Editorial 1/ Lost peace
Editorial 2/ Shattered glass
Ritual flourishes
Fifth Column/ Courts are the last resort
The great Gujarat experiment
Letters to the editor

The occupation by Israeli forces of the Ramallah headquarters of the Palestinian Authority president, Mr Yasser Arafat, in the West Bank has heightened the crisis in the region. Not only has there been an escalation in the violence, but relations between the Palestinian authority and the Israeli government have also reached a new low. Only the decisive intervention by outside powers, particularly the United States of America, can prevent a total drift into anarchy. Even then the hopes of resurrecting the peace process remain remote. It has to be admitted that Mr Arafat has simply not done enough to restrain the 18-month-old initifada or taken steps to clamp down on well known terrorist groups. Last week alone, terrorist attacks have killed 28 Israelis and wounded more than 100. Worse still, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of Mr Arafat’s Fatah movement, has taken responsibility for many of the worst attacks. However, despite these provocations, the response of the Israeli government has clearly been extreme and out of proportion. Israeli forces have entered Mr Arafat’s headquarters using tanks and armoured vehicles. Reports of Mr Arafat — holed up in a two-room office without electricity and running water and with Israeli tanks just outside — have understandably caused outrage all over the Arab world. The fear that the Israeli government may even eliminate Mr Arafat in case of further attacks is not unfounded given the statement of the Israeli prime minister, Mr Ariel Sharon, a few weeks ago, that he regretted not killing the Palestinian leader when he was besieged in Beirut in 1982.

There are, however, some signs of hope. The United Nations security council, supported by the US, adopted a resolution on Saturday demanding Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah. The resolution also called on Israel and Palestine to cooperate with the effort of the US envoy, Mr Anthony Zinni, to bring about a ceasefire. Meanwhile, the Arab League, while deeply disturbed by Israeli military action, has backed the Saudi Arabian peace proposal, which offers Israel peace in exchange for lands it occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War. Clearly, the present cycle of violence must stop if there has to be any chance of peace. While it is imperative that Mr Arafat demonstrates his resolve to fight Palestinian terrorism, and bring to book all those responsible for the recent terrorist attacks, Israel too must exercise restraint. Use of force will only exacerbate the situation and provoke further violence.

It is critical, therefore, for all those who have influence and leverage over the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, especially the US, to sustain maximum pressure to ensure a return to the negotiating table. Unless immediate steps are taken to manage the conflict, the region will, once again, witness a major international crisis. Given the international, and particularly US, preoccupation with events in Afghanistan, and with the fight against terrorist groups there, it is imperative that necessary diplomatic resources are mustered to ensure that the crisis is diffused at the earliest.


Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s latest poem invokes a “town of glass” which lies broken. The prime minister also finds himself “shackled”, while Rahu seems to have crossed its limits. It is difficult not to link such doomful musings with the ominous light in which his political party is being forced to regard itself. After the grim results of the assembly polls in Punjab, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal in February, the Bharatiya Janata Party is now having to reckon with what the recent municipal elections in Delhi have shown up. The scale of the BJP’s defeat is unprecedented. So is that of the Congress’s triumph. Out of 134 seats, the BJP has won only 13 and the Congress 108. This displaces the BJP from an electorate which it had more or less taken for granted for a decade. Its humiliating performance in these polls is further driven home by some startling results. The city’s mayor, deputy mayor, former mayors, chairman of the standing committee, and the leader of the house have all lost. The former chief minister of Delhi, Mr Sahib Singh Verma, has taken moral responsibility for this debacle and has resigned from his post of the party’s vice-president.

More than the Congress’s jubilation, two aspects of the situation are significant. First, the terms in which the defeat is being interpreted within the party. There is a general call for “introspection”, an activity which could mean anything from writing poetry to putting heads together at the national executive meeting later in April. The blame game is oscillating between the Union budget and the Gujarat carnage. Fundamental issues of governance are involved here. What the municipal polls make evident is the shift in the allegiances of the urban middle-class electorate. Here, questions of ideology may have been less important than such everyday realities as the price of LPG and the tax burden of the salaried voter. Second, the turn-out for the polls was a little less than 50 per cent and the Congress bagged 46 per cent of these votes. This does indicate disillusionment, even on the part of the loyalists. This is further reflected in the massive swing of 20 per cent of the total votes polled in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, when the BJP had won all the seven seats in the capital. The Delhi assembly elections are scheduled next year. The national executive will have to do a great deal of introspecting in Goa if this decline is to be stalled.


