconding it.

Yours faithfully,
Sufia Perveen and Tahseen Mushtaque, Calcutta

Sir — Ramachandra Guha’s “Voices from the field” is an excellent analysis of the observations of C. Rajagopalachari, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as also modern writers like Mahasweta Devi and U.R. Anantha Murthy. Unfortunately, Guha has blamed VHP for the conflict between Hindus and Muslims. K.P. Nayar in “A failure of intelligence” (March 6), has elaborated more correctly the reasons for the conflict. He lays the blame on external conspiracies to destabilize the nation.

Disputes may arise, but there should be a serious intention to solve them. Political parties have an important role to play in this. They have to encourage positive thinking instead of complicating the issue, although it is often the latter which is true. The media should also try to give an unbiased picture of the situation and avoid spreading tension.

Yours faithfully,
B. Bhattacharya, Durgapur

Marillier touch

Sir — India witnessed an unexpected defeat against Zimbabwe at Faridabad (“India blown away in late Marillier storm”, March 8). The team was shaken out of its complacence by Zimbabwe’s 210 in the 45th over. The surprise came in the form of Douglas Marillier, who repeatedly scooped the ball behind the wicket-keeper to the unprotected boundary. The Indian team, as usual, failed to cope with Marillier. It is strange that the team should be perpetually foxed by anything out of the ordinary.

Yours faithfully,
Harsh Kishore Saraogi, Calcutta

Sir — Douglas Marillier’s innings in the India-Zimbabwe match was a delight to watch. Thanks to Marillier’s innovative “scoop”, Zimbabwe managed to win the game. If Marillier’s shot is repeated enough number of times, it is possible that it will soon be included in coaching manuals. However, it would be unfair to say that the Indian team did not play to its full potential. Not only did the new entrants play well, but the team’s performance also made it clear that the Indian side could do without Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. It is sad that although V.V.S. Laxman, Ajit Agarkar and Sourav Ganguly played brilliantly, Marillier’s freak innings managed to turn the tables.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Onscreen campaign

Sir — Given the current focus on cross-border terrorism, a number of patriotic films are trying to make hay. Take Gadar and Maa Tujhe Salaam for example. Both the films, one dealing with Partition, the other with terrorism, were made in an attempt to reveal Pakistan’s strategies with regard to India. Although one can understand the filmmaker’s logic behind making such films, Sunny Deol’s sudden attraction for all roles nationalistic is not comprehensible. It seems that Sunny Deol has suddenly realized where the big bucks lie.

Yours faithfully,
Mohammad Rashid, Kankinara

Sir — The latest and forthcoming Hindi film releases come as a pleasant surprise. The patriotic themes of Maa Tujhe Salaam, Indian and 16 December are a welcome change from the staple Bollywood fare. That film producers are making films without the usual song and dance routines is commendable. That they are doing so at the risk of running to empty halls is further impressive.

Yours faithfully,
Rana Pal, Kurseong

Sir — Bollywood should desist from playing the mouthpiece of the Hindu right.

Yours faithfully,
N. Nahata, Calcutta

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