Many pages in the media have been devoted to the comments on the budget. The finance minister has naturally been distressed that his good intentions have not been reflected in the public response to the budget measures. The fault lies in his inability to go the extra mile in making an impact on the recessionary trends in the economy.

Questions have even been raised as to whether the budget is a proper place for the reform announcements. One view is that the budget should be confined to an expenditure and revenue statement with minimum emphasis on broader policy questions, which should be left to the president’s address or prime ministerial announcement. From the time of Manmohan Singh’s budget, the trend has, however, been different — the budget has been a statement of reform policy. Yashwant Sinha has done right to devote his budget speech to clarifying the intentions of the government with regard to economic policy and further steps taken to deepen the reform process.

The budget has made very little impact on the much needed growth impulses of the economy. A perceptible comment by a former finance minister was that it is inappropriate for the finance minister to indulge in additional resource mobilization of the order of Rs 10,000 crore, just when the economy is facing a recessionary trend. This criticism is valid, especially since the economy is struggling to get out of the throes of a decline in demand.

Unemployment is a core issue. This has to be reviewed in the context of the government’s determination to cap the growth of government employment as such. But, one has to have a sense of proportion in criticizing the government on this issue. The size of total government employment as expected on March 1, 2003, is just 3.34 million, compared to the actuals as on March 1, 2001, of 3.27 million. Indeed, compared to the revised estimates as on March 1, 2002, the finance minister is expecting only an increase of 2,000 and odd employees for the whole year 2002-03. The total expenditure on government employees in 2001-02 was about Rs 28,000 crore and will increase only to Rs 30,000 crore in 2002-03.

Out of the total 3.34 million on the government rolls expected as on March 1, 2003, nearly 1.53 million belong to the railways. Any further reduction in these numbers could be causing further risks to the railway system. The next largest employer is the department of posts with nearly 0.6 million employees. One cannot also grudge the employment of nearly 0.7 million in the Central police establishment in the context of the widespread civil disorders. The budget document discloses that the revenue department of the government of India manages a collection of Rs 100,000 crore of revenue accounts for a total expenditure of only Rs 100 crore.

The various commissions and committees, which have studied the composition of government expenditure have focussed on diluting the role of the Central government on items which are within the state’s domain. Whether the Centre should continue with large outlays in the department of agriculture and cooperation with 7,100 employees or department of education with a total of 2,500 employees and the ministry of labour with 11,600 employees are debatable. The final decisions of the government on the expenditure reforms commission’s report will hopefully enable a rational solution to these questions.

On implementation of the budget announcements, the finance minister has placed a report before the house. Of the 103 announcements covered in the report, many are marked by the observation, “Related legislative proposals are under examination”. Action completed covers only 64 per cent of the announcements. So much for good intentions!

Under revenue receipts, the finance minister has taken into account substantial receipts under “dividends”, totalling nearly Rs 18,805 crore for 2002-03. The major contributor to this item is the Reserve Bank of India. The RBI’s surplus is essentially a reflection of the Central bank’s interest due on the loans made by it to the government of India. Surprisingly, the budget shows a substantial increase in dividends from the public sector enterprises at Rs 8,000 crore. The process of divestment seems to have indirectly spurred the dividend performance of public sector enterprises, barring, of course, the railways, which continue to be a laggard.

The Economic Survey has highlighted the grievous state of employment in the country. As a whole, in the Nineties, public sector employment increased only marginally from 18.7 million to 19.3 million. The organized private sector contributed to an employment of 8.6 million and an increase of just 12 per cent in the same period. The Economic Survey reproduces the recommendations of the Montek Singh Ahluwalia committee on employment opportunities, which states that additional employment opportunities have to be provided for nearly 100 million people over the next decade, that is, 10 million new jobs have to be created every year. This is an unfeasible target given the present policies. Jobless growth means more discontent and widespread frustration amongst those who are joining the employment market every year.

The major flaw in the economic policies of the government lies in an absence of adequate focus on job-related investment. The finance minister has, of course, indicated a few measures in part A and part B of his speech to help enhance investment in infrastructure. But these are peripheral. In the absence of a large-scale effort to revive the investment impulses in the country, employment and growth targets cannot be met. In the current state of robust foreign exchange reserve and the low inflation performance, it behoves the finance minister to innovate financial enginee- ring to launch a bold programme of investment in infrastructure.

Such measures were suggested by the veteran economist, S.L. Shetty, in his article in the Economic and Political Weekly, July 29, 2001. The substance of the proposal amounts to enabling public-private partnership to launch guaranteed bonds, which will finance large-scale investment in railways, power, roads and irrigation. The policy on recovery of user charges will be tightened. Once this is done, the financing will be economically sound. Such a programme is both feasible and necessary.

The present discontent in the body politic of the country makes it all the more critical that efforts should be taken to restore the rate of growth by suitable stimuli. The Chinese example of large-scale public investment, especially in infrastructure, is a precedent worth following. Fiscal discipline in the sense of recovery of adequate user charges should, of course, be a condition precedent to the implementation of this massive Keynesian initiative. One hopes that the finance minister will not rest on his laurels but persuade his advisers to work out a suitable method for enabling the realization of the prime minister’s dream to raise the rate of growth of the economy and achievement of target of fuller employment.

It is not only the expectations of the stock market that have been disappointed by the budget. The country at large is waiting for the next phase of investment-oriented efforts without which the country will continue to remain in the accustomed levels of poverty and deprivation. In the current state of abundant liquidity and low inflation, the finance minister can afford to take a risk. This is to hoping that by the time the budget session is over, the government mandarins would have put on the thinking cap and introduced necessary measures to make the budget a document of growth, instead of a routine accounting statement, with ritual flourishes about the general reform process.

The author is former governor, Reserve Bank of India


T he judiciary and the executive in Jharkhand seem to be on a collision course. The conflict between them centres around the growing judicial activism in the state. Acting on public interest litigations, the Jharkhand high court has pulled up the state machinery on many counts ranging from the supply of drinking water and electricity to providing good roads.

The dissension deepened when in a recent PIL, the engineer-in-chief of the public works department tried to explain the department’s failure by calling upon the court to direct the other departments to cooperate. The high court took exception to this unusual and unprecedented proposal since it would mean involving the judiciary as a coordinator between various departments of the state government.

Politicians in power in Jharkhand also have of late started to take exception at the judiciary’s perceived “over-activism”. The courts are already over-burdened with a vast backlog of cases, feel aggrieved politicians, and hence the judiciary has little justification in wasting time and attention on extra-judicial concerns, especially since these are matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the executive.

Public interest litigations are an American development. “Public interest law”, according to the report (1976 P/6-7) of the Ford Foundation of the United States of America, “is the name given to efforts to provide legal representation to previously unrepresented groups and interests.”

State apathy

The former chief justice of the Supreme Court, P.N. Bhagwati, has observed, “Public interest litigation is not in the nature of adversary litigation but it is a challenge and an opportunity to the government and its officers to make basic human rights meaningful to the deprived and vulnerable sections of the community and to assure them social and economic justice, which is the signature tune of our Constitution.”

The state of Jharkhand was born out of the long-standing perception of ill-treatment and indifference by the state. However, Jharkhand today is little better, if not worse, than Bihar. The stock response of party functionaries and public servants to public grievances is to organize meaningless sessions of dialogue with a few people, and issue hand bills to the media. No wonder there are few civic amenities to speak of.

There is no real coordination between the state and the people of Jharkhand, and between the officers and their political bosses. There is rampant dissidence and infighting among the rank and file of political parties, and above all, no foolproof system to ensure the proper working of the state machinery. If the state judiciary had not intervened, affairs in Jharkhand would have reached a state of no-return.

Fast and fair

The people, finding no easy and readily available remedy for the civil wrongs inflicted on them by the inaction and inefficiency of public servants, have decided to settle their conflicts by their own initiative. This is specially true of Bihar and Jharkhand, where democracy is nothing short of a free-for-all rush to grab position, power and wealth.

Ever since its inception, the Jharkhand high court has moved very fast to improve the plight of litigants and to adopt programmes to achieve this target. At times, the entire judicial machinery has been mobilized to dispose of bail applications so as to prevent avoidable detentions as far as possible.

Continuing with the noble tradition of the Patna high court, the Jharkhand high court takes up free writ applications as well as letter appeals on the next available day following their filing. This practice has resulted in prompt relief for litigants. In criminal cases, those already in judicial custody receive priority, in order to minimize undeserved suffering.

For Bihar and Jharkhand, an activist judiciary is a blessing. It must continue to act as a watchdog over the other arms of the state and relax its vigil only when the politicians, bureaucracy and other officials eschew corruption and come together to work for the state and the people. It is only then that democracy will prove a meaningful form of government for all the citizens of India.


Among the dead in the kabarstan at Chartoda in Ahmedabad you now find the living dead as well — 6,000 men, women and children huddled among the gravestones in the unbelievable squalor of this makeshift “camp” that bursts upon you at the end of the narrow, winding lanes of the bustee around it that itself houses 1,500 people. People crowded round to tell their stories, young men seethed in frustrated rage; had the bajrangis come on their own they would have taken them on, they said, but with the police on the side of the attackers they didn’t stand a chance. Women pressed close, voicing their desperation, and, away from the men, spoke of the appalling fate of the unlucky ones who could not escape. These are people who had nothing much to begin with, and now have nowhere else to go.

“Pakistan, Arabistan or kabarstan” — the young man in Naya Vatan camp in Anand district said these were the Hanuman-worshipping Hindu militants’ declared destinations for Muslims. An unknown number has already been dispatched to the other world, usually by failing the agnipariksha inflicted upon them by the Ram bhakts. According to the estimates of non-governmental relief organizations, 60,000 residents of Ahmedabad were now refugees in their own city. The Anand district relief committee of local Muslim groups is overseeing 23 camps and community kitchens, coping with nearly 18,000 villagers driven out of their burnt-out homes. Even when accompanied by the police, said the soft-spoken coordinator, Mohammed Ilyas, relief workers had been unable to enter the villages even to assess the extent of death and destruction.

Hotel Chicago in the new part of Ahmedabad. Named after the home-town of its non-resident Indian owner, a man called Gandhi. A winning combination, one would have thought, a symbol of quintessential Gujarati enterprise. But there was no fooling the bajrangi militia. They knew this Gandhi was Muslim. So they razed it. “Closed, memsaab,” said the keepers of the brightly lit Hotel Maruti right next to it, then in a slightly lowered voice, “Jala diya gaya” (It was burnt). But we are open, they hastened to add, like all the (presumably Hindu) hotels, restaurants and shops flourishing right next to their torched rivals all over Ahmedabad. If you haven’t the stomach for murder, mutilation, rape and loot, there are plenty of opportunities to indulge in some passive participation in the economic annihilation of Muslims in Gujarat. Thousands of hotels and restaurants have been burned down for the sin of being owned or co-owned by Muslims. Most torched establishments had no visible signs of Muslim ownership. They had non-religious names. They employed Hindus. Many advertised themselves as purveyors of “pure vegetarian food”. It didn’t help. Trucks owned or driven by Muslims were burned. The wakf board, situated inside the compound of the sachivalaya, was set alight with impunity.

The Contractor and Sons’ outlet on Ahmedabad’s fashionable C.G. Road was torched as well. Those well-informed saffron hordes, they knew that this Contractor was no Parsi. It was hard work to inflict damage on him though. The shutters could not be broken, so the attackers broke into the next store and tried to break down the wall. Finally they came with gas-cutters and cut through the shutters. As with many other instances of attacking, looting and burning of residential or commercial establishments, this operation took time and effort. Contractor is a well-connected man. He appealed for help to his friends among the administration including senior police officers. Somehow, none was able to stop the destruction of his business.

Sitting in his neighbour’s bungalow, Rafiq Contractor recounted that day’s events with an eerie calm. The neighbours were themselves fugitives from their own home to a relative’s place. The building opposite was being set ablaze when they decided to flee to a nearby block closer to the local mosque. These are the invisible displaced people, not on relief agencies’ lists. Having asked to meet with one family, I found a dozen others, trooping in from neighbouring flats and bungalows. All were entrepreneurs, well-to-do productive members of society, educated, well-spoken citizens in pressed shirts and trousers, rendered utterly insecure in their own society. The soft-spoken proprietor of an enterprise torched in Vatva described the destruction of his factory, which had no signboard and employed Hindu managers. Only the records show the firm as Messrs Abdullabhai Abdul Qadir. It was an export business, earning dollars for India, but the proponents of Hindutva have no time for such temporal endeavours. As we toured the area to inspect the looted and burnt-out houses and apartments, most came along, some venturing out for the first time in weeks. Narendra Modi’s Gujarat has taken some prisoners after all.

The government boasts it shot 98 “rioters” to “control” the situation. There was plenty of corroboration that the police were indeed shooting. The trouble is that the unanimous verdict of the attacked community, from slums to bungalows, was that the police were shooting at them. At an Ahmedabad hospital I encountered the case of two persons shot by the police near the Kalupur railway station as they tried to buy tickets to escape the carnage. Fateur Rahman was dead, Mohammed Siddiqui battling for his life after being shot in the stomach. The survivor could think of no reason why they had been shot except that they wore beards.

Until the other day, the residents of the Paldi area of Ahmedabad had nothing in common with the squatters in Chartoda kabarstan or the villagers of Anand and Kheda. The Hindu rashtra has proved a great leveller. Now the same fear, distrust and insecurity stalk slums and bungalows, old and new Ahmedabad, towns and villages. They reveal a common theme — the organized attacks, the lack of response, if not direct complicity, on the part of the police and administration, the well-informed and directed targeting of Muslim homes and sources of livelihood. What was missed out in one round was taken out in the next. The entire operation is marked with a degree of time and effort that in itself is indicative of meticulous gathering of information and resources and an almost exemplary long-term view. The sangh parivar is of course well known for its long distance running and it has been working away on Gujarat for the better part of the past decade. Whatever happened at Godhra, what happened next does not appear to be a fly-by-nighter on the back of a random, ghastly atrocity.

It is only upon visiting Gujarat that one can begin to understand that Narendra Modi is probably being perfectly honest when he says that everything is normal there now. This is the normalcy the proponents of theocracy seek — a terrorized Muslim minority lorded over by a triumphalist Hindu fringe, buoyed by the quiet acquiescence of the majority. These are the true believers of the two-nation theory. Hence, while Muslims cower in graveyards or drawing rooms, their means of livelihood destroyed, Hindus in Ahmedabad are up and about, going to work, eating out, shopping. The more the segregation, the deeper the ignorance of the other, the more guaranteed the indifference to conditions. So when Talhat in Paldi says that if the perpetrators of Godhra are convicted and hanged he would applaud but there can be no justification for the assault on unconnected innocents, he is possibly missing the point. After all, he is a target for what he is, not for what he does. Perhaps the smouldering young man at the kabarstan had caught on faster: this was “jang” (war), he hissed, “jang jari rahega” (the war will go on). Indeed, the candid view of one relief worker was that the state was being swiftly delivered to extremist violence on both sides.

Will Narendra Modi win the “one day match” he had announced he had come to play? There seemed no doubt in the mind of the minority community that Modi would succeed electorally. If the strategy of winning votes through the physical slaughter and economic strangulation of minorities “works” in Gujarat, would it be a lesson learnt for the rest of the country, and by other political parties? Perhaps it would not “work” as well in other regions where the vicious politicization of caste has fractured the Hindu vote comprehensively — and India might find salvation as a conglomerate of myriad minorities. Gujarat today is certainly a call to Hindus to arise and awake. The outcome of the great Gujarat experiment in tyranny, in the name of Hindutva, rests squarely in their hands.



Voices of amity

Sir — While the communal fires burning in different parts of India threaten the very fabric of the country, the report, “After 55 years, Sikhs hand over mosque built by them to Muslims” (March 30), suggests that all is perhaps not unwell with the country. The details of how a mosque was handed over by Sikhs to Muslims in the Sikh heartland without any fanfare is an eyeopener. There are two interesting aspects to this incident. First, the mosque was not built by a Muslim, but by Guru Hargovind. Second, although Muslims will have the right to offer namaz in the mosque, it will be looked after by the Nihangs who are warriors of the sixth Sikh guru. That two communities can come together in such a manner, without a trace of antipathy or unreasonable demands should act as a lesson to the hooligans who instigate and perpetrate communal violence under the aegis of outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. There still remain a few Indians who do not believe in misusing religion.
Yours faithfully,
Sanghamitra Basu, Calcutta

No prizes for guessing

Sir — The rather ridiculous hype surrounding Lagaan ever since it was nominated in the best foreign film category at the Oscars was aided and abetted in full measure by the media (“10 good reasons why Lagaan should win”, March 21). Many people, from journalists to directors, were behaving as if the award had already been won and the actual ceremony was just a formality. Lagaan is a good film but far from the stuff of which Oscar winners are made. In retrospect, less hype would have spared us the sorry spectacle of film pundits trying to explain away their pre-Oscar confidence. One hopes that the 74th Academy awards will be remembered for Halle Berry’s tearful acceptance speech and not Aamir Khan’s misplaced bravado.
Yours faithfully,
Biswapriya Purkayastha, Shillong

Sir — There are three reasons why Lagaan failed to win the Oscar award in the best foreign language film category. First, films which depict the hunger and poverty in India fit in more with the “land of death, elephants and snake charmers” image of the country and appear more realistic to a foreign jury, especially an American one. The triumph of a makeshift village cricket team over a more professional English cricket team during British rule is a little difficult for the jury to appreciate. Second, Lagaan, like any other Hindi film, has a large number of song and dance sequences. But when the lyrics appear before a foreign jury in English subtitles, the impact of the songs are lost. Last, the cricket match and its nail-biting finish, which make up nearly three-fourths of the film, probably did not appeal to a jury who have no knowledge or understanding of the game. Nevertheless, Ashutosh Gowarikar and his cast and crew may be complimented for being able to raise the film above the mediocrity that marks the Mumbai film industry.

Yours faithfully,
Chandragupta Acharya, Mumbai

Sir — All the hoopla regarding the prospects of Lagaan at the Oscars this year has come to naught. For the lovers of good cinema, this was expected. The film was in complete variance with the reality of colonial India. This kind of immature and shoddy attempt at capturing historical events without serious research is a trademark of all Hindi movies, from Asoka to Lagaan. Sadly, such films are often promoted these days in the country and abroad as examples of Indian “serious” cinema.

Instead of glorifying and emulating the David Dhawans and Sooraj Barjatyas of Indian cinema, it is time Indian filmmakers tried to learn a lesson from directors such as Satyajit Ray, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Ritwik Ghatak.

Yours faithfully,
R. Ghosh, Calcutta

Sir — It is strange that the debacle of Lagaan at the Oscars has created such despair in India. We seem to have made the Oscars and awards like the Palme d’Or the only yardsticks to measure the quality of Indian cinema. Why is the same excitement not generated when a film is a contender for the national awards? Maybe filmmakers need to get their priorities right.

Yours faithfully,
Lalgoulian Vaiphei, Shillong

Sir — The failure of Lagaan at the Oscars should not be considered a defeat for Indian cinema. Judging by the reviews and awards that No Man’s Land has received earlier, it is obvious that the better film has won. That Lagaan was nominated in the category is commendable enough. Directors such as Mahesh Bhatt and Vidhu Vinod Chopra have said that they do not understand Indian filmmakers’ fascination with the West. Maybe they have forgotten that even a great director like Satyajit Ray drew inspiration from Jean Renoir’s works. Instead of criticizing Ashutosh Gowarikar and Aamir Khan for lobbying for the Oscar, they should congratulate the film for making it to the list of nominees. The publicity that Indian films have received in the West after Lagaan’s nomination should be capitalized on.

Yours faithfully,
Manjul Saha, Rourkela

Sir — The graceful and dignified behaviour of Aamir Khan and Ashutosh Gowarikar after losing the best foreign film Oscar did India proud. They have shown the world that they are not sore losers — something which Russell Crowe did not manage to do when he was not named the best actor — and that what mattered most to them was to be nominated.

Yours faithfully,
Omar Luther King, Shillong

Taxing our woes

Sir — Because a fraction of the Indian population has taken to terrorist and subversive activities, the rest of the country is having to pay a heavy price not only in terms of lives lost, but also in terms of real money. For proof, one can consider how much money is spent for security at the airports.

The finance minister, Yashwant Sinha, in the Union budget for 2001-2002, has imposed a 5 per cent security surcharge on all taxable incomes above Rs 60,000. This reminds one of the jizia tax that the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, imposed upon his Hindu subjects in exchange for safeguarding their life and property. The tax imposed by Sinha is merely a modern version of Aurangzeb’s jizia; both demand that the majority of the population pay for the government’s inability to curb the lawlessness practised by a few people.

Yours faithfully,
Parijatha P., Hyderabad

Sir — Taking into account increasing terrorist activities in the country — much of it externally funded — the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976, needs to be made more stringent for dubious persons or organizations, and at the same time, simpler and rational for genuine ones.

Yours faithfully,
B.L. Tekriwal, Mumbai

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